And Mike Slive may be in College Station courting the Aggies. Per Pete Thamel of the New York Times:
SEC spokesman Charles Bloom when asked to confirm if Mike Slive is in College Station: "I cannot confirm this for you."
To which Joe Schad of ESPN chimes in with the following tidbits:
One word: Huge.
Note that this is not just something about how some people at A&M want to move to the SEC, or that there are good arguments for separating from Texas. No, this is there are literally enough votes on the Texas A&M Board of Regents to put them in the SEC sometime next week. To be frank, that is as big as it gets without anything becoming official.
Now, keep in mind that this is far from over. We have talked on hear at length about the political pressures that will be put on Texas A&M to remain with Texas, and those pressures will only increase exponentially in the days ahead with the latest news. Perhaps they can hold it together and join the SEC next week, but this could easily go the other way. For better or for worse, Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott is slated to visit A&M officials tomorrow.
Admittedly, I tend to be against expansion, but I wouldn't think twice before making an exception for the Aggies. I know some of the uninformed would quickly come up with the cow college diatribes, but don't be a fool; A&M is about as big of a fish as you can get. It's a tier-one academic institution, with truckloads of research money, alumni pockets deeper than a BP oil well, a massive diehard fan base, an athletic department that is loaded, and they provide access to massive television markets (Houston) and recruiting hotbeds. And oh yes, they also have natural ties to the SEC as well, where they would have immediately re-invigorate historical rivalries with Arkansas and LSU, and to a lesser extent with Alabama (Bryant, Stallings, Fran, Hurricane Bowl, etc.). Don't be ignorant, getting Texas A&M would be a huge coup. Not only would A&M be a big catch, they would likely be as safe of an expansion candidate as possible.
All that said, though, we're still a long way from the finish line here. This is obviously some very positive news, but don't be foolish. There will be a massive amount of pressure applied to Texas A&M to stick together with Texas and go to the Pac-10, and Larry Scott will descend upon College Station tomorrow to make his Pac-10 pitch. Rest assured, it will be the fight of a lifetime to pull off this coup, and the odds are likely still stacked against it. If it can be done, though, the payoff will likely be whopping. Hope for the best.
Chip Brown has expounded upon this in a free article on Orange Bloods. I'll include what I think to be some very relevant portions:
Those in favor of the move, led by regents Gene Stallings and influential former Exxon Mobil executive Morris E. Foster, prefer the SEC from a regional, financial and athletic standpoint and feel like there are bonds between the SEC and A&M that work.
In addition to Stallings, A&M's charge to the SEC is also being supported by Texas A&M System chancellor Mike McKinney, who once served as Gov. Rick Perry's chief of staff. Perry is a former yell leader at A&M who still remains very tied into the school's day-to-day workings.
A call to Perry's office Saturday by Orangebloods.com resulted in a statement from Perry released by spokesman Rob Johnson, who added that Perry is in China.
It doesn't take binoculars to read between those lines - Perry appears to be letting McKinney and the A&M regents, all of whom he appointed, do what they want, which in turn could be read as what Perry wants.
My initial thinking on this subject was that, while Stallings was undoubtedly leading the charge, he was probably in the distinct minority with little chance of success in swaying over the needed additional key players. Furthermore, political considerations would probably end the already-slim chances of Stallings pulling off that coup. However, if what Brown is reporting now is correct, and I have no reason to expect that it is inaccurate, then quite frankly I was just dead wrong all along.
This is clearly not just Stallings and a small alliance of like-minded individuals. When you put Stallings together with an ExxonMobile executive -- hello deep pockets and influence -- at least three more regents (perhaps even more, but at least three is what would be what is required for a majority on the nine-member board), plus the A&M system chancellor, you're really talking about some serious power.
Furthermore, the political opposition is apparently not aligning like I expected. The governor himself, Rick Perry, is not explicitly stepping in to keep Texas and Texas A&M together, and may very well be implicitly acting in a way to help put A&M in the SEC (with hints that, deep down, Perry may actually want to see A&M in the SEC). Likewise, we have statements today from Rep. Joe Barton, an A&M graduate, openly supporting the move to the SEC, and the potential impact of his support should not understated. Barton is not just some random baby-kisser who happened to get voted into the House one year who just showed up in Washington sixteen months back as a freshman congressman. He has been the representative of the 6th Congressional District for over 25 years now, and he is the ranking Republican member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He spent many years as chairman of that very powerful committee, and he will regain control of it if Republicans can re-take the House later this Fall. Again, this isn't just some random pol, this is a man with a very large amount of power within the A&M community, the state of Texas, and Washington D.C, and when someone of his magnitude steps in and openly supports the Aggies moving to the SEC, you better pay attention.
All said, we've still got a long way to go here and the odds may still be somewhat in favor of the Aggies joining the Pac-10. Nevertheless, this is shaping up far differently than I expected, and I'll be the first to admit that. Again, Stallings has far more support in his A&M-to-the-SEC push than I would have ever expected, and the political opposition is not aligning with the vehemence that I anticipated. We'll obviously know far more about this tomorrow night after Larry Scott visits College Station, but given what is taking place right now, if Texas and Texas A&M can guarantee all parties involved that they will continue to play each other annually in football -- which really should not be a major issue, and could be arranged for men's basketball and baseball as well if needed -- then perhaps the SEC can pull off what was previously considered impossible.