Hard to believe a program that is a whopping three games over .500 in the past nine football seasons could decide the future of an entire nation, but that may be where we're headed.
That was Pat Forde's quote over at ESPN.com and I couldn't have said it better myself.
So Texas A&M is staying put. For now.
Don't get me wrong - I think A&M was obviously expecting to be invited. That's why I believe there were the leaks. And while it sounds as if it's still a real possibility, it's not going to happen right away.
But let's explore that possibility - what happens if/when Texas A&M makes that jump?
Well, however unlikely it may seem, the Texas A&M move to the SEC (assuming it goes down) could conceivably set off a huge barrage of dominoes. But the first thing to point out is that if the Big 12 were to lose Texas A&M, it's by no means a death note for the conference. The funny thing is that we all sit around and debate ways for the Big East to survive if they lost several teams. So why is it that this move (a move, which would mean the loss of a mediocre program recently, no less) would kill a far stronger football conference?
Sure, if they leave, it's conceivable (even likely) that a few others might move as well, fearing the worst. But just as the Big East would fight to remain alive if it lost a key team like Pitt, West Virginia, or Syracuse, the Big 12 isn't going to simply roll over with the loss of a single team, or even a few. There would be the obligatory reaches to save the conference - probably calls to schools like BYU, Notre Dame, Houston, San Diego State, and the like.
That said, is it possible? Sure. So let's see - what if the Big 12 actually did die?
There are lots of things to take from this, but the most important thing is something I mentioned a week or so ago - that the quality of any teams added to the Big East could greatly increase over the usual suspects most oft discussed - Villanova, East Carolina, Houston, Navy, etc.
So do Big East teams really have a legitimate shot at landing Big 12 teams?One thing football fans ignore in their rush to bash the Big East is that the conference still has an automatic BCS bid. Make fun all you want (and yes, that includes ripping the conference's bowl lineup, which is ridiculously abysmal), but that's a huge ace the conference has up its sleeve. It's what gives the Big East the advantage over conferences like the WAC, the MWC, and the like.
Teams may not be in a rush to join the Big East, but guess what? The Pac 12 can only take so many teams. Same for the SEC. If the Big 12 can't survive and teams start splitting, there's no reason to think the Big East couldn't become a player for teams like Kansas, Kansas State, etc. They might not be in the conversation for teams like Texas or Oklahoma, who could get sweeter deals by joining the Pac 12 or SEC (and speaking of the SEC, would they really want to add to a conference that's already the best in college football and thus, dilute its payouts for each school? Another issue for another time...), but could they compete for lower-level programs? I think so.
The point of this isn't to say that if the Big 12 becomes a thing of the past that the Big East would swoop in and automatically be in line for those teams. However, I think the conference is doing things right by waiting to see how this whole thing plays out rather than merely expanding for the purpose of expanding. Better teams could quite clearly become available and at this point, there's still no harm in waiting to explore options. I didn't always feel that way since I pointed out before that the conference needed to add teams in order to stave off losing teams itself to expansion. But I'm convinced that with the impending TV deal, the Big East has a far better chance of staying alive.
And because of that, it's worth waiting to see what other opportunities are out there.