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SEC invites Texas A&M to join, says move held up by legal threat from a Big 12 school
The Southeastern Conference announced Wednesday that it will make Texas A&M the 13th team in the league but said the move is on hold because a Big 12 school has threatened legal action if the Aggies leave.
The SEC said it received "unanimous written assurance" from the Big 12 on Sept. 2 that it was free to accept Texas A&M.
The presidents and chancellors then mate late Tuesday "with the intention of accepting the application of Texas A&M to be the newest member of the SEC. "
"We were notified yesterday afternoon that at least one Big 12 institution had withdrawn its previous consent and was considering legal action," said Florida President Bernie Machen, chairman of the SEC leaders. "The SEC has stated that to consider an institution for membership, there must be no contractual hindrances to its departure. The SEC voted unanimously to accept Texas A&M University as a member upon receiving acceptable reconfirmation that the Big 12 and its members have reaffirmed the letter dated September 2."
It was not immediately known which Big 12 school had raised the legal issues.
In the Sept. letter, released by the SEC, Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe told SEC Commissioner Mike Slive that the Big 12 and its members would not sue the SEC for accepting A&M by 5 p.m. Thursday.
"We both agreed it is in the best interests of each of our conferences and our member institutions of higher education to waive any and all legal actions by either conference and its members resulting from admission of Texas A&M into the SEC, as long as such admission is confirmed publicly by September 8, 2011," Beebe wrote.
Texas A&M announced last week that it planned to leave the Big 12 by July 2012 if invited to join another league. The Aggies had been unhappy with the creation of the Longhorn Network at rival Texas and have made it clear they want a higher profile and more revenue.
The Aggies' intentions sparked more talk of conference realignment stretching across the country.
The Big 12 has already lost Nebraska (Big Ten) and Colorado (Pac-12). Oklahoma president David Boren said last week that multiple conferences have expressed interest in the Sooners and he expects a decision within a few weeks. Oklahoma State billionaire booster Boone Pickens also said he doesn't think the Big 12 will survive much longer and predicted the Cowboys will eventually join the Pac-12.
It might not be over for the SEC, either, if the league that has won the last five BCS championships in football decides to add a 14th team or even expand to a 16-team superconference. Texas A&M's move would help give the SEC a presence in the major Texas TV markets.