by Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
After a lengthy process, Texas A&M has officially said goodbye to the Big 12 and is off to the SEC. The Aggies nearly made the move in the summer of 2010, after Texas and a couple of other Big 12 teams nearly left to create a Pac-16 conference. However, there’s no turning back now: Texas A&M is the 13th member into the SEC.
Although the Big 12 was patched together last summer, the hard feelings from the 2010 realignment phase couldn’t be completely mended. Texas A&M was still unhappy over Texas’ Longhorn Network and even though it can’t show high school games, the divide was simply too deep.
The Aggies will join the SEC in time for the 2012 season, but will have to pay an exit fee to the Big 12. With the Big 12 surviving after a potential breakup last week, the buyout for Texas A&M is still being negotiated.
Texas A&M is the third school to depart the Big 12 since the end of the 2009 season, with Nebraska joining the Big Ten and Colorado joining the Pac-12.
What It Means for the SEC
The SEC didn’t need to expand, but acquiring Texas A&M is a solid acquisition for commissioner Mike Slive. The Aggies are a good geographic fit in the SEC West and getting into Texas will only help expand the reach of the conference.
Although SEC teams already dipping into Texas for prospects, expect this move to help open more doors on the recruiting trail.
The Aggies decision to join the SEC sets up an interesting 2012 season. Texas A&M is the conference’s 13th member and some scheduling issues will have to be worked out.
Also, what does the SEC plan to do about team No. 14? Although reports have indicated the SEC would be fine playing with 13 teams for a year, it’s unlikely the conference would continue with that model for long.
Expect North Carolina, NC State, Maryland, Virginia Tech and Missouri to be on the wish list for the SEC.
What it means for the Big 12
The long-term viability of the Big 12 is unknown. Although the conference was held together last week, it's uncertain if the Big 12 will exist in 10 years. After losing three schools, the conference has taken a hit in reputation and needs to make a splash in expansion. As long as Texas and Oklahoma want to stick together, the Big 12 will likely exist. However, it cannot continue to lose teams and expect to remain one of the top BCS conferences.
The Big 12 has already discussed potential replacements, which include Arkansas, BYU and Notre Dame. Arkansas and Notre Dame? Forget about it. BYU makes a lot of sense, especially since it seems to be the most competitive option in terms of available teams for football.
If BYU doesn’t go to the Big 12, the conference could look at Air Force, Houston, SMU, TCU or West Virginia or Louisville from the Big East. Although the Big 12 was expected to stay at 10 teams last season, the conference is expected to consider expanding to 12 teams.
Good or Bad Move for Texas A&M?
Many people are not sold this is a good move for Texas A&M, but this decision does make sense on a couple of levels. The Aggies can move a little out of Texas’ shadow and are in a conference with more stability. Also, the SEC has an equal revenue sharing model and should be able to bring in another huge television contract with its next deal. The Aggies fit the geographic model of the conference and should become rivals with Arkansas and LSU.
Although Texas A&M is joining a conference with more stability, the downside is the overall competition. The Aggies are moving into the toughest conference in college football. And the path to a national and conference title was easier in the Big 12.
Texas A&M’s All-time Record Against SEC Schools
Alabama – Crimson Tide lead overall series 3-1
Arkansas – Razorbacks lead overall series 40-24-3
Auburn – Aggies lead overall series 2-0
Florida – Series is tied 1-1
Georgia – Aggies lead overall series 3-2
Kentucky – Series is tied 1-1
LSU – Tigers lead overall series 27-20-3
Ole Miss – Aggies lead overall series 4-0
Mississippi State – Bulldogs lead overall series 3-2
South Carolina – Never played
Tennessee – Volunteers lead overall series 2-0
Vanderbilt – Never played
History of Teams Joining the SEC
Alabama - 1932
Arkansas - 1991
Auburn - 1932
Florida - 1932
Georgia - 1932
Kentucky - 1932
LSU - 1932
Mississippi State - 1932
Ole Miss - 1932
South Carolina - 1991
Tennessee - 1932
Vanderbilt - 1932
Distance from College Station to SEC Schools
Alabama (Tuscaloosa) - 629 miles
Arkansas (Fayetteville) - 503 miles
Auburn - 756 miles
Florida (Gainesville) - 925 miles
Georgia (Athens) - 896 miles
Kentucky (Lexington) - 981 miles
LSU (Baton Rouge) - 340 miles
Mississippi State (Starkville) - 571 miles
Ole Miss (Oxford) - 615 miles
South Carolina (Columbia) - 1,035 miles
Tennessee (Knoxville) - 936 miles
Vanderbilt (Nashville) - 770 miles