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Texas A&M officially leaves the Big XII

August 31, 2011  |  By Benjamin Miraski

Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin set the domino rally in motion Wednesday morning after he notified the Big XII that the Aggies will leave the conference at the end of the school year.

What will follow is a flurry of action reminiscent of a Rube Goldberg machine -- a overly complicated shifting of teams across the country to align for what will be a temporary home until the real mega-conferences are formed.

The move had been broadcast for weeks, with the overtures making Texas A&M look like an overactive 5-year-old who drank a gallon of Mountain Dew. It was only a matter of time until the first domino in the chain was tipped.

The Aggies will likely land in the SEC. All the the political talk coming from the conference withstanding, they know a good deal when they see it.

Landing the Texas television market, and opening a channel to easier recruiting in the football hotbed is too hard to pass up.

The real question is who will be the 14th team, or even the 15th or 16th team. Most analysts believe that schools in states where the SEC already has teams are out. That put the favorite targets in North Carolina, and not in Florida, where Florida State and Miami would seem better fits for the football first conference. It also means no Virginia Tech, no Louisville, and no Memphis.

There has also been the notion floated that the SEC could survive just fine with 13 teams in the foreseeable future, which makes sense when your only care is on the football field and you don't have to worry about pesky things like brackets.

However, once the scheduling nightmares occur, there will be movement, and it will set another chain of events into motion.

The more pressing concern is what will happen to the Big XII, which will be reduced to the Big 9. Only one of the 9 is actually BIG though.

Texas can easily seize this opportunity to go independent for football. The Longhorns have their television network. They have their money. They have the ability to schedule any team in the country, and become the southwestern Notre Dame.

And the Longhorns and Irish could expand the four-year agreement they have already made (2015-6, 2019-20) to make one of the more interesting rivalries in the country.

The real question for Texas will be basketball, where they are still a contender. If they choose independence for football (killing the Big XII's automatic BCS slot), the conference will be unlikely to welcome them back.

There are other options available. They could be the big fish in a smaller pond, joining with a middling conference to become that league's Memphis. They could find a way to make independence work in Division I basketball, although it will definitely hurt them in scheduling. They could join the Big East, balancing what will be the 18-team league, and making the trip to Texas to face TCU a trip that makes more sense.

Just like that the Big 12 will be down to eight, and likely without a BCS automatic bid. It either needs to make a big push for expansion, or figure out how to survive as a minor player in the BCS game.

The easiest move is to grab teams already in the geographic area. SMU has already stated they would like to get back in with the big players. It could bring Tulsa along with it.  They might even try to grab Arkansas.

To the north, North Dakota, South Dakota and South Dakota State might be persuaded to jump to the top league. Even some Missouri Valley teams might see the benefit in moving up if it means a bigger stage for basketball, given the league's difficulty in landing consistent NCAA bids.

But the conference must do something to avoid becoming Oklahoma and a couple of guys named Mo.

So now it is time to sit back and watch the dominoes fall. It will certainly be a show.


Posted August 31, 2011 11:20 AM

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