HOOVER, Ala. — Texas A&M football coach Jimbo Fisher was at the podium Wednesday afternoon at SEC Media Days when he was asked about a Houston Chronicle report that Big 12 members Texas and Oklahoma had reached out to the Southeastern Conference about joining the league.
"I bet they would," Fisher responded.
The Chronicle report put the media in Media Days, upstaging a third day at the Wynfrey Hotel that led with defending national champion Alabama and also included Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Texas A&M. The newspaper cited an anonymous college official who claimed that an announcement could transpire as early as next month, with the bombshell followed by statements from the two longtime football powers that have combined for 10 Associated Press national championships.
Neither statement came across as overly strong.
"Speculation always swirls around collegiate athletics," a Texas spokesman said in a statement. "We will not address rumors or speculation."
Said Oklahoma in its statement: "The college athletics landscape is shifting constantly. We don't address every anonymous rumor."
Another Big 12 member, Oklahoma State, issued a statement that it is gathering information and monitoring the situation, adding, "If true, we would be gravely disappointed. While we place a premium on history, loyalty and trust, be assured, we will aggressively defend and advance what is best for Oklahoma State and our strong athletic program, which continues to excel in the Big 12 and nationally."
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey was surrounded by reporters on radio row following the Chronicle's online article and said, "We're talking the 2021 season," before hurrying away.
Texas A&M and Missouri became the SEC's 13th and 14th members before the 2012 football season, having left their respective spots in the Big 12. The additions were the first for the SEC since Arkansas and South Carolina joined before the 1991-92 basketball season and the 1992 football season.
"The reason why we left the Big 12 back in 2011 and started July 1, 2012, was that we wanted to have a stand-alone identity in the state of Texas," Aggies athletic director Ross Bjork told the SEC Network. "The SEC has been a perfect fit for us, and we believe that we want to maintain that same identity."
Since Texas A&M joined the SEC, the Aggies have watched Alabama claim six Western Division football titles, Auburn two and LSU one. Texas A&M went 6-2 in SEC play during its inaugural season and was 8-1 last year but went 28-28 during the seven seasons in between.
"Be careful what you ask for if you jump into this league," Fisher told the SEC Network.
Missouri won SEC East titles in the 2013-14 seasons but lost to Auburn and Alabama in those league championship games.
Multiple media outlets reported Wednesday that Texas and Oklahoma signed an agreement with the Big 12 in which the conference has their first- and second-tier media rights in football and in men's basketball through June 2025.
Bowden in prayers
The college football world was saddened Wednesday by news that former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, who's now 91, has a terminal medical condition. Fisher served as Bowden's offensive coordinator from 2007-09 before replacing him in Tallahassee.
"Keep Coach Bowden in your prayers," Fisher said. "He's not only the greatest football coach who ever lived, but he's one of the greatest human beings who's ever lived. The ministry he preaches to his players and what he's meant to not only his players, but to me as a mentor — I just talked to him just under a month ago."
No number placement
Vanderbilt struggled to an 0-9 record in Derek Mason's seventh and final season, so new coach Clark Lea and the Commodores don't have anywhere to go but up. Just how far up remains to be seen, and Lea isn't putting any numerical value on determining early success.
"We won't place a win-loss record on it, and we won't state a win-loss record," Lea said. "I don't believe in doing that in any semblance. We'll say that every game that we play we'll have a plan to win, and we'll measure our results off our execution of that plan to win.
"For me, it's about how we design this team, how we design our tactics, how we develop as people and as teammates to put ourselves in the best position to win games in the fourth quarter."
Lea played fullback for the Commodores from 2002-04. Those were the first three years of the Bobby Johnson era, and Vandy won just two games in each of those seasons.
"The three years that I was there playing were the toughest three years of my career, and it was hard, but it was formative," Lea said. "I watched Bobby Johnson methodically build that program into what became a bowl champion in 2008. I jump in with, I guess, an accelerated perspective. I know the intricacies of what that program is about, how it fits in our university, what the recruiting profile should look like and where the resources are.
"So for me, it's seizing the opportunity we have to build something different to give this program a chance to be at its potential. I didn't return home to have a homecoming."
College football is moving toward a 12-team playoff, but that's still not nearly enough for Mississippi State second-year coach Mike Leach.
"It's never enough," Leach said. "I think 12 teams is a huge step in the right direction. I personally would like to see 64, and you could format it out pretty easily, but I think it's a huge step in the right direction, and I look forward to it."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.