Monday, August 15, 2011

SEC update

Wow, what a crazy week! And we're just getting started.

Basically, everything is still happening as far as "A&M to the SEC" is concerned, but with a few new twists. I had originally written that I thought maybe the 8/22 BOR meeting would be a critical date. Well, after writing that, things sped up in a hurry. A&M basically decided to make their move, and they announced a special BOR meeting for today, 8/15. That will happen later this afternoon.

But to quickly go over what happened over the weekend, it appeared that today's BOR meeting was going to be for the purpose of announcing a done deal. The SEC presidents had a meeting scheduled for yesterday, and many people assumed that it was a meeting to officially approve A&M as a new member.

Well, in the meantime, ESPN, who happens to be partners on a $300 million deal with the University of Texas, spent all of last week both denying the story and flat out spreading false information about the story in an effort to squash the deal. UT, ever the spoiled brat, hired a p.r. firm to launch a smear campaign against A&M and, began exerting political threats and pressure towards A&M, and, with ESPN's help, planted some false stories designed to put doubts into the heads of the few remaining people who could supposedly stop the deal. One of those stories was regarding the issue of the 14th team (the other team the SEC would supposedly add to keep an even number). In reality, this is not and was not ever an issue for the SEC, as they are prepared to spend a year with only 13 teams, but throwing this diversionary story out there proved to be effective for a short time, as it dragged other schools into the story and created the perception that not only was the A&M invitation conditional on other factors (false), that this move was the beginning of an immediate and massive shift for the worse in conference realignment (false).

Another interesting thing to watch on Saturday was the all-out hatchet job done on A&M by almost every single on-air personality that ESPN has. If they were on t.v., radio, or Twitter, the message was the same: A&M was greedy, jealous, delusional, and oh by the way, would be a perennial loser in the SEC. It was truly stunning to watch such a coordinated effort. I personally listened to ESPN Radio for a good portion of the morning, watched some t.v. coverage that night, and read every single Twitter post about the issue along with catching up on what I missed by reading as they had running tallies of the carnage. ESPN has clearly said goodbye to any and all journalistic credibility they had. Sure, they have their place in the sports world and I will continue to watch them (don't have much of a choice), but people need to know that what they do is not impartial. They are doing editorials, not news. They are "covering" a story that they are literally part of. Massive conflict of interest there.

So anyway, getting back to what happened and what's going to happen, it had appeared that things were all set, and many people expected the SEC to be meeting with the purpose of approving A&M. Then, somewhat out of the blue, the SEC released a statement saying that they are happy with 12 teams, they did not discuss any particular schools, but that if future conditions change, they might still expand. Well once again, the media (especially ESPN) showed no restraint in gleefully reporting that the SEC had "snubbed" A&M, that it was a done deal, that those dumb Aggies didn't even have an invitation! They mocked Texas A&M for the whole afternoon, even writing articles that likened A&M to the high school kid with a crush on a girl who doesn't like him ( and other sassy articles. Their headline right now even still says "SEC satisfied with alignment; no A&M invite ". Well, the only problem with that headline is that it is totally misleading.

What happened at the SEC meeting, and what a few responsible journalists thankfully reported, was that they met and had a conference call with some attorneys to make sure they aren't breaking any laws (the term "tortuous interference" has been thrown around a million times in the last week) and to protect themselves from a lawsuit. They then released the very carefully worded statement to let people know, on the record, that they are not approaching A&M. Does that mean they don't want A&M? Not remotely. It just means that technically, A&M needs to approach the SEC. And that's where today's BOR meeting for A&M comes in. If they were really saying that they weren't expanding and/or that Texas A&M was not going to be a part of their conference, trust me, they would have worded that statement a LOT differently. Essentially, the SEC was saying that you can't get re-married until you divorce. And that's fine, and A&m knew that going in. 

After the supposedly stunning announcement from the SEC, A&M President Loftin released a statement not long after (hmm... almost like he knew exactly what was going to happen...) indicating that the BOR meeting is still on, and that the point of the meeting is still to give him the authority to leave the Big 12, which A&M will be doing. And again, if the deal were really dead, trust me, Loftin would have worded his statement a LOT differently. 

Long story short, once A&M leaves, the SEC will (surprise!) welcome A&M with open arms. And a LOT of "journalists" will have a lot of egg on their faces. People in the know don't seem to know exactly when the deal will be official, but it could be as early as Wednesday or it could take a couple more weeks still.

Another thing to keep in mind with all of this, and it's another reason for my confidence that the deal will be done shortly, is that Mike Slive (SEC commissioner), Loftin, and all the people associated with them including their fellow advisors, decision makers and attorneys, these guys are not stupid. Considering the fact that this move almost happened last year, there is a zero percent chance that both sides have not considered all of these issues ahead of time. ZERO. Both sides knew exactly what legal risks were involved. Both sides knew exactly what kind of pettiness to expect from the University of Texas. Both sides knew of the risks with how things could be portrayed in the media, and knowing all that, have been very specific with what they've done, when they've done it, how they've done it, and what they've said about it and who they've said it to. The timing of everything has been orchestrated, and they are not surprised by anything that's happened.  

There are a ton of other sides to this story that hopefully I'll get a chance to talk about, including more on the incredibly bad reporting on this story and the issue of whether or not A&M can compete in the big, bad SEC. And I really could go on for thousands of words about the stuff I just wrote briefly about, but it's hard to decide which parts to drone on about and how much detail to go into. 

Most of my info has come from Billy Liucci of (he's been far and away the most accurate and timely of all the reporters covering the story), a cross section of all the major national and state reporters who cover college football, the message boards at and my own little brain.

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