The Texas A&M Board of Regents has called a meeting for Monday where it is expected to end its 15-year union with the Big 12, according to Brent Zwerneman of the San Antonio Express-News.
The move would clear the way for the Aggies to become a member of the Southeastern Conference. School officials are hoping to begin play in the SEC in 2012.
Zwerneman writes that SEC officials plan to meet this weekend "to essentially rubber-stamp A&M's admittance."
Adding the Aggies will boost the SEC's membership to an unbalanced 13 teams, and the league is expected to add another member. Florida State appears to be at the top of the list. The Palm Beach Post reported Friday that Florida State has been in discussions with SEC officials for several months.
"This is real," a source close to Florida State told the newspaper.
The motive behind the SEC adding two teams is, of course, money. The league wants to renegotiate its TV deals with ESPN and CBS, valued at $3 billion over 15 years. Those deals are only three years old and don't end until 2024.
SEC officials apparently are upset that the Pacific 12 secured a better TV rights deal in May. The Pac-12, with new additions Utah and Colorado, got a 12-year deal with Fox and ESPN that is worth $3 billion. In addition, the Pac-12 plans to create its own cable network beginning in 2012.
Texas A&M — along with Oklahoma — flirted with the SEC last summer after the Big 12 lost Colorado to the then-Pacific 10 and Nebraska to the Big Ten. Texas also considered jumping to the Pac-10 with Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to create a 16-team league. But the deal is said to have crumbled when Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott asked that Texas drop its plans for a Longhorn Network because it would interfere with the league network Scott was planning.
Texas then went back to Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, who was fighting to keep what was left of his league together. And Beebe had no reservations about Texas creating the Longhorn Network.
Other league members were equally desperate. Together, they promised Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma an annual payout of $20 million if they would stay in the league. Beebe said he would seek a new media rights deal, and he delivered in April with a 13-year agreement with Fox for $90 million. But the lovefest has been short-lived.
Texas and ESPN reached a 20-year, $300 million agreement in January to form the Longhorn Network, which will debut on Aug. 26. Texas A&M was the first school to express its displeasure. Officials said the network, which planned to broadcast prep games, would give Texas a recruiting advantage. Other schools joined in, and the protests grew when it was announced the network would broadcast a second Texas game. League members were originally told only one game would be shown. The idea of broadcasting prep games was dropped, but it was too late for Texas A&M.
The Kansas City Star's Blair Kerkhoff writes that the future of the Big 12 could actually rest with Oklahoma:
"Sooners athletic director Joe Castiglione, a member of the conference since his days in the Big Eight at Missouri, has been a vocal supporter of the Big 12 through the uncertain times. But if Oklahoma decides to go elsewhere — although not the SEC, school insiders say — it’s difficult to see the Big 12 with enough strength to stay together."
Speculation centers on the Big 12 making a pitch for Houston, currently affiliated with Conference USA. That talk will likely heat up in the coming weeks.