Confirming the worst-kept secret in college football, Texas A&M University formally notified officials of the Big 12 this morning that it's applying to join another athletic conference. Should the application be accepted, the Aggies will sever their 16-year Big 12 affiliation on June 30, 2012.
"After much thought and consideration, and pursuant to the action of the (Texas A&M University System) Board of Regents authorizing me to take action related to Texas A&M University's athletic conference alignment, I have determined it is in the best interest of Texas A&M to make application to join another athletic conference," A&M President R. Bowen Loftin wrote in a letter to Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe.
As the basis for the university's departure, Loftin cited a desire for greater visibility for A&M and its athletes as well as the opportunity to "secure the necessary and stable financial resources to support our athletic and academic programs."
The letter does not mention rival University of Texas' lucrative deal with ESPN to launch the Longhorn Network — reportedly an impetus for A&M's decision.
In a news release announcing their plans (see below), A&M officials don't specify which conference they're applying to join. A spokesman would say only that the application is being made "to a conference, singular" — which is to say, not more than one. That conference is widely believed to be the Southeastern Conference.
NEWS RELEASE - August 31, 2011
TEXAS A&M TO SEEK AFFILIATION WITH ANOTHER ATHLETIC CONFERENCE
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Texas A&M University today officially notified the Big 12 Conference that the institution will submit an application to join another athletic conference. Should this application be accepted, Texas will end its membership in the Big 12 Conference effective June 30, 2012.
"After much thought and consideration, and pursuant to the action of the (Texas A&M University System) Board of Regents authorizing me to take action related to Texas A&M University's athletic conference alignment, I have determined it is in the best interest of Texas A&M to make application to join another athletic conference," President R. Bowen Loftin wrote to Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe in the letter dated August 31, 2011.
"We appreciate the Big 12's willingness to engage in a dialogue to end our relationship through a mutually agreeable settlement," Loftin added. "We, too, desire that this process be as amicable and prompt as possible and result in a resolution of all outstanding issues, including mutual waivers by Texas and the conference on behalf of all the remaining members."
Texas A&M has participated in intercollegiate athletics as a member of the Big 12 since the conference's founding 16 years ago. Last season, the Aggies claimed nine Big 12 championships and four national team titles, both of which were school-bests. Since joining the Big 12 prior to the 1996-97 athletic season, Texas A&M has won 55 conference championships, including 32 in the last five years.
Texas A&M finished eighth in the prestigious Director's Cup all-sport rankings a year ago, tallying its most points ever and leading all Big 12 schools. In the inaugural Capital One Cup, which rates teams' final rankings, the Aggies were the top-ranking university from the Big 12. The Aggie women finished second with five top-10 finishes, while the Aggie men finished tied for third with five top-10 finishes.
"As I have indicated throughout this process, we are seeking to generate greater visibility nationwide for Texas A&M and our championship-caliber student-athletes, as well as secure the necessary and stable financial resources to support our athletic and academic programs," Loftin said. "This is a 100-year decision that we have addressed carefully and methodically. Texas is an extraordinary institution, and we look forward to what the future may hold for Aggies worldwide."
While Loftin did not specify an application timeline in his letter to the Big 12, he previously indicated that he does not intend to prolong the application process for an extended period of time.
Texas A&M at a glance:
- Located in College Station, Texas.
- Home to more than 49,000 students, ranking as the sixth-largest university in the country, with more than 360,000 former students worldwide.
- Holds membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities, one of only 63 institutions with this distinction.
- Has an endowment valued at more than $5 billion, which ranks fourth among U.S. public universities and 10th overall.
- Conducts research valued at more than $630 million annually, placing it among the top 20 universities nationally and third behind only MIT and the University of California at Berkeley for universities without medical schools.
- Recognized as Home of the 12th Man, where students stand during football games to show support for the team - and for fellow Aggies - a personification of the Aggie Spirit.
- Corps of Cadets is recognized among the nation's largest uniformed student bodies at more than 2,000 strong. Texas A&M commissions more officers than any other institution outside of the nation's service academies.
- Named second in the nation by The Wall Street Journal among all universities, public and private, in a survey of top U.S. corporations, non-profits and government agencies, based on graduates that recruiters prefer to hire.