Could the SEC Look at Texas A&M Again?

Perhaps it's just a coincidence of grasping for offseason content, but two different and major Texas A&M sites had front page stories yesterday revisiting the idea of the school joining the SEC. We covered the drama surrounding the Aggies-to-SEC rumors from last year's conference realignment saga pretty thoroughly (1, 2, 3, 4).

Thanks to paywalls, I can't actually read what those articles said. (See addendum below. Both articles are free now.) However, I can predict that there's a lot of hand wringing over the current state of the Big 12. Arch rival Texas pretty much runs the joint, and judging from some message board lurking, Aggie fans are none too pleased about the ESPN-backed Longhorn Network.

I personally still have my doubts about how serious the SEC truly was about expanding last summer. The most logical explanation of everything I read is that the SEC was interested in bringing Texas A&M and Oklahoma over from the Big 12, but OU made it clear fairly early on that it was hitching its wagon to Texas. Presumably the SEC would have been interested in Texas too, but UT was never interested in the SEC. Therefore, I never was all that sure Mike Slive was bringing aboard another school.

That said, a couple of "SEC insiders" told the Birmingham News that A&M to the SEC was likely, and Chip Brown talked of Slive doing everything he could to get Texas and TAMU. Of course, anything Brown reported back then has to be filtered through the understanding that he was essentially putting out whatever the Texas brass was feeding him at the time. With everything up in the air and the dissolution of the Big 12 looking likely until the very end though, it makes sense that Slive was burning up the phones trying to make a move into Texas.

With the Superconference Armageddon not coming to pass, the SEC didn't need to go beyond 12 teams. In fact, the threat of the Aggies going East might be the thing that keeps it from happening forever. Everything I've read leads me to believe that those at the University of Texas do not want there to be an SEC team in their state. They think they control how Lone Star recruiting happens, and opening the door to SEC schools and their cutthroat recruiting is not in their interest.

All you have to do is go back in the archives and see how chaotic things got when news of TAMU considering the SEC broke. We even got to the point where Brown (and probably UT too) was trying to paint an A&M move to the SEC as being the bomb that blew up the Big 12, though A&M officials were smart enough to keep the burden of conference survival on Texas. I don't think UT saw the potential TAMU eastward move coming, and there was enough support for it on the A&M side for UT officials to scrap the Pac-16 plan and save the Big 12.

So the question I have for y'all is this: could the SEC be the one to set off the drive for superconferences next time around? Presently, everything is working well with the 12 schools it has, but the environment for TV contracts is more lucrative now than it was a couple years ago when the conference signed its deals with CBS and ESPN. That's because the competition for TV rights is much higher with ESPN having to bid against (or with) not just Fox but Comcast and Turner too. It's a far cry from ESPN and Raycom battling for the SEC's regional syndication package a few years ago.

The SEC probably has only two options for increasing its TV rights income: waiting for the current deal to expire more than a decade from now, or expanding. Of the nearby markets the league currently doesn't have in its footprint, Texas is the most lucrative. Might the SEC make the preemptive strike and go for Texas A&M first rather than cross its fingers that it will turn down another advance from the Pac-12?

I don't think Mike Slive will be the one who does that, based on his lukewarm public support for the idea of expansion. Whoever ends up his successor might, and with Larry Scott's ambition known and Jim Delany on the record saying he'll look to expand beyond 12 in the future, it's not outlandish to suspect the SEC will fire the first shot.

UPDATE

Here is a non-paywalled link to the piece by David Sandhop from the Texas A&M Scout site. I have no idea about the quality of this guy's sources, so caveat emptor.

The other article referenced above from Texags.com publisher Billy Liucci is also free now. Again, I don't know this guy and can't vouch for his sources or track record.

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