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Texas A&M announcement, celebration of SEC move on hold

Fears over a potential lawsuit have put Texas A&M's announcement and celebration of a move to the Southeastern Conference on hold. The celebration, planned for Wednesday on the College Station campus, is being held up by fears that Baylor could sue over the Aggies' departure from the Big 12.
FROM STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS Published: September 7, 2011

Mississippi Chancellor Dr. Dan Jones said the SEC felt the Big 12 letter offered clear legal standing.

“It's in the hands of Texas A&M and the Big 12,” Jones said. “We've been clear that we'd be happy to receive them if they're unfettered of obligations. We gathered to have a vote. We had a letter that clearly gave us legal clearance. It was frustrating to be gathered and then have things pulled out from under Texas A&M like that. We're disappointed for Texas A&M.”

But the league doesn't want to wage a court battle for the Aggies.

“Texas A&M is a great school, but we don't' want to involve ourselves in any legal action over all of that,” said David Williams, Vanderbilt's vice chancellor for University Affairs and Athletics.

He added that “all 12 schools are together on that statement.”

Texas A&M announced last week that it planned to leave the Big 12 by July 2012 if invited to join another league. The Aggies had been unhappy with the creation of the Longhorn Network at rival Texas and have made it clear they want a higher profile and more revenue.

The SEC will also reap the revenue and extended visibility as a result of the move.

Adding Texas A&M is “a business decision,” a person familiar with the situation has told the AP previously. The person said the move gets the SEC into the Texas market.

“You know how many households there are in Texas? 8.9 million,” the person said, adding that the league had no choice but to listen when the Aggies came knocking. “Why would we want to hand that to the Pac 12 or any another conference?”

Said Tennessee coach Derek Dooley: “The landscape is changing. It's that old saying: It's not about the money, it's about the amount.”

The state of Texas is also fertile recruiting ground.

“I certainly understand adding a Texas team into the conference,” LSU coach Les Miles said Wednesday. “A&M has a great historic following and is a traditional power that certainly brings the interest of Texas.”

“Texas football is great high school football … The dynamics are significant.”

The Aggies will likely have to pay an exit fee for leaving the Big 12. It cost Nebraska $9.25 million and Colorado $6.9 million. But that shouldn't hold the move up considering the SEC distributed a record $18.3 million in revenue to each of the 12 members this year.

The Aggies' intentions have sparked more talk of conference realignment stretching across the country.

The Big 12 has already lost Nebraska (Big Ten) and Colorado (Pac-12). Oklahoma president David Boren said last week that multiple conferences have expressed interest in the Sooners and he expects a decision within a few weeks. Oklahoma State billionaire booster Boone Pickens also said he doesn't think the Big 12 will survive much longer and predicted the Cowboys will eventually join the Pac-12.

It might not be over for the SEC, either, if the league that has won the last five BCS championships in football decides to add a 14th team or even expand to a 16-team superconference.

Mississippi State's Keenum said Slive has assured the schools that “scheduling issues” caused by having imbalanced divisions could be ironed out.

Vandy's Williams also doesn't think it's necessarily imperative that the SEC add a 14th team to maintain.

“The Big 10 stayed at 11 for quite awhile,” he said. “I think that our folks at the conference they'll work all of this out; 12, 13, 14 whatever it is we'll be a happy family.”


AP Sports Writers Stephen Hawkins, Teresa Walker, Beth Rucker and David Brandt contributed to this report.