It looks like our neighborhood is about to get bigger. Barring a dramatic, last minute meltdown, it's a matter of time before Texas A&M becomes new members of the Southeastern Conference.
Moments ago,Texas A&M announced they officially notified the Big 12 Conference that the university will submit an application to join another conference. Texas A&M will end its membership in the Big 12 effective June 30, 2012.
"After much thought and consideration, and pursuant to the action of the (Texas A&M University System) Board of Regents authorizing me to take action related to Texas A&M University's athletic conference alignment, I have determined it is in the best interest of Texas A&M to make application to join another athletic conference," President R. Bowen Loftin wrote to Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe in the letter dated August 31, 2011.
As the Aggies jump through legal hoops, Mike Slive is quietly and carefully laying the ground work for a larger SEC, as soon as next year.
That's great and all, but how does it affect Mississippi State?
To find an answer, OURstateBlog and I discussed the ramifications and repercussions of Texas A&M joining the SEC.
Tyler: My first reaction to Texas A&M joining the SEC...ah, crap. Let me preference my reasoning with the fact I'm a glass half empty Bulldog fan. My first interaction with Mississippi State fandom was as a small child of the late 80s. My brother and I would laugh at my uncle while he screamed at Jack Cristil's latest call of a Rocky Felker failure. That should have tipped me off that it wouldn't be the best team to root for down the line. Since then, there have been far more Maine losses and "Buckles will be a Bulldog" moments fore me to forget. Yes, I'm the Chicken Little of Mississippi State sports. Though that is changing thanks to an outstanding athletic department and coaching staff, the scars hurt.
The SEC is tough enough. Just this year we have to play seven ranked teams! Can you imagine a Western Division where MSU not only has to play Alabama, LSU and Auburn, along with the rest of the teams, but the Aggies, too?
Texas A&M is a sleeping giant that is about to wake up. They have the money, passionate fans, facilities and recruiting base to be dominant. I know the No. 1 reason behind expansion is money and pushing the ratings meter, but give me Iowa State. The suits at ESPN and CBS will love the Des Moines television market.
OURstateBlog: Alright, alright. I agree with you on the point that adding A&M to the SEC just adds another large player to an already crowded table. As a State fan, it's easy to be concerned with what this might do to us, mainly football. We are an upstart program, which means we need less tough conference games and more "W's" to build ticket sales and bring in recruits.
But let me say, as a fan of competition and tradition - I'm for Texas A&M coming over to the SEC.
I have always been a fan of "The 12th Man" and their passion for mediocre-to-good teams. Some might say they mirror us in many ways: ag school, an A&M (we used to be), decent football but on the rise, above average basketball program, well above average baseball programs. I like that they bring lots of tradition with them. I like that it gives me another state to visit for football, basketball or baseball games someday. And sure, part of this also stems from me not liking Texas too. And, no, I'm not another bandwagon Texas hater. I just don't like arrogance on the whole, and Texas EXEMPLIFIES arrogance. But I digress, A&M will only further the greatness of the SEC, and who knows, maybe one day the SEC West will split off and form our OWN conference. Just kidding, but seriously, maybe...
Tyler : Ha. That SEC West would be a super conference. That is until Alabama starts the Roll Tide Network and their little brother Auburn secedes to the SEC East.
I completely understand what you're saying about being a fan of competition. As the great philosopher Ric Flair once said, "To be the man, you have to beat the man." But let's face it- Mississippi State is historically a "have not." We're the Tampa Bay Rays competing against New York and Boston. With the addition Texas A&M, who's athletic department budget is bigger than ours (a reported $66 million), it means one more good-potentially-great team we have to over come to play in Atlanta. Scott Stricklin has preached that we have to do more with less - and we are - but I'm afraid it'll get to a point where there is no turning back.
As for recruiting, the addition of A&M will open up the Houston and Dallas markets that much more. Dan Mullen wants to target players within a five-hour radius of Starkville and State doesn't do too much business there (currently have four players from Texas). Do you think TAMU's addition will have any affect on our recruiting?
OURstateBlog: You raise a good point. Expanding into a new state could open new doors for us. Then again, it may give A&M a HUGE boost because they can now tell kids they're in the toughest conference in America. I'll be curious too see how it plays out one way or the other. I think Mullen and our program will continue to succeed with focusing on getting the best players in OUR state (see what I did there?) and we shouldn't focus too much on Texas. Then again, recruiting classes will be made better with one good recruit from Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, etc.
But back to your point about us being "have nots." I agree, it will be difficult with another tradition rich, deep-pocketed program on our side of the fence and on our schedule every year. I would be a fool if I argued with the fact that State traditionally has been on the lower side of the SEC in regards to football. However, the competitive part of me loves it. Thinking about playing A&M on a Saturday night under the lights in Starkville in November to determine bowl status - that sounds like an amazing atmosphere to me. Though it seems crazy, all the potential SEC games in November are making me giddy.
Oh, and who will the SEC invite to the party to make it 14?
Tyler: Again, it's all about money and television ratings. That's it. I think the top three realistic candidates, in order, are Virginia Tech, Missouri and N.C. State. Each open up new television markets, bring a worthy football tradition, and they "fit" the SEC. Of those, I see Missouri accepting a bid. Right now, the Tigers are laying low. They got publicly humiliated last year as they desperately tried to get an invite to the Big Ten. Basically, Missouri went to Jim Delany's house, stood in the rain and held a boombox playing "In Your Eyes." Then Nebraska pulled up in a Camaro and shook its head at Mizzou as they walked right inside.
Missouri is letting things play out and will eventually become the 14th team in the newly expanded Southeastern Conference. At that point, I'll be on the side of Highway 82 with a sign reading "The End is Nigh." Feel free to ignore me.
OURstateBlog: That's right. Whether I or you or any SEC fan likes A&M coming over, the fact of the matter is that SEC expansion is inevitable. The fact is no one at the NCAA really controls college institutions on the whole, therefore athletic directors and university presidents evaluate what's best for their program, even if it includes jumping conferences and leaving behind a lot of angry disgruntled conference members (i.e. Nebraska). I feel like last year, with Utah, Colorado, Nebraska and so on, that was just the first domino to fall. Whether it happens this season with A&M, or several years down the road, major conference realignment is coming. And with that being said, you'd have to think that the SEC, the top conference, would want their pick of the litter, and A&M is that healthy, champion breed Golden Lab puppy everyone's been eyeing.
The main thing we are missing in all of this is how the hell are we going distinguish the different maroons when we play them?
Tyler: Obivously we'll wear all white and hope it snows everytime we play them. That worked out great last time.
What are your thoughts about Texas A&M eventually joining the SEC? Is to good or bad for the conference and Mississippi State?