College Station, Texas Texas A&M; has notified the Big 12 it will withdraw from the conference, according to a newspaper report.
The New York Times said in a story posted on its website Monday night that Texas A&M; President R. Bowen Loftin sent a letter to Missouri Chancellor and Big 12 board chairman Brady Deaton to inform the league it was leaving. The report cited two unidentified college officials with direct knowledge of the decision.
University spokesman Jason Cook did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment late Monday night.
Texas A&M;’s departure would cast doubt on the future of the Big 12 and could lead to more major changes to college athletics.
The university said earlier Monday it had received a letter from Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe outlining the withdrawal procedure should the Aggies decide to leave the league.
Cook said the letter “outlines the withdrawal procedures according to the financial provisions of the Big 12 bylaws and mutual waivers of legal claims.” He wouldn’t provide any other details of the letter or comment on what A&M;’s next step might be.
The Aggies are interested in joining the Southeastern Conference and the dueling letters come less than a week after they formally told Beebe they are exploring their options and asked for the conference to outline the process if they decide to leave. The league’s board of directors addressed the possible departure of the Aggies this weekend.
“I certainly appreciate the discussion among the Big 12 presidents/chancellors and the expression of their desire for Texas A&M; to remain in the conference,” Loftin said in a statement issued before The New York Times report. “We all agree that Texas A&M; is an extremely valuable institution; thus, it is incumbent upon me, as the president of the university, to ensure that we are in a position to enhance our national visibility and future financial opportunity.”
Loftin added this is a “complex and long-term decision,” but “it is not our intent to prolong our conference exploration for an extended period of time.”
The SEC said earlier this month it was happy with its current 12-school membership but left the door open to expansion. Loftin then received authority from the board of regents to take any action he deems necessary in terms of realignment.
There is concern that a departure by the Aggies could jeopardize the future of the Big 12, which is down to 10 teams after Nebraska (Big Ten) and Colorado (Pac-12) left the league last July. Loftin has said the Aggies would consider how their departure would impact the future of Big 12 before any decision is made.
The Big 12 would need to find a team to replace the Aggies if they exit the conference and there has been a lot of speculation about possible schools. So far, the only school to publicly express interest in moving to the Big 12 is SMU. Athletic director Steve Orsini said he’s had informal talks with Big 12 officials for some time to inform them of the school’s improvements and growth.
In the letter Loftin sent to the Big 12 last week, he said if the Aggies leave, they would want to do it in a manner that complies with league bylaws. He also has said financial concerns will factor into any decision to leave; the school likely would face an exit fee.
The Big 12, including Texas A&M;, agreed to a 13-year television deal with Fox Sports in April worth more than $1 billion. There is a chance the contract could be voided if the Aggies leave the conference, which could lead to legal issues for Texas A&M; and its new league.
The Big 12 declined to comment on Monday’s letter.