With one response, Gov. Rick Perry elevated the rumors linking Texas A&M and the Southeastern Conference beyond message board chatter and Twitter.
Asked by The Dallas Morning News' statehouse reporters Wednesday about speculation that A&M might bolt the Big 12 for the SEC, Perry responded: “I'll be real honest with you. I just read about it the same time as y'all did. … As far as I know, conversations are being had. That's frankly all I know. I just refer you to the university and the decision makers over there.”
The comments from a prominent former student, one-time Aggie yell leader and likely presidential candidate sent the message that A&M is considering a move that could again rock the Big 12 and end long-standing traditional rivalries.
At the same time, Perry's quote raises questions. Are the conversations among A&M officials? Have they extended to talks with the SEC? Where do president R. Bowen Loftin and athletic director Bill Byrne stand?
Asked about Perry's comments and discussions regarding conference membership, A&M released a statement Wednesday afternoon. Rather than refute the speculation, A&M took a different approach. The statement read: “President Loftin is committed to doing what is best for Texas A&M not only now, but also into the future. We continue to have wide-ranging conversations regarding all aspects of the university, including both academics and athletics.”
Asked in a follow-up email to confirm or deny SEC discussion, A&M spokesman Jason Cook responded: “I will decline to address further …. Thanks for your understanding.”
Byrne, traveling with the men's basketball team in Europe, didn't immediately return an email. With commissioner Dan Beebe attending an NCAA summit in Indianapolis, the Big 12 declined comment.
Multiple high-level sources throughout the conference indicated than an A&M move was not viewed as eminent, although things could escalate. They detailed a view of a divided board of regents seriously willing to explore the SEC option. A large, vocal contingent of the fan base has given the movement momentum.