Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A&M to the SEC?

Yesterday was another one of those days where the internet (or "blogosphere," as dorks call it) went crazy with rumors that A&M was heading to the SEC and that it was a done deal. With Twitter being the new source of news these days, it's interesting to watch how quickly the fire spread, and then in the afternoon, people with different agendas worked to put the fires out. The question remains though, was yesterday significant? I think so.

First, a quick summary (Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.) of why A&M wants to leave. A&M almost left last year when the University of Texas basically destroyed the Big 12. A&M had an offer on the table to join the SEC at that point (despite what some misinformed national media members think), and almost went, but decided to stick with the Big 12 based on the new promises and contracts that were negotiated. A&M saved the Big 12. The media would have you believe it was Texas that did that, but that's laughable. Texas is the reason the Big 12 almost broke up last year and will certainly be breaking up in the next couple years (or sooner). And I'm not just saying that as an Aggie. The facts are all there. I don't have the time or energy to get into all of them here, but the fact remains, A&M saved the conference last yer, contingent on certain concessions from the conference and the school in Austin.

Well, months later, it was clear that Texas had no intention of honoring the promises they made. Most of these promises are related to the Longhorn Network, Texas' joint venture with ESPN. One of the issues involved the Longhorns' desire to broadcast high school football games on their network. A&M and a couple other schools immediately spoke up, pointing out that that is an unfair recruiting advantage. Texas made no secret about how they were using the network. Without coming right out and saying it, they were telling recruits that if they committed to play at UT, they (UT) would, in exchange, put their high school game on television. It's no coincidence that two of the first games announced by the Longhorns were to feature the respective high schools of Jonathan Gray and Malcom Brown.

Additionally, Texas went full speed ahead with their goals of broadcasting multiple football games on the LHN, despite the previous promises to only do one and despite the legal issues involved. The legal issues came out in much more detail when, earlier this week, the actual contract that Texas and ESPN signed was released and detailed on wasn't anything too shocking in there, but what it did do was show that UT had been doing some public lying regarding their intentions, seeing as how they signed a contract that specifically detailed their intentions, and the intentions are quite broad and aggressive, much moreso than they had led everyone to believe.

The other issue with the LHN is that the contract they signed with ESPN directly undercuts the television contract that the Big 12 has, and by doing so, Texas has made it quite clear that they care about their interests first and foremost and really don't care at all about the Big 12. Long story short, the Big 12 absolutely will not last more than a few more years, even if A&M decided to stay and take whatever the Longhorns dish.

Thankfully, A&M appears to have finally decided that enough is enough. A&M does indeed still have a standing offer to join the SEC. Many media members seem to scoff at the notion, but they are wrong. Why am I so sure? The simple answer: Billy Liucci. Liucci is the man behind, and is the insider of all insiders when it comes to Texas A&M. He has been the first to report basically every big new story out of College Station, whether it was coaching changes or facilities news or conference realignment. And here's why I think yesterday's rumor-fest was significant.

Liucci is usually very careful about what he says. His reputation is on the line when he is going up against the likes of Stewart Mandel and Ivan Maisel. If he's not sure of something, he won't stick his neck out there. Yet for the last couple weeks, Liucci has been dropping not-so-subtle hints about the future of A&M in the SEC. Then yesterday, he basically went all in, going on Twitter and Texags and multiple radio stations saying that, in essence, A&M is headed to the SEC, and that it could happen as soon as this month.

So the Texas A&M Board of Regents have a meeting scheduled on August 22nd. Will a decision be made then? I don't know, but I know that yesterday, Liucci said that he does not expect an announcement in the next 7-10 days, but he does think we'll hear something in the next month. Well that fits nicely with the timeline of August 22nd, now doesn't it?

Other unnamed sources that were quoted on Twitter all day yesterday said similar things. Rumors abounded that the deal is all but done and we are just waiting on a formal announcement, but won't hear it for a couple weeks.

So for now, there is so much smoke that I believe there is a major fire. Billy Liucci has gone public, even enduring some public mockery in the process, but even so, he reiterated just today that he is assuredly as plugged in as anyone else out there. I believe that we will hear some actual, concrete news sometime in the near future, and that at that point, we can look back to yesterday as the day that it first went down.

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