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Texas A&M board calls special meeting for Monday

HOUSTON (AP) - The Texas A&M System board of regents has called
a special meeting Monday that includes an agenda item about
conference alignment. The session comes amid speculation that Texas
A&M is leaving the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference.
The item, part of the executive session agenda, is called:
"Authorization for the President to Take All Actions Relating to
Texas A&M University's Athletic Conference Alignment, The Texas A&M
University System."
Texas A&M considered switching to the SEC last year before
staying in the Big 12. The university hasn't confirmed it is again
discussing a jump to the SEC, but talk has been intensifying that
the Aggies are looking to leave.
The news of the meeting comes on the heels of the Texas House
Committee on Higher Education calling a Tuesday hearing, to which
Big 12, SEC and Texas A&M officials have been invited, to discuss
possible realignment of college conferences in the state.
Florida State is another school that has been mentioned as a
potential new addition to the SEC. But university President Eric
Barron said he hasn't had any talks about his school leaving the
Atlantic Coast Conference for the SEC. Still, he didn't say it
would never happen.
Aggie internet message boards and blogs are lighting up with
chatter about such a move and several posts on Friday said that
students chanted: "SEC! SEC!" as university President R. Bowen
Loftin walked to the podium at Texas A&M commencement ceremonies.
Such a move could jeopardize the future of the Big 12 and has
state legislators concerned. The Higher Education committee said
Commissioners Dan Beebe of the Big 12 and Mike Slive of the SEC
have been invited to testify, as have Loftin and A&M system board
of regents Chairman Richard A. Box.
There was speculation that administrators from other schools in
the Big 12, who would be affected by such a move, would be invited
to the heading as well, but they were not included on the list.
"They have not called me and I'm not volunteering," Texas Tech
President Guy Bailey said.
Beebe declined an interview request by The Associated Press to
discuss a possible move by Texas A&M on Friday.
Texas A&M won't confirm that it is in discussions with the SEC,
but Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Texas A&M graduate, told The Dallas
Morning News this week that as far as he knows "conversations are
being had" on the subject.
A&M athletic director Bill Byrne, who is out of the country
traveling with the men's basketball team, declined comment on the
subject through a spokesman. The only official word from A&M came
in a statement released by Loftin on Wednesday.
"President Loftin is committed to doing what is best for Texas
A&M not only now, but also into the future," the statement read.
"We continue to have wide-ranging conversations regarding all
aspects of the university, including both academics and
athletics."
An SEC spokesman declined comment on the situation, but did say
that Slive would not be meeting with Perry on Friday while the
governor was in Birmingham, Ala. for a fundraiser.
The Big 12 looked to be in trouble last summer when Nebraska and
Colorado left the conference and several other schools were courted
by the Pac-10. Texas decided to stay in the Big 12 which made it
much easier for Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State to remain in
the league as well.
At that time Loftin issued a letter addressed to "The Aggie
Family" on A&M's decision to remain in the Big 12.
In the letter he said by remaining a member of the Big 12: "We
were able to more than double our financial return to the levels
being offered by other conferences."
He added that: "I understand that some Aggies are disappointed,
but I am confident this decision will serve Texas A&M well in the
years to come. As athletic director Bill Byrne and I stated
numerous times throughout this process, our hope and desire was for
the Big 12 to continue. And we both agree that this is an exciting,
new day for our league."
One possible reason for Texas A&M's renewed interest in leaving
the Big 12 could be because the school isn't happy about The
Longhorn Network - created through a 20-year, $300 million deal
with ESPN.
Loftin added in the letter to A&M fans last summer that another
consideration in staying in the conference was maintaining Texas
A&M's "strong foothold" in the state and preserving rivalries
that date back "more than 100 years."
Texas A&M has a large and rabid fan base and many Aggies were
upset when the school decided to remain in the Big 12 and are
miffed that their archrival Texas now has its own network while
they do not.
---
AP Sports Writer John Zenor in Birmingham, Ala., and Associated
Press writer Betsy Blaney in Lubbock, Texas contributed to this
report.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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