The latest according to TexAgs.com's Billy Liucci is that Baylor is not backing down on its threat to sue the SEC for tortious interference if Texas A&M leaves the Big 12. Given that SEC presidents will not budge on their requirement of legal waivers from all Big 12 schools and the conference, it means that TAMU's move to the SEC is on hold.
I think that's a great development. I couldn't be happier with that news.
I understood it when Colorado left the Big 12, because its cash-strapped program needed the Pac-12's impending windfall badly. I understood it when Nebraska left the Big 12, because it had been the Big Eight kingpin and never got along with Texas in their 15 years together in the conference.
I don't fully understand why Texas A&M and Oklahoma are in such a hurry to get out of the Big 12 as well. I get that Texas and ESPN have generated a lot of hurt feelings with how they've handled the creation of the Longhorn Network, but those are just feelings. The NCAA quashed A&M's and OU's primary concerns in regards to high school games being shown on it. Under no circumstances can ESPN force their teams to appear on the LHN either. The network brings Texas more money, but as Bob Stoops said in a recent press conference, Texas has always had the most money in the region.
As the old saying goes: prediction is very difficult, especially about the future. Things are rough now, but that doesn't mean they always will be. That doesn't mean that a workable solution can't be found. That doesn't mean that walking away is the only way forward.
No matter what the TV contract financials say, the SEC is the strongest football conference in the nation. It will continue to be in the future because its footprint produces more and better athletes than any other conference's footprint. The commitment to football by the schools and fans make it the most attractive league to coach in, and the collection of coaches in the SEC has been the best consistently for the past decade or more. Does the Pac-12's monster contract mean that when UCLA fires Rick Neiheisel, it will be able to pry Saban from Alabama or Miles from LSU? Of course not. I'm not even sure it could get Dan Mullen out of Starkville.
The SEC has won the current system. The SEC Championship Game is the only conference title game that is big time and works. Will the Pac-12 and Big Ten title games do well? Perhaps, but the ACC Championship Game has overall been a failure and the remaining Big 12 coaches couldn't kiss their championship game goodbye quickly enough. The SEC's standing as best conference means that it will get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to getting into the BCS National Championship Game. Florida going ahead of Michigan in 2006 was the first big test of that, and the Gators' 41-14 blowout win all but codified the principle in the BCS bylaws.
The best explanation I can come up with for why the SEC is fine with A&M coming aboard is because changing the membership will allow it to renegotiate its television deals. When the Pac-12 got a richer deal than the SEC's, I'm sure that hurt a lot of pride in the league office in Birmingham. I would then ask this question: so what?
What the SEC gets from its deals is more than enough to run big time programs. It will continue to be more than enough through the lifetime of the deal. The Pac-12 got the most money because it had last-mover advantage. Well, guess who gets to go last next time around? The SEC does. Besides, the SEC's deals with CBS and ESPN ensure that it has the widest distribution of its best games among all the conferences. The SEC's contracts might not be the richest, but they provide plenty of money, exposure and stability.
The SEC should have told Texas A&M to give the new Big 12 a try and to come back in a few years if they still felt leaving it was the best move. Clearly that's not what happened, or at least what the SEC stuck to as time passed. The threats of legal action from Baylor (and apparently Iowa State, K-State and Kansas too) are all that's standing in the way of A&M heading east.
I hope Baylor sticks to its guns. I hope they exhaust every option they have. I hope this drags on long enough that cooler heads prevail, especially given that Texas probably doesn't want to go west anyway. I hope this Hail Mary pass connects and it causes the current ten schools to give the new Big 12 setup an honest try.
Realistically, I know it won't. It's only making the unhappy people even more unhappy, which then makes the already remote chances of a Big 12 reconciliation even less likely.
I want to believe that college athletics is more than just a naked cash grab by the people in charge of it. I really do.
That hope is dying.