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August 14, 2011

Sources: A&M will be announced in SEC in 21 days

A source locked into Texas A&M's situation said the Aggies will be announced as members of the Southeastern Conference beginning in 2012 within 21 days.

"Texas A&M wants the SEC, and the SEC wants Texas A&M," the source said.

The SEC presidents met Sunday and decided to take no action on Texas A&M but certainly left the door open.

"We discussed criteria and process associated with expansion," said Florida president Bernie Machen, chairman of the SEC presidents and chancellors, in a statement.

The A&M source said the process to complete A&M's move from the Big 12 to the SEC was always expected to take two to three weeks. That process continues uninterrupted, the source said.

Even Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe was skeptical of the SEC taking no action on Texas A&M. Beebe told Orangebloods.com on Sunday night, "I will say that I noticed and am concerned that the SEC and Texas A&M statements are ambiguous and open ended."

On Monday afternoon, Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin is expected to receive the ability to make all decisions with regard to "conference alignment" at a meeting of A&M's board of regents.

Loftin released a statement Sunday that the regents meeting will proceed and that he'll appear at a House Higher Education Committee hearing Tuesday at 2 p.m., called by committee chairman Dan Branch, R-Dallas, to look at A&M's situation.

"As we have seen over the past several days, there has been a considerable amount of misinformation regarding these discussions and any associated timelines," Loftin said in the statement.

"The chairman of our board has indicated that the regents will proceed with tomorrow's agenda item, which authorizes the president of Texas A&M to take all actions related to athletic conference alignment.


"I will also accept Chairman Branch's invitation to participate in his committee's hearing on Tuesday. These are extremely complex issues, and it is imperative that we proceed methodically and in the best interests of Texas A&M."

A source close to Loftin said he will not talk about the Aggies' disatisfaction with Texas and the ESPN-run Longhorn Network at the committee hearing. Instead, he'll talk about the benefits to Texas A&M of moving to the SEC, including more national exposure and branding as part of the SEC and equal revenue sharing.

Three sources in the know about the Texas A&M and SEC situation said they all believe the statement released by Florida president Bernie Machen, chair of the SEC presidents and chancellors, was merely a chance for the SEC and A&M to catch their breath during this courtship.

The plan is still very much for Texas A&M to be added to the SEC, the sources said.

But the presidents and chancellors of the SEC wanted to slow down the process and make sure everyone was on the same page as far as expansion plans as laid out by SEC commissioner Mike Slive, the sources said.

There was probably some concern in the SEC about possible litigation from the Big 12 with regard to the SEC interfering with Texas A&M's current contracts with Big 12 TV partners (ABC/ESPN and Fox), the sources said.

Texas A&M's lawyers have also been looking at all the details involved with leaving the Big 12.

According to an official in the Big 12, Texas A&M's buyout (exit fees) could reach $30 million to leave the Big 12.

By hitting the "pause button," according to one source, the SEC also gets to see how Texas A&M handles questions from state lawmakers during a hearing on Tuesday before the House Higher Education Committee.

The decision to take no action on Texas A&M Sunday also gives the SEC more time to decide who and when a 13th (most likely still the Aggies) and 14th school may be added.

House Higher Education Committee chairman Dan Branch told Orangebloods.com on Saturday that A&M officials have told him they thought any possible move to the SEC would take "two to three weeks to finalize."

Here is the entire statement from Dr. Bernie Machen, Chair, Southeastern Conference Presidents and Chancellors:

"The SEC Presidents and Chancellors met today and reaffirmed our satisfaction with the present 12 institutional alignment. We recognize, however, that future conditions may make it advantageous to expand the number of institutions in the league. We discussed criteria and process associated with expansion. No action was taken with respect to any institution including Texas A&M."

Stay tuned.

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