The maelstrom that is the current college football landscape has at least seemed to slow down today. So let's catch up.
A&M + SEC = ??? The silent giant in this entire mess has been the SEC. Reports that SEC commissioner Mike Slive has met with Texas A&M officials in College Station, then, are a bit of a shock to the system. Also a shock? A&M turning down the Pac-10's overtures, according to Chip Brown's sources, who enabled Brown to report such before a Texas A&M spokesman rebutted it. Sunday night, A&M president R. Bowen Loftin confirmed that his school is still shopping around. Later, the Houston Chronicle reported that the Aggies are likely SEC-bound.
It makes sense that the SEC would want inroads in the Lone Star State, sure, and especially in and around Dallas and Houston; it also makes sense that A&M would want a better cut of revenue from a bigger pie. But it's hard to believe that merely adding A&M is the SEC's goal. Hook Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott up to an IV of truth serum and ask him about the conference's interest in A&M specifically, and I'll bet he'd say it was mostly to get to Texas, because Texas is the prize in Fox's eyes. I wonder if that's part of Slive's prerogative, too.
It also makes sense that the SEC might be feeling heat from one of its megadeal broadcast partners. ESPN would have been squeezed out of Texas, the state, should A&M have joined Texas, the school, and the other Lone Star squads from the Big 12 in a mass exodus to the Pac-Something-or-Other. ESPN putting pressure on the SEC to secure part of Texas isn't so far-fetched, especially if a renegotiated TV deal was the carrot (or stick) involved: Losing the Big 12 as a whole and the lion's share of Texas to boot doesn't sound like something the Worldwide Leader in Sports would allow, does it?
'Horns Won't Roam Free? Speaking of Texas, it's seeming more possible that the Longhorns will stay in a reformed Big 12.
As Brown explains, giving Texas an SEC-sized share of TV revenues after the current Big 12 deal expires in 2011 and allowing the school to put together its own network might be enough to keep the 'Horns on the range. That split isn't something the Pac-10 (or Pac-12, or Pac-16) is openly guaranteeing, and the local network likely evaporates should Texas bolt and join the NüPac, with its guarantees of a conference network and Fox coverage precluding individual schools from setting up their own. Texas still holds all the cards, and the school's decision, which should come Tuesday at a regents' meeting, will still shape what happens with the rest of this shakeup.
Update: Monday morning, Brown reported that, according to sources, Texas will commit to a ten-team Big 12. Then ESPN's Joe Schad tweeted that a Pac-10 departure by Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State was "imminent." Then my head exploded.
Send Money? But a wild card has emerged in the form of Memphis, and its corporate guardian angel. FedEx's CEO is reportedly willing to contribute $10 million a year to whatever BCS conference takes in the Tigers. FedEx has since denied that report. Even if it is true, it's not clear exactly how that money would change hands, but I agree with Ryan Ballengee, who imagines a FedEx16, that naming rights might be the loophole. Should this transpire, though—and, clearly, the NCAA's not going to stand in the way—it opens up an entirely different avenue of moneymaking for college athletics. Can you imagine the Wal-Mart SEC or the Washington Huskies Presented by Microsoft? You might not have to for long.
There are plenty of pieces in motion, but the end is probably almost in sight. For now. (Maybe.) We'll be watching various schools' regents' meetings this week very closely, and hopefully have a clear explanation for you when the dust settles.
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