What the SEC Should Offer Baylor on Conference Realignment

To avoid anyone getting the wrong idea from my last post about the Baylor showdown, I don't hate the Bears. Baylor is a great institution, and I actually look forward to watching the football team play this year (the kids and the coaches aren't doing this). And I don't want to see Baylor's athletics program die as a result of this, at least in part because I don't want the SEC to become a program-killer.

Right now, the situation is untenable. Texas A&M and Baylor are locked in a death grip, the SEC is trying to stand clear of the mess, and nobody knows how to resolve things. Below is a list of proposals that I think could help break the deadlock, though I'm honestly not even sure how many of them are legal and whether they would work.

1. The SEC will guarantee not to pursue Oklahoma and Missouri unless and until the Big 12 decides to disband
The SEC is really not giving up that much here. Missouri might be a nice program to have, but even expansion supporters are little wary of a team that stretches the definition of "Southeast" that much. Oklahoma has made clear that they want to go to the Pac-12 and only the Pac-12. They've had two chances to start talking with the SEC, and they've taken neither. Only the most deluded SEC fan or realignment rumor-monger doesn't see that. So taking Oklahoma off the table really doesn't cost the SEC anything, and we can always scoop up Missouri as a 15th or 16th team (where they belong) if and when the time comes.

2. In return for Baylor waiving its legal options, neither the SEC nor Baylor will publicly or privately state that those claims have no merit
This is a small but potentially significant legal gesture. It looks very much like Baylor's real concern is keeping Oklahoma and, to a lesser extent, Oklahoma State in the league. But they can't sue those guys right now, because they haven't made the move. Step two, in combination with step three, will at the very least not hurt Baylor's legal case, because there will be no statement that the claims aren't legitimate. It does defuse the legal case facing the SEC, though, while giving the Bears the option to go after the Pac-12 later if they want.

3. The SEC will agree to seek intervenor status in any lawsuit against future teams that plunder the Big 12
It's not going to work, because I don't see the legal logic for the SEC to argue that they have a stake in the outcome. The waiver could be written in such a way to give them a stake, but the only way to do that would be to put the SEC in legal peril if the Pac-12 or Big Ten raid the Big 12, and the presidents aren't going to go for that. In case it isn't clear because I'm floating the idea -- they shouldn't. Nevertheless, it's still a tip of the SEC's hat to the fact that we're not leaving Baylor in the best position.

4. The SEC and/or A&M will repay Baylor for all legal work related to this issue
Call it a Baylor-specific exit fee if you want. Or call it a bribe; it makes no difference. We helped put the Bears in this mess, we can help pay them for their trouble. There's no reason to pay most of the other programs in the Big 12, who will largely be fine if the Big 12 dissolves.

5. The SEC guarantees to help Baylor find an AQ home in the event the Big 12 falls apart, up to and including good-faith consideration of Baylor as a member in the future.
Hear me out. This is not guaranteeing Baylor membership in anything, and the language would have to be very carefully crafted for both sides. To me, "good-faith" means the SEC will consider Baylor as a member if the Bears can prove that their inclusion in the SEC would not cause a financial loss or harm the competitiveness of existing SEC programs. I don't know that Baylor can clear that bar -- unless they hire the "if Texas A&M leaves the Big 12, Texas will return to the Dark Ages" economist again -- and if they can, there's no real reason for the SEC not to at least consider them. And either before or after that consideration, the SEC can also help the Bears find a home in the Big East or see if it can put together a package that might finally put the Mountain West over the AQ hump. (Perhaps by supporting an exemption?) Again, the SEC doesn't really give up that much but gives Baylor at least a shot of emerging from this in a relatively strong position.

I don't want to see Baylor's program decimated because of SEC expansion, and I don't think it necessarily needs to be. It will take new thinking to extricate all of the parties from the legal thicket they're in now and to make sure that Baylor survives as a viable program. It might not be these exact proposals that do the trick; there are people and lawyers who are a lot smarter than I am in Mike Slive's office. But maybe, just maybe, ideas like these could bring an end to the monthslong saga that now threatens to overwhelm the football season. That would be a great deal for everyone concerned -- especially the fans.

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