Wiedmer: Is SEC going too far?

Wiedmer: Is SEC going too far?

September 8th, 2011 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

In this Nov. 25, 2010, file photo, Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman, center, sings school songs as he celebrates with his players after defeating Texas in an NCAA college football game, in Austin, Texas. The Southeastern Conference cleared the way for Texas A&M to join its ranks in an announcement Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011, but with one snag. A Big 12 school has threatened to sue if the Aggies leave the fold. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Is Texas A&M really what the Southeastern Conference wants or needs right now? Does a league that already has something of an image problem regarding the way it runs roughshod over the rest of college football really want to add another member before that member has divorced its current conference?

Maybe the SEC tampered with A&M (doubtful) or maybe the Aggies began flirting before they had begun divorce proceedings from the Big 12 (probable), but neither party is winning any public relations points these days.

After all, it was wa-a-a-ay back on August 14 -- though who can remember that long? -- that Florida president Bernie Machen dismissed that weekend's rumors that A&M was about to join the SEC by saying, "The SEC Presidents and Chancellors met today and reaffirmed our satisfaction with the present 12 institutional alignment."

Then came Wednesday and Machen released this statement on behalf of the league's presidents and chancellors:

" After receiving unanimous written assurance from the Big 12 on September 2 that the Southeastern Conference was free to accept Texas A&M to join as a new member, the presidents and chancellors of the SEC met [Tuesday] with the intention of accepting the application of Texas A&M to be the newest member of the SEC ..."

Wow, that was quick. In a span of 24 days the SEC's presidents and chancellors apparently grew so hopelessly dissatisfied with its present 12 institutional alignment that it decided to reach out to what would appear to be an unlucky 13th member.

Only now it doesn't look as if it will be quick at all. After receiving a letter from the Big 12 on Sept. 2 that it would not block A&M's decision to join the SEC, as many as eight of the Big 12's nine remaining members -- hey, nobody said this was a math contest -- have apparently decided to force the Aggies, through litigation, to remain.

Maybe that will work and maybe it won't, but while the SEC appears ready to welcome A&M with open arms, the Big 12 is holding on tight, apparently fearful that without the Aggies, the league will swiftly fall apart.

And it might at that. Oklahoma is said to be seriously considering a jump to the Pac 12, a move that would likely drag Oklahoma State west, as well. Of course, ESPN also reported on Wednesday that the Big 12 was already considering adding Brigham Young should A&M bolt, which would at least keep the Big 12 at 10.

As for the SEC, what to do with 13 schools? And if a 14th is already targeted, who might it be? Missouri, as some have suggested? West Virginia? Louisville? Oklahoma, Oklahoma State or Kansas? Some four-team combination (including A&M) from all of the above?

Geographically, it makes the most sense to add West Virginia to counter A&M. Of course, if you wanted a Jackie Sherrill division, you could add A&M and Pittsburgh and pair them with Mississippi State, where he last coached, and Alabama, where Sherrill played for Bear Bryant.

What makes the most sense if you're most concerned about football is to add Texas A&M, Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and form a 16-team conference.

Or you could add A&M, Missouri, Kansas and Louisville and arguably have yourself the most glittering basketball league in the land, since Kentucky and Kansas are two of the three all-time winningest teams in the college game, the third being North Carolina.

Or, the SEC could try a novel approach and stand behind its original words on Aug. 14 that it was satisfied with the current 12-school alignment.

If nothing else, that decision would distant it from crybaby A&M president R. Bowen Loftin, who said of being forced to stay in the Big 12, "We are being held hostage right now. Essentially, we're being told that you must stay here against your will and we think that really flies in the face of what makes us Americans for example and makes us free people."

Then again, before anyone can say for certain that Loftin is being overly dramatic, the supposed ring leader in this Baylor University president Kenneth Starr, the same guy who doggedly went after President Bill Clinton until he got him impeached.

Yet regardless of what ultimately transpires, if A&M looks as if it could stand for Arrogant & Manipulative, S-E-C is starting to look more and more like initials for Seeking Extra Cash.