Texas A&M and the SEC, Baylor Legal Threat, Big 12 Exit Fees and the Next Conference Realignment Moves
Now that Texas A&M has officially been invited to the SEC, the college sports world is preparing for what will happen next. But like any change, it is not without the unnecessary drama. And today’s drama comes from the clingy, about-to-be-dumped spouse, Baylor. Think of the Big 12 as some sort of kinky group marriage. All parties are there willingly. And some parties are more attractive than the others. Baylor has been the moral compass in the group marriage, with her ethics and Christian beliefs. But oddly enough, she’s the kitten who is showing the biggest claws.
As part of the Texas A&M exit and proposed SEC entrance, the SEC required a number of legal steps that we are not used to seeing so publicly in conference realignment. The SEC, both legally and from a PR standpoint has not wanted to be the reason for the destruction of another conference. And that makes sense. So they requested written notification that once Texas A&M was no longer in the Big 12, that is the SEC invited them, the conference would be free from any litigation. The Big 12’s response: no problem. So not only did the Big 12 give consent, it’s written, signed and available for everyone to read.
The Baylor situation in a nutshell:
* All Big 12 schools signed off on freeing the SEC of any liability to the Big 12
* Balls started rolling and all of a sudden, the concept of adding a new 10th school like BYU, or adding (3) Big East schools to get to 12 (Louisville, Pitt, Rutgers) was suddenly replaced with the primary option that Oklahoma and Oklahoma St. would leave for the Pac-12…with Texas and Texas Tech likely following. Kansas, Kansas St., and Iowa St. would likely join the Big East with Missouri, assuming Missouri wasn’t also invited to the SEC.
* Baylor realizes they are the lone school left out of a BCS conference
But due to the signed letters and timeline in place, it seems that the potential Baylor lawsuit would be tough to win. The legal threat would be against the SEC, as it is a private organization, and not Texas A&M. The “cause” of the potential lawsuit would be that Texas A&M joining the SEC would cause great harm to Baylor…not the Big 12, since all the other schools signed off…but specifically to Baylor alone.
But in the loss of a single school, the Big 12 would still be in a position of strength, compared to saw the WAC last summer who lost all but 5 football schools, falling below the NCAA membership minimums. The Big East was in a similar situation in 2003 when they lost 3 members to the ACC, bringing their totals to 5 members (they replaced them with Louisville, Cincinnati, and USF).
But there lies the problem with the Baylor mentality.
Texas A&M first left the Big 12, then were invited to the SEC as a to-be independent. But that move alone is a single school. The Big 12 remains at 9 members and has multiple options. The Big 12, at 9 members, can bring in a school such as BYU as a Texas A&M replacement to remain at 10. They could chose some other school for #10. And they also discussed the idea of bringing in (3) schools such as Louisville, Rutgers, and Pitt to grow back to 12. So the idea that the lone departure of Texas A&M would cost Baylor money is a stretch. But then you read between the lines…and the headlines coming out of Oklahoma.
* Oklahoma has made it public that they are focused on joining the Pac-12, leaving the Big 12, rather than pursuing a single TAMU replacement or a Big East raid to get to 12 members.
* And as Oklahoma goes, so does Oklahoma St.
* If those two schools leave, Texas would likely feel the pressure to remain on pace economically, and follow the two Oklahoma schools.
* And as Texas goes, so does Texas Tech
So now all of a sudden, instead of needing a single school, the Big 12 would be down to 5 total members.
It’s at THIS time that a Baylor lawsuit MIGHT have some merit. Because at this point, 4 more schools would have left and truly harmed the Big 12.
BUT…it STILL wouldn’t be a lock for a “winnable” lawsuit.
Not, when there is precedent set by conferences such as the Big East in the BCS that simply needed to add 3 members to be back in business. The Big East is still a BCS member today, even with the replacement schools they brought in all coming from non-BCS conferences (CUSA) and from FCS (UConn).
But then we come to the next round of developments: the Big East.
The Big East last summer, had discussions with some of the remaining Big 12 schools (Kansas, Kansas St., Missouri, Iowa St) and was set to invite them if the 2010 version of the Pac-16 had happened. Those same conversations are being had now as all Big 12 schools consider sailing smoothly through the chaos. The Big East would again welcome Kansas, Kansas St., and Missouri becoming a 12 school football conference, 20 for all sports. Divisions proposed include four pods of 5 schools based on geography for basketball, 2 divisions for football.
Missouri is considered to be an option for the SEC #14 spot as well.
So if Missouri were part of the SEC, then the Big East would likely include Iowa St. as there #12 school for the same division/divisional pod that Missouri would have been in.
And now back to Baylor.
If Texas A&M leaves, it’s a minor hiccup.
If Oklahoma/Oklahoma St./Texas/Texas Tech leave is a large problem.
If Kansas/Kansas St./Missouri and Iowa St. leave, that is the destruction of the Big 12. And THAT is the move that would give Baylor more rights in regards to a lawsuit.
So reading between the lines:
A few assumptions we can make:
1) If the Big 12 schools all signed off on Texas A&M joining the SEC, then we can assume that Texas A&M and the Big 12 have come to some resolution in regards to exit fees. The figure that Nebraska and Colorado were expected to pay was close to $30 million. Both schools negotiated the price to $9.25 million.
2) But if the Texas A&M exit fee is favorable to Texas A&M, then the reason could very well be the expected departure of other Big 12 schools. Those schools would not want to be too rash in their demands if in the coming weeks they too opted to leave.
3) Iowa St. is a school that seemingly has almost as few options as Baylor. Kansas and Missouri have more options. Kansas St. to an extent has drawn interest from the Big East with those two schools. But only if Missouri joins the SEC and frees up a 12th spot for Iowa St. is Iowa St. likely to be a Big East option. So what does Baylor know that is 99-100% accurate that Baylor feels the need to threaten legal action while Iowa St. doesn’t?
And as for the Conference Realignment Dominoes…
* Next step will be that Texas A&M formally accepts the SEC invitation…and the SEC will hold off on #14.
* Oklahoma and Oklahoma St. will even more actively pursue the Pac-12 and likely be invited.
* Once Oklahoma and Oklahoma St. make it known to Texas that they will be leaving, Texas will likely step back from their LHN demands and show a willingness to fold their network into the Pac-12 TV model.
There had been rumors of Texas pursuing the ACC that were debunked by ACC commissioner John Swofford.
The other option for Texas, one with no public supporters, would be if Texas joined the Big East as a non-football member and went independent in football. The move would allow the Big East to potentially split from the basketball schools and include the Big 12 remnants:
West: * Texas, Texas Tech, TCU, Kansas, Kansas St., Iowa St., Missouri, Louisville
East: * Notre Dame, Uconn, Syracuse, Rutgers, Pitt, WVU, Cincinnati, USF
* Should Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Texas and Texas Tech opt for the Pac-12, marking the potential end to the Big 12, the SEC would be more likely to invite Missouri as their #14 school.
* The Big East would then invite Kansas, Kansas St., and Iowa St. to form a 12 football / 20 all-sports conference.
* Baylor would join the Mountain West conference or CUSA