After weeks of hanging in limbo, Texas A&M is officially heading to the SEC.
An official announcement and celebration in College Station is expected Monday.
The SEC presidents and chancellors voted unanimously Sunday to bring the Aggies into the fold as the 13th member of the power conference effective July 1, 2012. Texas A&M, which notified the Big 12 of its plans to exit the conference a month ago, will begin competing the SEC in all sports during the 2012-13 academic year.
“The Southeastern Conference presidents and chancellors are pleased to welcome Texas A&M University to the SEC family,” said Dr. Bernie Machen, chair of the SEC Presidents and Chancellors and president of the University of Florida. “The addition of Texas A&M University as the SEC’s 13th member gives our league a prestigious academic institution with a strong athletic tradition and a culture similar to our current institutions.”
It has been what seemed to be a long time coming as Texas A&M looked to separate from in-state rival Texas. The relationship between the two schools hit an all-time low this summer as A&M became increasingly wary of Texas 20-year, $300 million deal for its ESPN-backed Longhorn Network.
Texas A&M felt the network gives the Longhorns too much of a recruiting advantage, despite that fact it and the other eight Big 12 members understood in the summer of 2010 that allowing the Longhorn Network was the only way to assure Texas would remain in the conference.
But now, the Aggies will no longer have to worry about Texas or the Longhorn Network. The Aggies, who have haven’t won the Big 12 title since the late 1990s, have to now figure out how to be competitive in the nation’s best and most competitive league with the likes of Alabama, LSU and Florida.
“The Southeastern Conference provides Texas A&M the national visibility that our great university and our student-athletes deserve,” said Texas A&M University President R. Bowen Loftin. “We are excited to begin competition in the nation’s premier athletic conference. This is a 100-year decision that we have addressed carefully and methodically, and I believe the Southeastern Conference gives the Aggies the best situation of any conference in the country.”
For the Big 12, it wasn’t unexpected news that another of its charter members was leaving the league, but it still difficult to accept. Just two weeks ago, the Big 12 seemed on the verge of completely breaking apart for the second time in just over a year but Texas and Oklahoma decided to keep the league going and will now pursue schools to either get back to10 or 12 members.
“I am personally saddened to see Texas A&M depart from the Big 12, and wish I had the opportunity to visit the campus to sit down and talk with their administration,” said Big 12 Conference interim commissioner Chuck Neinas, who took over for ousted commissioner Dan Beebe last week. “We will continue to work diligently in securing the long-term stability of the Big 12. Now that the status of Texas A&M has officially been determined, the membership can focus on the desired course for the Conference moving forward. Although no timeline has been established, an expeditious pursuit is anticipated.”
It appears the threat of a lawsuit from Baylor and Iowa State, who were claiming to be damaged by the Aggies departure from the Big 12, is over now that the league is staying intact after the Pac-12 voted last week not to expand and allow Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech in.
Texas A&M had been left in a holding pattern while the SEC figured out the legal ramifications of officially bringing the Aggies in although the presidents and chancellors had previously voted to let them join. The SEC is expanding for the first time since 1991 when it brought in Arkansas and South Carolina.
“Texas A&M is a nationally-prominent institution on and off the field and a great fit for the SEC tradition of excellence—athletically, academically and culturally,” said SEC commissioner Mike Slive.