DALLAS, TX -- When Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin asked Aggies for patience Monday, maybe he should have included the Big 12 in his request.
The ongoing courtship between A&M and the Southeastern Conference cannot continue for much longer without resolution, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe made clear Tuesday.
“I think the members deserve to know what Texas A&M’s intentions are going forward regarding the conference,” Beebe said.
He said the idea of the saga extending for months simply isn’t a possibility for the Big 12.
“I would suggest that would be an untenable position,” Beebe said. “We can’t operate with an institution waiting to decide if it wants to remain in the conference. There has to be a very short time for an institution to commit.”
Some point soon, Beebe said he could approach the Big 12’s board of directors about setting a date for A&M to make a commitment.
He raised the idea that the Big 12 could pursue a stronger, contractual pledge “because the one last summer wasn’t binding enough.” In addition to the current rules specifying withdrawal penalties, Beebe suggested that the extended commitment would involve damages for any school that would leave.
While Beebe didn’t offer a time period, the remaining 10 schools made a 10-year pledge last season.
Beebe said the conference had “already suffered damages to its name, brand, and reputation.” A $1 million rebranding campaign by Austin-based GSD&M Idea City called “This Is How We Play” has been essentially rendered unusable.
Additionally, Beebe wondered about Loftin’s comments regarding confusing Big 12 bylaws regarding departure payments. The commissioner noted that A&M backed the conference’s stance and accepted the exit fees from Nebraska and Colorado a year ago.
Texas A&M declined comment through spokesman Jason Cook, who pointed to Loftin’s comments Monday after the regents gave him the power to deal with conference alignment.
“What we do, if anything will be in the best interest of Texas A&M and the state of Texas,” Loftin said. “We’re also very concerned about the members of the Big 12. We don’t want the Big 12 to go away. We have no intention of doing anything that might precipitate that.”
While the SEC discussed expansion on Sunday, including A&M, the conference decided to remain at 12 teams for now.
Sources indicated that talks between the SEC and A&M remain alive and ongoing.
But NCAA president Mark Emmert also became involved, suggesting a summit on conference alignment and calling Beebe and several SEC presidents.
Beebe emphasized that the Big 12’s first option was to retain A&M, which has longstanding conference rivalries. The Big 12 board of directors has conveyed the same sentiment in a statement Saturday.
“Ultimately, our strong main desire is to keep A&M and address whatever need to be done to keep them as happy, fulfilled members of the conference,” Beebe said.
The Longhorn Network had provided the spark for A&M’s decision to look at the SEC. Since then, Big 12 and the NCAA have neutralized concerns about high school games appearing on Texas’ new startup venture with ESPN.
Loftin said A&M was motivated by a desire for national visibility and financial resources.
Dallas tycoon and Oklahoma State uberbooster T. Boone Pickens said the Aggies should stay put.
“That's a big mistake for Texas A&M to move out,” Pickens told the Oklahoman. “They're moving out of Texas when they do that, and I don't think that's a smart deal.”
Beebe said he was not issuing an ultimatum to A&M.
“I don’t think any of this is unreasonable or nasty,” Beebe said. “It makes sense especially with scheduling and other long-term concerns.”
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