A Beautiful Move: Texas A&M to SEC?
So far, most speculation has focused on the four Texas schools as a package deal. And lost amid all the posturing associated with whether Baylor or Colorado will get the final offer to join the Big 12 has been this question: What if Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive pulled a fast one and managed to recruit away Texas A&M from the three other Texas schools leaving for the Pac-16 (or whatever name you like best)?
Think that's far-fetched?
Here's why: Mike Slive is smart.
While he refused to address what schools, if any, he'd had expansion conversations with, it's no secret that the SEC has long sought to enter the lucrative Texas market in the past. But Slive would be aware that the last time the SEC tried to expand into Texas, the state legislature raised issues with the move. He would know that adding Texas and Texas A&M by themselves, as every conference would prefer, wasn't likely to happen due to political pressure.
He'd know the price for those two schools would be much steeper.
When I asked Slive whether the Pac-10's move to woo the six Big 12 schools surprised him, he said it did not.
So you have to assume that's he's seen some version of this scenario playing out.
Now let's channel the Oscar winning film A Beautiful Mind and return to our analogy about the girls at the bar. In the movie, you'll recall that the the genius scientist, John Nash, uses game theory to create an optimal pick-up situation for he and his friends. Let's put Slive in the John Nash role now at the bar. If you know you can't get Texas, the perfect 10, alone, and you know you can't get Texas and her sister, Texas A&M, the solid 8, alone, those options are out the window. What's more, you definitely wouldn't want Texas Tech and Baylor, the cross-eyed step-sisters of Texas football, but because you know your offer to Texas will be rejected without those two schools, could you make a creative move and approach Texas A&M, the attractive younger sister of the knockout, and make her yours all by herself?
Let's examine why this could be the perfect game theory move in the event the SEC wants to expand into Texas.
1. Texas A&M might well benefit from joining the SEC over the Pac-16.
Because nothing really changes for A&M in the Pac-16. It is still lost in the penumbra of Texas' hotness, always playing second fiddle. A&M in the SEC would be able to market itself as the SEC team in Texas, the lone opportunity for hotshot Texas recruits to play football in the best football conference in America.
Right now, what distinguishes A&M from Texas?
Not much, right?
But could Texas A&M plus the conference cachet of the SEC challenge Texas for state superiority?
I think so.
Wouldn't entering a recruit's living room and selling him on an experience that no one else in Texas can have -- that is, stay in the state close to home but play in the most football mad schools in the country on a regular basis -- be incredibly beneficial to the school?
Plus, it would open up the fertile recruiting fields of the South to A&M.
I think entering the SEC offers A&M the only chance it may have for generations to truly challenge Texas for state superiority.
2. The Pac-16 would grit its teeth and proceed because it allows them to take Colorado and Baylor.
Politically, the new conference would be unlikely to fight the move of Texas A&M to the SEC.
Because it eliminates the need for the conference to make a tough choice between Colorado, the school it wants, and Baylor, the school it's being forced to take.
This way they'd get both schools.
Ultimately the Pac-16 wants A&M, but losing the school wouldn't end the deal.
3. Slive raises the price for the Pac-16's pursuit of Texas.
Instead of waltzing into the state and splitting away the state's two premier football programs, the Pac-16 gets one major addition and the two weaker programs.
Putting these schools into context, Texas is overall the No. 1 highest revenue athletic department in the country while Texas A&M is right around 20.
Both are incredibly strong additions to any conference in America.
Meanwhile, Baylor and Texas Tech are 56th and 58th in total athletic revenues meaning both schools fall beneath Vanderbilt in total athletic revenues.
So Slive could swoop into the lucrative Texas television market while upping the price for the addition of Texas.
4. The other three Texas schools would all be moving to better conference situations as well, so they wouldn't mind splitting up.
The idea that the Texas schools are sticking together out of loyalty is crap. The reason Baylor and Texas Tech want to be with Texas and Texas A&M is because the two premier programs in the state offer each the best route to a new destination.
If the SEC or the Big Ten offered Baylor tomorrow, do you think Baylor is staying in a tenuous Big 12 position uncertain of a Pac-16 offer or leaping?
It is leaping.
With this move, three schools to the Pac-16 and one to the SEC, everyone is in a more lucrative financial position than they were in before expansion.
If everybody is winning, all four schools don't have to go the same place.
The schools only have to go to the same place to keep a school from losing.
5. A&M could still play Texas on the Friday before Thanksgiving, only now it would be an out-of-conference game.
Stop with these rivalry ending e-mails before they even start.
The game at the end of the year would still happen, it would just be an out-of-conference tilt. Honestly, the brand new Pac-16 vs. the SEC would probably make it a bigger national game than it already is.
And the game would retain all of the regional hate that it already has. There's already a template for these out-of-conference rivalry games in the SEC since Florida plays Florida State and South Carolina plays Clemson on the same weekend.
What's more, since the yearly Texas A&M vs. Arkansas game would now become a conference event, there's an easy slot to allow the out-of-conference game to fit into.
The SEC would then have the option of adding one ACC team from Florida, likely Florida State, and sticking at 14 or raiding the southern ACC schools and ending the ACC as we know it.
Only one question remains: does the man who has kept more quiet than any conference commissioner throughout this entire process have a plan to squire away the state of Texas's solid eight?
I think Mike Slive just might.