And then there were 13.
Southeastern Conference presidents and chancellors announced Sunday afternoon that Texas A&M University will join the league effective July 1, 2012, and that the Aggies will compete in all sports during the 2012-13 academic year. The addition gives the conference 13 members for the first time since 1940, when Georgia Tech, Sewanee and Tulane were in the league.
The SEC is expanding for the first time since 1991, when Arkansas and South Carolina joined to make it a 12-member collection.
"The Southeastern Conference presidents and chancellors are pleased to welcome Texas A&M University to the SEC family," Florida president Bernie Machen said in a statement. "The addition of Texas A&M University as the SEC's 13th member gives our league a prestigious academic institution with a strong athletic tradition and a culture similar to our current institutions."
Legal action from Baylor University and other Big 12 members had held up Texas A&M's switch, but there was no mention of that in the release sent out by the SEC office. Texas A&M and the Big 12 still have to negotiate an exit fee.
Texas A&M has an enrollment of approximately 50,000 students, making it the sixth-largest university in the country, with roughly 360,000 former students worldwide. The Aggies will enter at a time of heightened athletic success, having won NCAA titles this past year in women's basketball, men's outdoor track and field and women's outdoor track and field.
The Aggies were ranked No. 8 in football until Saturday's 30-29 loss to Oklahoma State in College Station, and the timing of their SEC arrival is coincidental considering they face Arkansas this week.
"You would think if they are joining us that there would at least be another one joining somewhere along the way," Georgia football coach Mark Richt said. "It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out in the end. Life is changing as we know it in college football. It's happened before, and this may be a massive movement across the country.
"I don't know how it's all going to end up, but it is certainly interesting what is happening in our league."
Tennessee coach Derek Dooley was outspoken last week in his concern that adding schools could damage existing league rivalries. Texas A&M is expected to play every team in the SEC West next season, and there are scenarios in which the addition of a 14th member could result in Auburn switching to the East, something that Auburn president Jay Gogue said earlier this month that his university would be willing to do.
That might leave Alabama playing Auburn or Tennessee but not both. Alabama and Tennessee first played in 1901 and have played annually since 1928, with the exception of 1943, when neither school fielded a team due to World War II.
"I think we're tampering with something that has made college football special," Dooley said, "and that's the fans, the traditions, the rivalries, and the ability to go to road games."
Texas A&M was a member of the Southwest Conference from 1915 through the spring of 1996 and has resided in the Big 12 since the fall of '96. The Aggies compete in every sport sponsored by the SEC except gymnastics, and the league sponsors every sport in which the Aggies participate in except equestrian.
"The Southeastern Conference provides Texas A&M the national visibility that our great university and our student-athletes deserve," Texas A&M president Bowen Loftin said. "We are excited to begin competition in the nation's premier athletic conference. This is a 100-year decision that we have addressed carefully and methodically, and I believe the Southeastern Conference gives the Aggies the best situation of any conference in the country."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...