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SEC Celebration
SEC Press Conference
Kennedy on SEC Move
Sights & Sounds: SEC

Texas A&M, SEC open new chapter with public celebration

By Beau Holder

More from Beau
September 26, 2011
4080

The Aggie Yell Leaders, members of the Fightin' Texas Aggie band, the A&M Regents, dozens of media members and even more students and regular Aggie fans joined Gabe, Billy, Brandon, Andrew, Brice and myself in the Zone on Monday evening for the public celebration of the long-awaited end to the A&M-SEC saga. Full coverage of the night's proceedings can be found here, including video of the celebration, the press conference, baskestball coach Billy Kennedy's reaction and video from the football presser early in the day — during which the SEC was a popular topic of discussion.



Timeline


6:07 p.m.: "There's a Spirit" begins playing on the video screens, including added footage of historical A&M-LSU matchups.

6:10: Bill Byrne steps to the podium, introducing the various VIPs in attendance — John Sharp, Loftin, Bernie Machen, the A&M Regents and Mike Slive.

6:11: Loftin gets to the podium, receives standing ovation. Near-verbatim notes:
* Howdy! It's a great day in Aggieland. Let me add my welcome as well as Bill's. Again, our Regents here are fantastic. Chariman Box, Vice Chairman Adams, Regent White, Regent White, Regent Mendoza, Regent Wilson. Regent Morgan. I also see John Sharp and his wife Charlotte. Dr. Forrest. Let me come back to Jim Wilson here. He and I have worked this issue for a long time. We went through a lot of struggles in the Big 12 and came to appreciate each others' viewpoints very well. Thanks are also due to the 12th Man Foundation. President Miles Marks is here today. They are the ones who help with scholarships, operational costs and more. Bill Byrne, thanks for being here today sir. You have been extraordinary in recruiting our coaches. We have the finest coaches in America.

* This is an historic day. We can look back and see when things did go through an abrupt tradition. In my time as a student in the '60s, for example. We brought women here. This might not be as much of a milestone as that, but it's close (laughs). If you've heard my comments, I called this a 100-year decision, a decision I think we will relish today and every day for 100 years or more: Joining the nation's premier conference, the Southeastern Conference.

Andrew Kilzer, TexAgs Loftin guided A&M through the drawn-out process calmly and astutely and was rewarded handsomely with constant cheers. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"right","Size":"large","Caption":"Loftin guided A&M through the drawn-out process calmly and astutely and was rewarded handsomely with constant cheers.","MediaItemID":11059}
* Many things went into this decision, but one was to be in a conference where every member is valued equally. And now we have a venue where we will be on the national stage each and every day, week and month. The brand of Texas A&M is made by you students and former students and now others will see it daily. I really appreciate that opportunity. I want to recognize President Bernie Machen of Florida. We've known each other for a bit here. When we attend AAU meetings we are seated by last name, so we often sat together. He's been a great friend of ours, given what we've done to him. In 2009 we brought here the Dean of Veterinary Medicine at Florida and she's now ours. We're the oldest public University in Texas and UF is the oldest in Florida, we're about the same size, we both have some of the most passionate fans in America.

6:18: Machen steps to the podium, receiving another extended standing ovation from the packed crowd.
* The only thing I can say to that is Howdy! I have been looking forward to this day for some time. Bowen and I have been in communication literally every day for the last several months, pointing to this very celebration. I'm here to welcome this great University to our league on behalf of the presidents and chancellors. Welcome aboard!

* We really do think that this is a perfect match for our conference. We work together on everything we do. The vote was 12-0, no hesitations or holdbacks. You will be a part of everything we do, and we will be competing fiercely with you. I can't wait to come to Kyle Field and see what goes on there on a football Saturday. Thank you!

6:20: Loftin introduces Slive.
* Thank you Dr. Loftin. Howdy, Aggieland! Welcome to the SEC! Ladies and gentlemen, Texas A&M is a world-class institution with a great brand, one of only 61 AAU members, a leading research university with one of the largest endowments in the nation. It will bring athletic success as well, evidenced by eight national championships in four sports the last three years. You won three national championships last year, played us in the Cotton Bowl — I won't remind you of the story — the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament and finished the year at the College World Series. But equally impressive to me is the culture, the passion and the spirit of Texas A&M. Over the past month I've watched your games and seen the passion that surrounds you, the 12th Man, Muster, the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band, Midnight Yell Practice with your Yell Leaders, and a packed stadium of maroon-clad supporters. This is the kind of pride and passion shared by your fellow members of the SEC. We welcome you all to come see us, to road-trip to tradition-rich SEC campuses like yours. You'll fit right in at the Swamp, between the Hedges, the Grove at Ole Miss and all our tradition-laden institutions. We take great pride in our athletics, our academics and our culture. A&M is a great fit for this tradition of excellence. We look forward to renewing old rivalries like LSU and Arkansas and creating new ones as we integrate you into our conference.

* On September 5 we received an application from Texas A&M. This past Sunday we voted unanimously to unconditionally accept the Aggies as the 13th member of the SEC. A&M is the third new member of the Southeastern Conference in its storied 78-year history. We would like to, officially, welcome Texas A&M to the Southeastern Conference!

6:25: Loftin and Slive ceremonially exchange SEC and A&M helmets. Slive: "The tie of the day ... belongs to the President!"

6:26: Byrne: "I don't know about you, but I'm stoked."
* Dr. Machen, Mike, take a look at these national championship trophies. When you play the Aggies, you better take your angles. When we play ... we tend to win.

* I have a special fondness for the SEC. It is a special, special place. I learned more to appreciate the SEC from my grandsons. If you haven't been to the SEC website, it's clearly the best conference site on the web. They have kids games, on up. They indoctrinate you early. Let's do the Aggie War Hymn!

6:28: Fightin' Texas Aggie Yell Practice!

6:44: Press conference officially begins.

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive
Andrew Kilzer, TexAgs Slive, Loftin's good friend, worked with the Aggies from beginning to end and seemed thrilled about his new addition. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"left","Size":"large","Caption":"Slive, Loftin\u0027s good friend, worked with the Aggies from beginning to end and seemed thrilled about his new addition.","MediaItemID":11060}
* The comment I made at media day was a tongue-in-cheek comment because everybody was talking about 16 being a magic number for a super-conference. I thought at 12 we were already a super-conference. I was saying we could add four schools very quickly, but that's not what we are about. We were happy with 12, but when A&M said they were interested in joining the SEC, we said, "That's a great university, athletically, academically, culturally and a great fit." Having A&M as a member of the SEC was not something we wanted to give up.

* Have not received any legal assurances, except in this way — back in early September when we received the Big 12's letter. The initiative in that letter came from the Big 12. Was A&M leaving, and if they were, what could the Big 12 do to move on? The meeting was scheduled four days later. Just before that meeting was to convene, we heard from an institution that had concerns. That concern was expressed because Oklahoma was exploring its own future. To make a long story short, when OU decided the Big 12 was where it wanted to be, we felt the spirit of the letter was fulfilled and here we are today.

* As I've said over and over, we have been very strategic and thoughtful when we think about expansion. When A&M expressed interest in us, we moved ahead. We have not been looking to expand. At some point in time a 14th team may come to pass, but this isn't something we feel we have to do right away. Clearly scheduling with 13 is not easy, and we'll work through that, but we'll remain very thoughtful and very strategic in terms of what we do with further expansion.

* We have put together a transition team to begin working on schedules. We've brought 16 members of our staff here today so they can get acquainted and start conversations. The goal will be to develop options and then take them to our athletic directors for their consideration. Once we have the schedules worked out, we will announce them.

* We negotiated two components into our agreements — the standard agreements dealing with conference composition but also something we call "look-ins." The purpose of those is during the life of a contract of that length, things change. The landscape changes, technology changes and all aspects change. With the provision for a look-in, we will sit down and be sure that at the end of the day, given the composition of our league, we have exactly what we bargained for when we started.

* I don't want to pre-empt what our transition team might come up with, but speaking personally, I certainly would like to see a Texas-A&M game on Thanksgiving happen.

* We anticipate being a 13-team league in 2012-13.

A&M President R. Bowen Loftin
* The very day after we sent the letter requesting SEC membership I communicated with the Big 12 commissioner and moved forward the discussion about a buyout. We offered to immediately enter into discussions and they were more interested in getting the aforementioned letter to Slive. Our letter was conditional as a member of the conference and they felt compelled to act on that first. It did not work out, and we came back a few weeks later. Now that Commissioner Beebe is no longer in office, we have confidence we can enter into negotiations quickly to move this forward. Obviously I cannot give you a number, but we know what the range will be and we're ready to move forward on it tomorrow if necessary.

* Good things come to those who wait. Once we determined our direction — and we had thought about things for a long time; since July, but really since 2010, when we did a lot of work determining the fit between Texas A&M and the SEC — we approached the SEC and asked them to consider us for membership. Certainly we didn't expect that to be instantaneous. The SEC is a great collegial organization and it obviously wants to move forward with complete consensus ... that always takes some time. We did not anticipate some of the recent issues that arose and were externally driven, but we were patient. I appreciate the patience of Commissioner Slive and the presidents and chancellors of the SEC. We plotted a new course, thoughtfully and carefully.

* I've been on conference calls with officials from UT-Austin. I've made several public comments about this and I'll stand by them: We certainly believe this is a storied rivalry and one we've treasured for many years and we wouldn't want to give that up. The SEC has a long history of these types of rivalries — UF-FSU, UGA-GA Tech, USC-Clemson — and we've been assured by the conference commissioner that we'd be able to do this ... if our partner wants to do so.

* What I've suggested to my Big 12 colleagues over the last several months is looking internally at why Nebraska and Colorado would want to leave. We just think the fit with the SEC is extraordinarily good. We believe our visibility as an institution and of our athletes will be much higher in the SEC. That's why we're doing it.

* Would not say that the conference change has had any affect on Kyle Field renovation plans. We've worked carefully with all the appropriate parties to discuss that. We've considered a project maybe starting at the end of 2012, but now it will be at least 2013 for it to be done right. Kyle has been here for 100 years, so it needs some work, but what that work is needs to be determined carefully. It could happen as early as the end of the football season in 2013.

A&M Athletic Director Bill Byrne
Andrew Kilzer, TexAgs Byrne raved about A&M's ability to compete from day one in every sport across the board. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"left","Size":"large","Caption":"Byrne raved about A&M\u0027s ability to compete from day one in every sport across the board.","MediaItemID":11056}
* If we were not able to play in the SEC right now I'm not sure we'd be going. The progress has been unbelievable. And it's not just in football. You look at these national championship trophies ... we are ready to be in the SEC.

* We wanted to play Arkansas in the Metroplex because we felt once we lost our contacts with TCU and SMU we needed a presence there. Having said that, we have to talk with Arkansas to see if they want to continue having a conference game there. That's something we can talk about.

* Would hate to give up the Texas series. It's 117 years we've been competing. We want to continue to play them. That is such a storied tradition and we would like to continue that.

* We started the Lone Star Showdown when I first came here, and that is competition in every sport. We've become reasonably competitive these days and we'd like the competition with Texas to continue in all sports.

* We had been using the SEC as a training ground for some of the coaches we've hired recently (laughs). My favorite track coach in the world, Pat Henry, asked me, "What do you want me to do first?" I said, "Let's go win some SEC T&F championships." We want to have the same success there that we've been having. We're building champions at Texas A&M and being part of the best conference in the country goes with the saying, "Rising tide raises all ships." We'll continue to get better. That's our goal. Winning championships at Texas A&M.

University of Florida President and SEC Presidents Chair Bernie Machen
* As Bowen has already indicated, he and I are seatmates at the AAU meetings twice a year. I think if you look closely at the academic components of our two institutions you will find a lot of overlap. I'm excited to have an institution such as this one be a part of our league.



Billy Kennedy reacts to the move


What do you think about this move?
“I’m glad it’s over with. I’m excited to be in the league and excited to be the head coach at Texas A&M, but really glad that it’s over with, finally.”
 
Your thoughts on competing against the teams in the SEC…
“Well, fortunately I came into a program that’s won a lot of games over the last six years, so we’re coming into a program that’s been built for success. It’ll be a transition. I think any time you change leagues there’s transition, but we’re ready for that and I’m excited to get back in the deep South.”
 
People have said there is a huge difference between the leagues in football but not as much in basketball. Is that something you agree with?
“You know, I think it’s a great league all the way through, every sport. It’s going to have different challenges. Obviously it’s a league noted for its football, I grew up in New Orleans, so I’ve seen that, and it’s real. It’s a real league. SEC basketball has some quality teams too, in both the West and the East. You can see through the expansion of some of the new facilities at (places like) Ole Miss and Mississippi State and Auburn that the league is growing. We have to continue to grow our program and we look forward to the challenge.”
 
How tough will it be for you to have just one year to learn all the teams in the Big 12 and then have to flip and learn the SEC in year two?
“Basketball is basketball. It’s about having the best players, number one, and then about adjusting to the competition throughout the schedule. There are great coaches in both leagues and our players will have to rise to both challenges. Both of them will be a challenge.”
 
TexAgs Kennedy has made waves as the new men's basketball coach, recruiting at a new level and beyond enthused to be at A&M. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"right","Size":"large","Caption":"Kennedy has made waves as the new men\u0027s basketball coach, recruiting at a new level and beyond enthused to be at A&M.","MediaItemID":7484}
Does it cause you to change much what you’re doing in recruiting and with your recruiting base?
“Not really. We want to still own Texas. This recruiting class will be a little bit different because we’re recruiting a lot of Texas kids and they have to identify with the SEC right away. That’s our job to sell it that way. It’s a quick transition for us but it’s not going to change who we recruit by any means.”
 
At A&M your base is Texas but historically at all your stops you’ve recruited the Southeast really well. Are you excited about the added exposure A&M will get in those areas?
“Yeah, my best players have come from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida, as well as a few from Texas. So I’m used to the South, and hopefully we’ll be able to go into areas that I have relationships and my staff has relationships and be able to grow that and get some guys to come this way.”
 
How much does your Louisiana background help as you go to this league?
“I don’t know how much it’ll help. I hope it helps me get even better players. And, I have to watch what I eat when I go to New Orleans, that’s for sure.”
Discussion from...

Texas A&M, SEC open new chapter with public celebration

One error tho - Slive said "I wont remind you of the SCORE"
^whoops, from a Vol lol. Glad to have yall man.
Love Loftin's SEC tie.
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