All signs point to Texas A&M announcing its official withdrawal from the Big 12, possibly by today, clearing the path for a move to the Southeastern Conference in a matter of days.
Texas A&M officials received a letter Monday from Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, outlining withdrawal procedures under league bylaws and mutual waivers of legal claims. The mutual waivers of legal claims should expedite the move because it signals to SEC officials that the school _ and, by extension, the SEC _ will have no legal challenges from the Big 12 if A&M continues moving forward in the realignment process.
The New York Times, citing sources, reported that A&M president R. Bowen Loftin sent a letter Monday to the chairman of the Big 12 board of directors, Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton, notifying the league that the Aggies would formally withdraw. A&M officials denied that report this morning. Jason Cook, A&M's vice-president of marketing and communications, posted this response on his Twitter account: "Contrary to media reports this morning, Texas A&M did NOT send a withdrawal letter to the Big 12 on Monday."
The paper took down the story from its website this morning. A&M also released a statement this morning that said: "No Texas A&M atletics press conference or statement is expected today regarding conference affiliation."
But notifying the Big 12 of withdrawal plans is the next step needed in the realignment process that would carry the Aggies to the SEC. The move is imminent, as Loftin indicated in a Monday statement.
In the statement, Loftin said it is “not our intent to prolong our conference exploration for an extended period of time.” But he did not specify a timetable. A&M did not announce its withdrawal Monday, but a source with knowledge of the situation said: “All parties have a desire to move quickly.”
Through a Big 12 spokesman, Beebe declined comment about the letter he sent to A&M. An A&M source said Beebe’s letter but did not address the possibility of a negotiated settlement in regard to how much money A&M must forfeit to begin competing in the SEC by the 2012 football season.
Under Big 12 bylaws, A&M would forfeit roughly $28 million if it left in time to compete in the SEC for the 2012 football season. League sources have indicated a willingness to negotiate a lower figure _ probably between $15 million and $20 million _ that would be deducted from A&M’s projected revenues for the 2011-12 school year ($19 million to $20 million).
A&M officials have cited the precedent set last year with Nebraska, which paid $9.25 million based on projected revenues of $19.37 million to depart after the 2010-11 school year. A&M’s final exit fee could be decided through arbitration, a step the Big 12 used with Nebraska. Such a move would expedite the school’s ability to conclude its apparent move to the SEC.
Upon withdrawal from the Big 12, A&M must apply for SEC membership and receive approval from at least nine of the league’s 12 members. From all indications, A&M has the necessary votes for SEC approval.
_ Jimmy Burch