Chip Brown of orangeblood.com is reporting that his sources within the Big XII Conference expect Texas A&M to announce a move to join the SEC on Tuesday. This move could be dramatic on many levels that will change not only the national college football picture, but even the landscape of college sports across the Lone Star State. The move is a major one for some obvious reasons: the Texas rivalry and recruiting. But there are some bigger things at play as well.
This isn’t exactly a “new” story. The rumor of the Aggies departing from the Big XII to join the SEC has had legs since at least last summer. When the Univeristy of Texas flirted with the idea of moving to what was then known as The Pac-10 Conference (now the rather obviously-named Pac-12), it didn’t sit well with a lot of the Aggie faithful.
For one, the demographic between the West Coast schools and Texas A&M is apples to oranges . . . or perhaps cherries since that’s a better color scheme for A&M. The Aggies would have a rather difficult time fitting into the conference that is the furthest left, both geographically and politically. So, the Aggies then started looking to their right; literally and figuratively.
Residents of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex don’t need to travel very far to see the impact the Big XII has in Texas. In fact, just walk inside the nearest retail outlet and look at which teams dominate the apparel market: Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and TCU. All but one of those schools are currently affiliated with the Big XII Conference (TCU). The presence of the State’s only BCS Automatic-Qualifying conference is a big one, and has been since its inception. On top of that, the popular non-Texas schools that sell well locally are LSU and Arkansas — both from the SEC. Is this a sign that the move could work?
Many college football traditionalists will focus on the fact that this move breaks up the long-standing rivalry with Texas. Granted, that is a major change, but the move does not end the rivalry altogether. In fact, it may actually fuel it even more. For one thing, the SEC has several schools involved in annual cross-conference rivalries: Florida-Florida State, Georgia-Georgia Tech, South Carolina-Clemson, Kentucky-Louisville and LSU-Tulane. The fact is, if the schools are willing, the rivalry can still survive. They just wouldn’t be “forced” to play each other each season.
There’s also the possibility that this could ignite some new rivalries. The Aggies would likely be paired in the SEC-West Division with Arkansas and LSU. Geographically-speaking this creates some great opportunities for fans to travel to games between states. Even with a re-alignment, those three will likely stay together.
Speaking of traveling, the ever-popular “road trip” has forever been a popular part of college life. As previously mentioned, fans of SEC teams already have a fairly significant presence in the State of Texas already, and on top of that they typically travel well to games. Just ask Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones why he continues to schedule SEC games at Cowboys Stadium. But, the other side of the story is what it does to the Big XII Conference.
Would this move kill the Big XII? No, at least not by itself. The conference would still have Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Sure, Baylor and the Northern teams will get some mention, too but everyone knows where the power lies within the Big XII. Pulling in another team to replace Texas A&M could help, or might possibly even be considered an upgrade.
A popular mention is TCU. However, they have as much chance of accepting an invitation to the Big XII as Boston College does. It just wouldn’t make sense at this point. For one, they wouldn’t burn their newly-established bridge to the Big East without some kind of massive benefit and even some kind of guarantee. Secondly, it would take that same type of benefit/guarantee to get the Horned Frogs into a conference with Baylor and Texas. However, that’s a discussion for another day.
Some rumors have mentioned SMU speaking with Big XII officials. That could be interesting. TCU’s main rival lands back on their feet by joining a rival conference. What would be even more curious about it is how quickly SMU would have made the turnaround from their last losing season to an AQ Conference invitation.
Another popular possibility has been Houston. The Cougars would almost replace the exact-same market share that Texas A&M would leave behind for the Big XII. Their recent success runs a little bit longer than SMU’s does and oustide of Dallas might generate a little bit more excitement.
Notre Dame has also been mentioned, but if they ever do consider breaking their football independancy, it would more likely occur to join the Big East or the Big 10. But, stranger things have happened. After all, there will be a Texas team in the Big East in 2012.
But if A&M leaves, who would come next? Would this begin a mass exodus out of the Big XII? What would happen with Missouri and Kansas? Believe it or not, rumors have floated that they’re interested in the Big East for basketball reasons. Would the Oklahoma schools feel like it’s time to leave?
Time will only tell what this does. The Big XII can take this and get stronger, or they can let it cripple them. Either way, it’s about to get interesting. And the games haven’t even started yet . . . at least on the field.