With Texas and Oklahoma reportedly set to announce their exit from the Big 12 on Monday and head for the SEC, Texas A&M’s response to the Longhorns and Sooners possibly joining them in the conference has become a story itself.
University president M. Katherine Banks issued a statement Saturday that attempted to put rumors of A&M leaving the conference to rest. She affirmed the university’s commitment to the SEC two days before the university’s Board of Regents is scheduled to meet and discuss the Aggies’ relationship with the conference.
“The last few days have been challenging in many ways, and I recognize that change in college athletics often is unsettling for those who love their institutions,” Banks said in the statement. “Rest assured, the chancellor, our athletic director, and I, and everyone involved in this matter are focused solely on what is best for Texas A&M University. Since 2011, we have been a proud member of the best intercollegiate athletic conference in history and we look forward to continued success in our SEC partnership for many years to come.”
Athletic director Ross Bjork expressed his commitment to the conference, saying the SEC is “in a position to lead” and that Texas A&M is “stronger than we’ve ever been before,” according to tweets from TexAgs.com reporter Olin Buchanan.
“We knew this day (Texas and OU joining SEC) could happen and probably would happen. We’re surprised at speed of it,” Bjork said, per Buchanan. “The culture of an athletic conference is a priority for Texas A&M. Culture, collaboration, equality, competition . . . those things make the SEC the best conference in college sports. We’ve got to protect that and grow that.“
The Board of Regents scheduled a special committee meeting for Monday. According to the agenda, it will discuss, among other things, “contractual and governance issues relating to Texas A&M University and the Southeastern Conference.” The meeting will go into executive session before returning to public session to possibly take action.
While Texas and Oklahoma are expected to announce their intention to leave the Big 12 on Monday, the timeline from there becomes murky. The universities have not been admitted to the SEC and are under contract with the Big 12 until 2025. If Texas and Oklahoma leave early, they could owe the Big 12 about $80 million each.
Texas A&M has long wanted to be the only SEC athletic program in the Lone Star State, and the idea of the rival Longhorns joining the conference has not been a pleasant thought for the university. ESPN reported that former Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin said an “understanding” was put in place in the SEC at least 10 years ago where member schools would have a veto over other institutions from the same state joining the conference.
Loftin noted in the report, however, that the agreement was made when the late Mike Slive was commissioner. Greg Sankey has been the SEC’s commissioner since 2015.
If that agreement is still in place, then it’s possible Texas A&M will use the Monday meeting to discuss whether to veto the Longhorns. But Banks’ statement Saturday seems to be stating that the Aggies aren’t going anywhere.