Big 12 responds to A&M’s imminent departure

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In a letter to Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe Wednesday, Texas A&M informed its current conference it is in the school’s best interest “to make application to join another athletic conference.”  A&M also notified the Big 12 that, should their application to an unnamed conference (coughcoughSECcoughcough) be accepted, the Aggies will end its membership in the Big 12 Conference effective June 30, 2012.

As expected, the Big 12 has responded to the most significant move A&M has made in the school’s months-long quest to join “another athletic conference”.

“Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin has notified the Conference of his decision to withdraw the university from the Big 12 effective June 30, 2012,” Beebe said in a statement. “The presidents and chancellors of the nine remaining member institutions are steadfast in their commitment to the Big 12. As previously stated, the Conference will move forward aggressively exploring its membership options.”

The conference’s board of directors chairman, Missouri president Brady Deaton, reiterated the commissioner’s rainbows-and-puppies talk, saying that his fellow members are committed to keeping the Big 12 a viable conference and will aggressively pursue expansion to fill the void created by A&M’s departure.

“The chancellors and presidents of the Big 12 are committed to keeping our conference competitively and academically strong,” Deaton said in his statement. “We have a process in place that enables us to move aggressively regarding the possible expansion of the conference and to assure our members and student-athletes that we will take advantage of the most productive opportunities in the best interests of all.”

As for the expansion possibilities, Notre Dame and Arkansas have been the most prominent names mentioned; those two also happen to serve as the biggest pipe dreams for the conference.  Newly-independent BYU, SMU, Houston, Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Louisville — and Northern Illinois via Facebook — have all been mentioned in connection to a Big 12 that would expand back to 10 or, possibly, back to its original 12.  One thing is certain, however; regardless of which school or schools may or may not be involved, the Big 12 appears willing to do everything in its power to keep the conference together, regardless of how much Dollar Store masking tape and off-brand Elmer’s Glue it takes.

That, of course, is provided Oklahoma hasn’t decided “it’s swallowed all the burnt orange baloney it can stomach” and pulls the trigger on a departure that would likely serve as the final nail in the Big 12’s coffin.

Or that Texas doesn’t decide to stake its conference claim further west.