Respect? Equality? Prominence? Something fresh?
If you're an Aggie jonesing for a jump to the Southeastern Conference, are these the things you're looking for right now?
This whole saga (a year-plus in length and counting) is so foreign to me. The Big 12 (now in name only) was formed in 1996. One-hundred years earlier, seven schools in the heartland of America got together and created the Intercollegiate Conference of Faculty Representatives. My alma mater Indiana and Iowa jumped aboard before the turn of the century. Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State and Nebraska were added over the next 100 years. Only one school's ever left the Big Ten, the University of Chicago in 1946.
While there's no question that there are major differences in the quality of the athletics put on by each of these schools (see: Northwestern, Purdue and Penn State), there's equality. While there's no question there are some of the most intense rivalries in the NCAA existing within this grouping (Ohio State-Michigan, Indiana-Purdue), there's an air of respect.
Does equality and respect exist in the Big 12?
I cannot begin to imagine my reaction if Purdue signed a deal with a major national broadcaster to showcase its individual athletics program. I would hope my university would have stepped up and done everything in its power to block it. I would hope my university's conference would have put its foot down and said no.
Remember, we've got a network of our own in Big Ten Country. It's a partnership, a sign of each school's commitment to its conference and one another, despite rivalries. Equality. Respect.
When the Longhorn Network was created, when ESPN signed away unbias, when UT split from the pack, the scales tipped forever. In public, Texas A&M President Bowen Loftin congratulated UT on landing the deal. Surely in private, he curses its existence. It has moved his institution to the brink of leaving geographic, longtime rivals.
Texas A&M should compete well in the vast majority of SEC sports, but football is the money maker, and consistent success against the best of the best on that field is paramount to making an SEC jump the right move as recorded in the history books. Right now, the team is a BCS bowl game contender, a preseason ninth-ranked squad that's been underrated in the eyes of many national analysts. Many of those pundits are on that same network that threw away credibility on A&M for a burnt orange channel.
Does A&M want to leave? Does A&M want respect? Does A&M want equality? Yes, yes and yes. I also think they know what they're getting into on the SEC athletics side, the tough gridiron competition and the sports they could potentially run rough-shod.
To me, maybe more than anything, this is about stability, something the Aggies haven't had much of over the last 15 years. The Big 12 has failed them in their eyes. This week, that experiment may come to an end, as a charter member of the Southwest Conference treks Southeast for another experiment, one where scales aren't off.