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SECession! Long-awaited move finally becomes reality

September 25, 2011
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"Texas A&M has become the 13th member of the Southeastern Conference."

Contrary to what then-Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe tried to convince both himself and the assembled media in late July at the conference media days in Dallas, those are the words that Texas A&M fans have been longing to hear for over a year.

Break out last summer’s "SECede" bumper stickers and your seersuckers, Aggies ... your dream of joining college football's most dominant and celebrated conference has officially become a reality.

Andrew Kilzer, TexAgs The SEC news could not have come at a better time, as the Ags gear up for their tilt with former SWC foe and future SEC rival Arkansas. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"left","Size":"large","Caption":"The SEC news could not have come at a better time, as the Ags gear up for their tilt with former SWC foe and future SEC rival Arkansas.","MediaItemID":1900}
Beginning with the 2012 football season, Texas A&M will join Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Mississippi State in the powerful SEC West. Saturday matchups for the Fightin' Texas Aggies will now regularly include dates with the Bayou Bengals, Crimson Tide, defending national champion Auburn Tigers, Florida Gators, Tennessee Vols and Georgia Bulldogs.

Yes, the Aggies are clearly stepping up in class and the TAMU decision-makers believe that playing in the nation's most prestigious conference — and finally emerging from what many have considered a giant, burnt orange shadow — will produce a significant recruiting advantage in the Lone Star State; something to directly combat the Longhorn Network, if you will. By offering high school prospects in Texas the opportunity to stay at home while measuring themselves weekly against the highest level of competition that the sport has to offer, Texas A&M may have significantly altered the recruiting landscape in the nation’s most talent-rich state.

The Aggie braintrust is also counting on what the overwhelming majority of the 12th Man saw a year ago: A&M's move to the SEC is a perfect cultural fit and should significantly improve the program’s national profile and enhance the Aggie brand. As TAMU President R. Bowen Loftin recently stated, this is a 100-year decision for Texas A&M University. The move was about ensuring future success and stability — both short- and long-term.

With Loftin and the Board of Regents leading the way, the Aggies have finally made the big leap — one that qualifies as the most gutsy, forward-thinking and aggressive play in the history of Aggie Athletics.

A tumultuous fifteen months

Before moving on, providing a brief history lesson on what brought the Aggie decision-makers to this watershed moment is necessary.

At this time just a little over a year ago, conference realignment dominated sports headlines, blogs and talk radio — and the Big 12 sat squarely in the middle of the 'missile crisis.' With A&M literally hours away from accepting Commissioner Mike Slive's offer to join the SEC, the Texas Longhorns actually stood down.

TexAgs Loftin and A&M's decision-makers only agreed to return to the Big 12 in the summer of 2010 after certain promises were set forth. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"right","Size":"large","Caption":"Loftin and A&M\u0027s decision-makers only agreed to return to the Big 12 in the summer of 2010 after certain promises were set forth.","MediaItemID":9615}
The combination of the Longhorns' desire for their own television network and a larger slice of the revenue pie (two things that Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott ultimately balked at) and the thought of the Aggies playing in a superior conference proved more than DeLoss Dodds, Mack Brown and the Texas brass could stomach.

Word from the inside was that the Aggies were on the verge of bolting to the SEC and, as a result, complicating Texas' plans to bring six Big 12 teams (Texas, A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Colorado) to the existing Pac-10, forming a 16-team mega-conference. It was at that point that Texas blinked, suddenly buying in to Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe's grand plan to save a conference on the brink of extinction. 

Texas would be able to pursue its coveted network, A&M would join the Longhorns and Sooners in the '$20-million guarantee club' and the Big 12 would survive (minus Nebraska and Colorado). With that option on the table — and Baylor politicians teaming with Longhorn and Red Raider elected officials to exert every bit of leverage they possessed — the Aggies agreed to stay, hoping they wouldn’t someday regret or second-guess the decision.

Someday came a lot sooner than anyone imagined, thanks to a series of events and decisions spanning a full calendar year and coming to a head during the past two months.

In hindsight, one could say the deal was doomed from the start, as A&M officials voiced their primary concern with the entire league from day one: Equal revenue sharing simply had to be the ultimate goal of every conference member. The league had to get to that point, and quickly, or it wouldn't survive. Since last summer, no significant steps were taken toward achieving that goal.

When Texas A&M made the decision to pass on the SEC offer during the summer of 2010, the Ags felt that staying in a strong, unified Big 12 would be their best option at that time. They also knew that Texas was the program most likely to threaten league unity. The Aggie brass cast a watchful eye, to put it mildly, toward Austin from Day One, anxiously waiting to see how aggressively the Horns would attempt to push their own agenda upon a conference held together — for the time being, anyway — by nothing more than hope and promises of future riches.

Fast forward to July, 2010 … just weeks after the league survived the realignment scare. At the annual Big 12 media gathering, Commissioner Beebe stated that there were no guarantees as far as what particular teams would earn. Beebe later backed off of those comments, knowing that A&M, along with both Texas and Oklahoma, were guaranteed a minimum of $20-million per year as part of the conference-saving agreement. The comments didn't bother the Sooners or Longhorns — both of whom knew they'd easily soar past that threshold — but it ruffled plenty of feathers in College Station, serving as the first warning sign that this hasty marriage wasn’t built on a foundation of trust.

The other shoe dropped in January, when it was announced that ESPN would partner with Texas to form the Longhorn Network. The 20-year, $300-million deal represented a stunning development — something no one from College Station to Norman to Lincoln ever saw coming. Even in their wildest dreams, Dodds and the Longhorns themselves couldn’t have imagined such a lucrative deal being struck.

Texas partnering with ESPN presented a giant, unforeseen problem for the Big 12 moving forward — something that Beebe and the league's other eight teams could all see but that no one knew better than those in Aggieland. Suddenly, the Worldwide Leader had a vested interest ($300-million worth, to be exact) in finding programming for the first team-specific channel of its kind, the most attractive content, of course, being live football games.

Beginning in late June and into July of 2011, word started getting out that the LHN planned to air high school football games featuring several Texas commitments. There isn't enough space in this column to begin to delve into the litany of reasons this idea was frowned upon by not only the Horns' Big 12 brethren but also by college coaches around the country and most of the national media. Yet Beebe and the league office stood idly by, essentially letting drama and frustration levels mount.

Meanwhile, the Horns and ESPN pushed even harder, setting the stage for what was probably the final straw as far as Texas A&M was concerned. The perception was that the Longhorns and ESPN were essentially operating on their own, without any feedback or, even more damnable than that, with consent from the league itself.

The Aggies and others pointed to ESPN and Fox Sports apparently working behind the scenes to move one of Texas' Big 12 games to the LHN as undeniable proof that the current arrangement was destined to rip the league apart. Not only was the original understanding that the Longhorn Network be afforded just a single televised football game per season thrown out the window but, suddenly, a Big 12 conference game was going to air on the network, as well. To make matters much, much worse, all of this happened with the league’s "other" nine institutions left entirely in the dark.

SI.com Beebe's indolence on matters in which he had promised results and his permission of Dodds (above) and Texas' agenda helped push A&M out the door. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"right","Size":"large","Caption":"Beebe\u0027s indolence on matters in which he had promised results and his permission of Dodds (above) and Texas\u0027 agenda helped push A&M out the door.","MediaItemID":9715}
From that point forward, the most influential of Aggies were finally (and completely) convinced that the current Big 12-2 arrangement was no longer a viable long-term option for Texas A&M, not because they could no longer deal with the Longhorn machine but simply because the TAMU decision-makers knew that the Big 12 was not built to last and that there were much more attractive options out there for the Aggies. The powers-that-be in Aggieland have not looked back since.

Shortly thereafter, a Board of Regents meeting occurred with the eye-catching discussion topic of "Big 12 Conference" on the agenda. Following that meeting, President Loftin met with the media, sounding anything but confident in the future of the league and more than a little concerned about the Longhorn Network's impact on the Big 12. Could that have been the day — with the A&M legal team present — that the Aggies learned that there was a way out and made the decision to officially re-engage Slive and the SEC? Probably so.

Beebe’s media day "We are family" song and dance in Dallas did nothing to change that line of thinking. In fact, his comments aimed towards Loftin, Bill Byrne and even at the A&M fan base in general were so out of touch that any doubts the Ags had regarding whether or not they were making the right decision were erased by the time the commissioner was finished holding court with the assembled media. The Aggies weren't the only ones who spoke out against Texas and the network, as Missouri's Gary Pinkel and a couple of other head coaches were particularly vocal and visibly agitated when asked about the subject.

One week later, the Big 12 athletic directors reconvened in Dallas and announced that there was a one-year moratorium on airing high school games on school-specific networks. "A band-aid placed over a gaping wound" is how one A&M source described the decision. A second source kept things simple: "Too little, too late."

While some amongst the national media have referred to A&M as having an "inferiority complex," the term "superiority complex" probably needs to be considered in regard to the Texas Longhorns. Trust amongst the Big 12's remaining ten schools was broken beyond repair and that trust was broken by a university, athletic director and head football coach who had placed themselves above the conference for many years. With a weak, reactionary leader running the show and a corporate giant riding shotgun with Bevo, it was very obvious that Texas was leading the Twelve down a path of self-destruction.

Fast forward to August, when word of A&M's SEC courtship began to leak from various websites and blogs, into the "Twitterverse" and, eventually, the mainstream media. By then, TAMU had eyes on closing the deal as quickly as possible. Both sides had learned a valuable lesson during the summer of 2010: State politics and powerful television networks — the ones with literally billions of dollars at stake — were two daunting hurdles sure to become increasingly difficult to clear if talks were to drag out. This time around, the A&M decision-makers acted swiftly and with likeminded resolve.

The Aggies had entered into the new-look Big 12 as the most reluctant and skeptical member of the 10-team conference. Within a year, every issue that A&M feared would jeopardize the long-term viability of the league had risen to the surface. The solution couldn’t have been more obvious.

Leave for the SEC while the option is still on the table.

Nothing about the process came easily, of course. Two months preceding Sunday's monumental announcement were filled with anger, angst and impatience, plus plenty of legal wrangling, posturing and idle threats.

As expected, political storm clouds and threats of extended litigation grew more menacing as the Aggies inched closer to joining the SEC and, potentially, lighting the realignment fuse. Beebe and Big 12 members Texas and Baylor sprung into action, working every possible angle in a desperate attempt to present as many roadblocks between College Station and Birmingham as possible.

Lone Star posturing at its finest — from powerful, billion-dollar trial attorneys all the way to Baylor president Ken Starr's pitiful public pleas and private e-mails — proved enough to give the SEC reason for pause. On Sunday, August 14 — just two days after A&M shocked everyone by boldly pushing a scheduled Regents' meeting seven days ahead on the calendar and doing so during the final minute of the work week — Commissioner Slive met with 11 of the 12 conference presidents at an undisclosed location. While most of the nation believed a "yes" vote could be forthcoming, SEC leadership essentially tapped the brakes — and did so in very public fashion. Basically, the conference sent the direct message that A&M had approached the storied league (and not the other way around) and that the SEC leaders were intent on maintaining the status quo ... for the time being or until the conference landscape began to change.

For the Aggies, the message was clear: Go back, clean things up and get past some of the legal roadblocks threatening to make the process much more complicated moving forward. The A&M decision-makers didn't blink, determined to reach their intended destination one year after (regrettably) falling just hours short of making it happen.

On the Monday following the SEC's announcement, the BOR gave President Loftin the right to negotiate any and everything related to conference affiliation on their behalf. The next big step was taken on August 25, when Loftin notified the Big 12 Conference that A&M intended to 'explore all conference options.' The Ags also requested information regarding early-termination fees and the proper exit procedures. Two days later, the Big 12 Board of Directors appeared to set TAMU free, standing down and focusing instead on the future of its own league — one very much on the verge of collapse.

With the legal shackles removed, Loftin, Slive and the SEC were finally able to negotiate freely ... or so it seemed.

The next step was for the Ags to officially notify Beebe and the Big 12 of their intentions to withdraw from the conference, pending approval from another league. That notice was delivered the following Tuesday, setting the stage for this week's groundbreaking announcement. From there, all that was left was the Aggies submitting their "request for membership" and, finally, the SEC presidents approving Texas A&M's request for admission into the NCAA's most dominant conference.

With the SEC presidents literally en route to Atlanta to conduct the long-awaited vote, Baylor and Starr let it be known that they had no intentions of complying with an official letter signed by Dan Beebe just days earlier. The letter stated that the Big 12 Board of Directors unanimously agreed that the league and its members would not take legal action for any possible claims against the SEC or its members relating to A&M changing conferences.

For the time being, the Bears' legal threat was successful because it caused the SEC to once again stall the process.

Instead of accepting A&M free and clear, the Southeastern Conference voted to expand its borders to include the state of Texas but did so with a catch. League presidents voted unanimously to extend an invite to A&M ... on the condition that the remaining Big 12 teams agreed not to pursue litigation against the SEC.

Things got very ugly over the next two weeks, as Baylor took the fight all the way to Capitol Hill without so much as giving a second thought to national perception or the fact that BU's actions were destroying any and all chances of Big 12 survival.

As the Big 12 was being ripped apart from the inside out, the SEC and A&M waited patiently while working behind the scenes to finalize future plans. Slive broke his silence on September 12, stating publicly that the SEC was already working on a 13-team schedule for the 2012-2013 athletic season. The commissioner's statement was very pointed and carefully constructed, all the way down to his closing statement: "When Texas A&M joins our conference, we don’t have immediate plans for a 14th member. We aren’t thinking in terms of numbers. We think about the strength of the SEC and the attractiveness of Texas A&M as an institution."

As far as both sides were concerned, the deal was done, just not yet official.

On Sunday — with realignment fires burning all around the country — the Ags' patience and dogged determination were finally rewarded in the form of an unconditional, formal invitation to join the SEC. Both sides had grown tired of waiting and the Southeastern Conference wanted to send a strong, public message of support to their newest member. The Aggies were finally rewarded, becoming the SEC's 13th member and the first addition to the league since South Carolina and Arkansas joined nearly 20 years ago.

For A&M, timing was everything

"We were fortunate that the stars aligned for us to make the move," explained one A&M decision-maker. "It’s rare that this type of opportunity comes around twice, and to be able to actually make it happen."

Flirtation between the two sides has been ongoing since the final years of the SWC almost 20 years ago. Loftin and A&M walked away from the table last summer but left things with Slive on excellent terms, knowing that they essentially had an open invitation to go and play with the big boys. Once it became clear that the Big 12 was no longer the path to a successful future for A&M athletics, the Aggies reached out.

OrlandoSentinel.com A call from a determined Aggie brass reached Slive's desk after the reality of the unstoppable Texas power play was hammered home. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"right","Size":"large","Caption":"A call from a determined Aggie brass reached Slive\u0027s desk after the reality of the unstoppable Texas power play was hammered home.","MediaItemID":9716}
After all, if last summer's game of "Realignment Musical Chairs" proved anything, it was that being proactive is the only way to both have options and ensure enough time to make a deliberate and informed decision when it comes to conference affiliation.

The line of thinking on the Ags' side was simple: The SEC wasn't going to walk down the same road with A&M a third time. This was it. Loftin and (to a man) every legitimate decision-maker were on the same page, believing the Southeastern Conference was the perfect fit and best long-term solution for Texas A&M University. From talking to several involved directly with the decision, the feeling is that the SEC will give the A&M program what it has sorely lacked in the modern college football era: A level of visibility and a national profile the likes of which few could imagine. For better or worse, the national media exposure over the past four weeks certainly qualifies as proof positive.

Despite the fact that A&M made the first move, both sides stand to benefit greatly. That's why Slive and the SEC have engaged in talks with the Aggies each of the past two summers. The entire country realizes what the SEC brings to the table but seems a little in the dark when it comes to what Texas A&M contributes, focusing on the Ags' 'decade of mediocrity' and not on the real factors that made A&M so much more attractive an option than, say, Bob Stoops’ powerful Oklahoma Sooners.

In addition to being the perfect cultural fit, Texas A&M brings the coveted Texas television market. Upon the Ags’ official entry into the league, two of the top three SEC TV markets will be DFW and Houston (with Atlanta in between at No. 2). San Antonio will check in at No. 8. I’m not sure if the SEC includes Miami in their numbers but if they don’t, even Austin would crack the SEC top-10. With those television numbers, the league will have plenty to bring to the table when renegotiating the Tier One television rights package with ESPN (after adding a 14th team prior to the Ags' arrival on June 30, 2012). Early buzz has the addition of A&M potentially bringing all of the SEC members from $18 million to as much as $26 million annually. Furthermore, every program in the conference recruits the State, so while adding one Texas team won't lead to Lone Star recruiting dominance, it will certainly be viewed as beneficial to member institutions.

When the Ags join the SEC, A&M will compete with Florida for the top spot in their new conference in terms of total alumni and undergrad enrollment numbers. It will also boast the largest endowment (over $5 billion) in the league. Finally, in Texas A&M the league is also getting its third AAU accredited University (the Ags will join Florida and Vanderbilt as Association of American Universities SEC schools) and one of the nation’s top-10 overall athletic departments. Throw in one of the most passionate fan bases in all of college sports, a gameday experience unlike any other in terms of pageantry and tradition and it's easy to see why adding Texas A&M made perfect sense for a conference that most felt already had it all.

Moving forward

In the very recent past, the mere concept of Texas A&M leaving a conference where they won just two South Division titles and one outright championship from 1996-2009 for the all-powerful SEC fell somewhere between laughable and borderline insane. Then again, a lot has changed in Aggieland over the past couple of years. Both the short- and long-term future of Texas A&M football is as bright as it's been since the late '80s and early '90s — before the Ags' shortsighted approach to facilities began to take a toll on recruiting and before Mack Brown, Bob Stoops and Mike Leach entered the league in consecutive seasons beginning in 1998, completely altering the balance of power in the South.

Andrew Kilzer, TexAgs The program head coach Mike Sherman built ground-up is more prepared than ever to succeed in the SEC's rough waters. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"left","Size":"large","Caption":"The program head coach Mike Sherman built ground-up is more prepared than ever to succeed in the SEC\u0027s rough waters.","MediaItemID":3291}
In order for the Aggies to compete in the Southeastern Conference, A&M football will have to not only arrive with all its ducks in row on the field but off it as well. Nowhere in college athletics are things like facilities, athletic budgets and grandiose stadiums more vital to a program's success. Fortunately for the Ags, plans are underway (thanks to the 12th Man Foundation and Mike Sherman himself) to construct a "football village" that will include much-needed amenities such as a new, state-of-the-art weight room and dining hall (which will be completed by next August). Kyle Field renovations are also just around the corner, including a long overdue facelift plus new club levels and luxury suites. We're talking high-end, "SEC" facilities here ... better than anything in this region of the country.

The powers-that-be in Aggieland are clearly doing their part, as A&M's well-publicized debt issues are already a distant memory. Joining the SEC — and the resulting renegotiated television deal with ESPN — will lead to a never-before-seen financial windfall for the Aggie athletic department, only strengthening the school's ability to push forward in terms of facilities and stadium expansion.

As we all know, the Ags' move to the SEC will be deemed a success or failure based almost exclusively on how Texas A&M's sports teams fare on the field of play. We are talking about the Southeastern Conference here, so the overwhelming majority of that spotlight focuses on the gridiron. The SEC is a cruel, unforgiving league, often rendering prestigious programs like Alabama, LSU, Auburn and, currently, Tennessee and Georgia to middle-of-the-pack status for extended stretches. If the Aggies want to quiet the skeptics and prove their most vocal critics wrong, they'll have to hit the ground running. 

While playing an SEC schedule in 2012 as you're breaking in a new starting quarterback and fielding a defense looking to replace as many as seven starters is a daunting task, there hasn't been a better time for the Aggies to make this type of jump since the late-'90s. Sherman has steadily built his team from the inside-out, significantly upgrading the overall talent level and increasing team size and speed each of the past four Februarys. The Aggie roster now features quality depth at most positions and more than a dozen future NFL Draft picks, with All-Conference-caliber players represented in every class. Not only are the Ags ranked 13th heading into their SEC sneak preview with Arkansas, Sherman and the Aggies are also recruiting as well as they ever have. A&M's Class of 2012 — currently featuring 21 commitments — is considered a sure-fire top-five or top-10 haul and the Ags already have four high-profile players committed for the '13 class. Momentum is at a 15-year high in College Station, even on the heels of Saturday's deflating defeat at the hands of now-No. 5 Oklahoma State, and will only build following the long-awaited, headline-grabbing SEC announcement.

In the early stages of the A&M-to-SEC talks, national media outlets (print and television) took turns taking their shots at an A&M team "nowhere near ready" to compete in the mighty SEC, all but dismissing the Aggie program as an afterthought. The reason the Ags have been such an easy target has everything to do with the aforementioned full decade of futility — one that ended prior to last fall — and nothing to do with where the program currently stands and is heading. After all, A&M would probably have been picked third in this year’s SEC pre-season polls behind only LSU and Alabama.

Now that Mike Slive and Co. have added Texas A&M, the obvious question is, "Who's next?" As I've reported throughout this process, the conference will hold tight at thirteen teams, with the SEC West having seven versus the East's six until the '13 football season. Slive and the conference members (including the Aggies, who have been told they'll have a seat at the table) will soon target a team to join the East. That process may have been accelerated in light of Syracuse and Pittsburgh leaving the Big East for a suddenly aggressive and forward-thinking ACC.  Rumored possibilities to join the league in time for the 2013 season still include current ACC members North Carolina and Virginia Tech plus West Virginia and possibly even Missouri (if the Big 12 eventually implodes). Carolina is going to be the primary target and the Tar Heels obviously bring the most to the table, but the truth of the matter is that the SEC still has plenty of time to figure things out and be very particular about their next addition.

Grabbing A&M was an easy call, one that had to be made immediately.

TexAgs Time for Beebe to fortify the Big 12 with a suitable replacement for the Aggies ran out — and so did his term as commissioner. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"left","Size":"large","Caption":"Time for Beebe to fortify the Big 12 with a suitable replacement for the Aggies ran out — and so did his term as commissioner.","MediaItemID":9288}
As for the Big 12, the last two weeks have been an embarrassing depiction of how dysfunctional the once-respected and now laughably unstable conference has become:

Oklahoma and Oklahoma State express their desire to explore conference options and spend weeks courting the Pac-12; Texas wants to hold the league together for selfish, LHN-related reasons then enters talks with both the ACC and Pac-12; after the Horns (and their laundry list of demands and excessive baggage) are pushed away by both leagues, it’s back to “saving the Big 12” for Bill Powers, DeLoss Dodds and the Burnt Orange; meanwhile, Baylor sits back and does nothing but make things more difficult on everyone, dangling the threat to sue over not only A&M but also anyone trying to leave.  As it turns out, that list was a long one and included Texas and Oklahoma — two of the programs that have carried the conference while BU has spent fifteen years bringing absolutely nothing to the table.

Yet somehow, some way, the Big 12 Conference is going to survive its second near-death experience in as many years. Last year, the league lost Nebraska and Colorado — two programs that have won national titles in football. This time around, Texas A&M and its top-10 athletic department walked. Commissioner Dan Beebe — in many a mind the root of all Big 12 evil — was also a casualty, stepping down just one year after signing a multi-year extension. I guess we’ll just wait and see what happens next summer because the conference is still on extremely unstable ground. If the Big 12 falls apart is no longer the question. It’s simply a matter of when.

No matter how much the league tries to plug the leaks, the Big 12 has become college football’s Titanic. From Austin to College Station to Norman, everyone has known as much for quite some time. Contrary to what some national media mouthpieces have been pushing since news of A&M’s impending departure broke, the truth is that the Aggies were never alone. Every Big 12 team save perhaps Baylor felt the same way that A&M did but the other members were unwilling to be the first to make the most gutsy and risky of decisions.

It’s safe to say that feelings have changed since then.

Though they have both been pulled back in for the time being, OU and Oklahoma State expressed their desire to explore options and very clearly want out. OSU mega-booster T. Boone Pickens recently summed things up beautifully, saying “DeLoss (Dodds) had too many cards and he played every damn one of them. I think that’s too bad. You get tired of saying ‘aaah’ while you get something shoved down your throat. I think that’s where we came out.” One of the few smart things the billionaire has said publicly throughout the realignment process.

It's no secret that the often-contentious Aggie-Longhorn relationship is now officially as strained as it has ever been. Last summer, the Texas brass seemed to use select media outlets to leak threats that the Horns would stop playing Texas A&M in all sports were the Aggies to pass on the "Pac-16" idea and bolt for the SEC. Not surprisingly, they’re at it again. Now that the Ags have officially broken away, how will Dodds and the Longhorn decision-makers react?

It sounds like DeLoss has already made up his mind. The nation’s most egotistical AD was quoted on Wednesday as saying, “I think that's problematic because we're scheduled out. Our non-conference schedule right now is three games, and one of those games is (part of a) home-and-home (series). Those are scheduled out with Notre Dame, Ole Miss ... USC. The other two games, we play at home — what we call 'buy games.' So I think it would be hard to schedule that game somewhere. I'm not saying it won't be scheduled. I'm just saying it's going to be difficult.” Word has also trickled out from several Longhorn head coaches in other sports that Dodds has told them Texas wouldn’t play A&M in any sports moving forward. 

The Longhorn-Aggie rivalry is not only one of the college football’s greatest rivalries, it extends far beyond the gridiron. For proof of how competitive recent A&M-Texas battles have been, look no further than the results of the past four “Lonestar Showdowns” — an all-sports, head-to-head competition between the two state powers (one narrow win apiece and two ties).

Would the Longhorns sacrifice over 100 years of history and a rivalry that commands the attention and captures the imagination of the entire Lone Star State on account of wounded pride or hurt feelings? If that question sounds slanted towards the Burnt Orange, it’s because A&M has already thrown down the gauntlet. Despite joining a conference loaded with top-20, top-10 and national title-contending football teams, the Aggies have made it crystal clear that they intend on continuing the annual Thanksgiving showdown with Texas (something that Slive and the SEC will accommodate) and to play the Horns in all sports.  The ball is in Texas’ court and there’s only one acceptable answer. The eyes of Texas (and the nation) are upon both of you, DeLoss Dodds and Mack Brown. Man up or let the entire country know that you’re literally taking your ball and going home.

Not a football-only league

With the college football season now in full swing, the SEC standing tall as the sport's undisputed king and Texas A&M set to join a league full of like-minded "football schools," it’s easy for Aggies (and the rest of the country) to focus exclusively on how the newest league member might fare on the gridiron.

Matt Sachs, TexAgs Texas A&M figures to make an immediate impact in the SEC in multiple sports and continue its strong run in across-the-board athletic competition. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"right","Size":"large","Caption":"Texas A&M figures to make an immediate impact in the SEC in multiple sports and continue its strong run in across-the-board athletic competition.","MediaItemID":6683}
However, what the Southeastern Conference is getting is more than a fast-rising, potentially dominant football program. The league is essentially adding an athletic department that will quickly become the West's answer to Florida. Like the Gators, when it comes to across-the-board excellence, the Aggies are in the conversation of the nation's top programs.

During the 2010-2011 sports season, ten of Texas A&M's 18 sports finished in the top ten, including three team national championships and the men's tennis doubles title to go along with eight Big 12 Championships (if regular season and tournament titles are counted separately). The Aggies should remain at or near the top of their new league in all sports, making the league even stronger than it already is in baseball, women's basketball, softball, soccer, tennis, golf and track. A&M will also bring a basketball program that has finished in the Big 12's top three in three of the past five seasons and advanced to six consecutive NCAA Tournaments to the equation. The Ags will join Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee and Vandy as fixtures in the Big Dance, giving the conference some much-needed quality depth at the top.

Texas Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma, OSU and, hopefully, Texas will now make up the tough portion of the Ags' non-conference schedules. Renewing the intense LSU baseball rivalry, Gary Blair's national champions versus the Tennessee Vols, A&M against South Carolina in a CWS rematch, Pat Henry's three-time defending champs taking on Florida, LSU and Arkansas at the SEC Championships on the track and the Aggies facing Coach Cal and Kentucky at Rupp or Reed Arena are just a few of the many intriguing and exciting opportunities that the new league will create for Texas A&M’s other sports. As for the football matchups, all that needs to be said is that the Aggies will soon be playing in the SEC.

Finally.
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We'd better elevate our play...or else we'll be Vanderbilt "West".

Oh....and pg. 1.

[This message has been edited by Bigsteve (edited 9/25/2011 4:20p).]
hunter2012
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AG
p1, ray of sunshine on a cloudy weekend
CFTXAG10
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ChemEAg08
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TexAgggg11
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SEC! SEC! SEC! pg 1
A2
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Pagina
aggiechris06
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AG
Not to knock ya looch, but you were off by about 16 hours... Sunday is the beginning of a fresh week my friend....
citagg83
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JeffAggie2012
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AG
1
TopRowKyleField
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Are you sure we aren't on double secret probation by k*?
buildingchampions
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AG
ag88man
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BQ87
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Bajan
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DTX_12
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AG
pg uno
EconAg05
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DPTaggie
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Page one!
Little Rock Ag
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AG
1
Brock Sampson
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AG
YES!
AppleAggie07
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WHOOP! About time.

Oh, and juan.

[This message has been edited by AppleAggie07 (edited 9/25/2011 4:26p).]
Char99
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AgResearch
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AG
Page 1
LSRR
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S
Sweet baby Jesus, thank you. I can finally get some work done.



Oh, and Juan!

[This message has been edited by lsrr (edited 9/25/2011 4:28p).]
mustang6tee8
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. . .
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PCV Ag
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AGnNoCo
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Turkey 87
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AggieVictor10
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AG
Page 1.

About damn time. Whoop!
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