Texas A&M has officially informed the Big 12 Conference the university is leaving for the SEC.
After much thought and consideration, and pursuant to the action of the (Texas A&M University System) Board of Regents authorizing me to take action related to Texas A&M University's athletic conference alignment, I have determined it is in the best interest of Texas A&M to make application to join another athletic conference, President R. Bowen Loftin wrote to Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe in the letter dated Aug. 31.
Texas A&M has a long a storied athletic history, and the school will become a nice addition to the Southeastern Conference while the Big 12 tries to figure out its future. But the impact of this move is potentially far-reaching on Texas A&M, the SEC, and the NCAA as a whole.
Thus, here are five things to know about Texas A&M joining the SEC:
1.) Don't believe for one minute comments from SEC officials that the league may not be in a hurry to expand beyond the addition of Texas A&M. The Aggies make 13 to the SEC's current 12-member format, which is divided into two six-team divisions -- an East and a West. Certainly, Texas A&M will be added to the West division, and while some may think the folks down South aren't that smart, even they can see that adding seven plus six equals 13 -- an uneven number.
The league will likely sooner than most think impact college conferences with other realignment by adding a 14th member to balance out the East division. Eventually, as a league employee told me a couple of years ago, the SEC is likely to be a 16-member power house super league, with eight schools in each division.
2.) Among the most likely schools to be added as the 14th member of the SEC after Texas A&M is the ACC's Virginia Tech. The school from Blacksburg, Va. didn't join the ACC until 2004, meaning it doesn't have a long a storied history likely to cause widespread political fallout from departure.
As Texas A&M bolsters and expands the SEC's television footprint with the addition of a major Texas school -- a first -- Virginia Tech would add East Coast exposure, another first. The balance is right, and Virginia Tech is interested, regardless of what school officials say.
Especially if Miami's NCAA investigation were to escalate to the unlikely death penalty punishment, Virginia Tech would be quick to bolt for the more lucrative, powerhouse SEC, becoming the seventh team for the East division.
3.) Some sports writing observer types suggest Texas A&M may be in for a rude awakening when it begins playing an SEC schedule, particularly in major sports including football, basketball and baseball. The SEC has emerged as the powerhouse in recent years, dominating among BCS schools as much as reasonably possible.
At the start of football and baseball season, for instance, it's not unusual to have six and seven teams from the SEC ranked among the nation's Top 25. During the season, however, Tennessee relishes a win at Vanderbilt, the league is so cutthroat and competitive week to week.
Escaping unscathed is nearly impossible, as teams that would normally sail through a weaker conference with just one or two losses get tagged with three, and four. And in recent years A&M has struggled to find that big-time success on the playing field anyway.
The school's advantage will be enhanced, however, through recruiting that will be bolstered by Texas A&M being in the SEC. So, while some may suggest Texas A&M will have more trouble winning in the SEC, the reality is that the league is so high profile that Texas recruits will want to stay home, gaining the opportunity to play at Alabama's Bryant Denny Stadium or Florida's Swamp.
There's plenty of talent in Texas, and now A&M will have a better hook in signing more of those top-tier athletes. Certainly, they'll need them, each and every one. But the move can only help A&M's competitive future, not hurt.
4.) Texas A&M will not reap big financial gains from leaving the Big 12 for the SEC. That's just a popular myth. Economically speaking, since Texas A&M will receive a pro-rata share equal to what the other 12 SEC members make, the SEC TV deal which lasts through 2025.
The deal certainly offers more long-term security to Texas A&M than the university would have had from the Big 12, on shakier ground in terms of membership flight risk, but no observers think the SEC is at the threshold of any new blockbuster TV deal. Gains picked up by A&M in the shorter term will be offset from an anticipated buyout of its current share of the Big 12 TV contract.
So it's not about economics, on the raw side of dollars. It's about the economics of more exposure and joining a stronger athletic conference -- the biggest and baddest of them all in the NCAA, especially now that the Aggies are coming on board.
5.) BCS teams are leaving the rest of NCAA Division 1 football schools behind, and the power among the BCS schools will rest within just a few short years be in the hands but a couple of power conferences -- the SEC obviously being one. No longer will a school like Tulane, for example, be able to reasonably suggest it's in the same competitive NCAA division with neighboring LSU, an SEC member.
The SEC's move to become a super conference will push other conferences that want to be among the few biggest, most powerful to follow suit, quickly realigning the entire NCAA major conference map. In essence, Texas A&M is the first domino to fall. Now, more are sure to follow as the push for collegiate sports power tries to find its highest and ground.
Texas A&M has made it. Now, the watch is on to see who's next.