So, with the news that Texas A&M plans to leave the Big 12, where do we stand?
The first thing to point out is that, as Greg mentioned in the Fanshot, Texas A&M will only be leaving if it can find a landing spot. Going on the assumption that they will indeed get an invite from the SEC or some other conference, how does that affect Pitt or the Big East?
First things first, though. Not sure why A&M wants to leave? Here you go:
In College Station, Texas A&M athletics director Bill Byrne detailed the reasons behind the school's decision in a blog posted on the Aggies website Wedneday.
Byrne said that the departures of Nebraska and Colorado and the creation of the Longhorn Network made the Big 12 "considerably different" than it was last summer — although he pledged his allegiance to the league after those departures.
"There have also been other developments during the past several months that have caused a great deal of uncertainty within the Big 12," Byrne wrote. "You all know the landscape of the Big 12 Conference was altered by the creation of the Longhorn Network."
He mentions the network's attempts to televise high school games and the "attempt to coerce Big 12 schools to move their football games in Austin" to the network. Byrne also said that Texas A&M was not offered the chance to join the Longhorns in the venture.
I'm actually of the position that A&M leaving helps the Big East. While my stance has been (and still is) that the Big 12 will fight to try to stave off extinction, this move makes them closer than before to folding. Andrea Adelson also echoed my long-time thoughts in her ESPN blog mailbag today. The Big 12, though, says they'll be aggressive in trying to stay alive:
The Big 12 has formed a special committee to examine schools that might be added and the conference will "move forward aggressively exploring its membership options," said commissioner Dan Beebe.
Even more aggressive are quotes like this:
Like I've said, I imagine the Big 12 would add lower-tier teams (i.e. Houston, Tulsa, etc.) before giving up if they're unable to get schools like BYU, TCU, etc., but it's still clear that this move hurts the conference. Because of that, teams like Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, etc. may be actively looking to leave.
Loftin added this is a "complex and long-term decision," but "it is not our intent to prolong our conference exploration for an extended period of time."
The funny thing in all of this is that the Big East, still the weakest football conference, is looking better by the day. Assuming TCU stays on board, the football conference gets better in 2012. Mix in the fact that the new TV deal should be done by then and there are more teams from the Big 12 that could be enticed.
I still think, at this point, anyway, that getting Big 12 teams like Missouri, Kansas, and Kansas State may be a bit of a pipe dream. Those teams would likely rather stay in a midwestern conference than be forced to play teams farther east. It's easy to envision them staying put as long a sound plan is in place to add teams. But, I'll say this: The Big 12 can't afford to sit on its hands at this point. Teams could get jumpy if there's no clear direction.
Looking at Pitt, there's not much ripple effect just yet. If anything, it makes the previous talk about the Panthers potentially being a Big 12 option even less unlikely than it already was. That's especially true with Notre Dame sounding like they're not joining the Big 12 any time soon.
So does Texas A&M get into the SEC? I'm guessing so. The Big 12 was a bit vulnerable, but still relatively stable with ten schools and several quality football programs. But I find it hard to believe they'd leave without any kind of a real plan. The flipside to the SEC thing is if they don't get in, they'd be an attractive fit for other conferences.