It’s been a rough year for football in a legal sense. Not only did the pros muck it up in court rooms for months in a protracted labor dispute, but shortly thereafter, former National Football League players tackled the league over not taking proper steps to protect players from concussions. But now it’s apparently time for the college teams to have a power struggle. And this time, it’s happening deep in the heart of Texas.
Rumblings have been coming out of the South for some time now that Texas A&M University is looking to leave the Big 12 Conference. Yesterday, news broke that the school was unanimously accepted into the Southeastern Conference (SEC) as its 13th member.
The SEC said it had written assurance from Texas A&M that it was free to accept the program into the conference beginning in 2012, but before the move could be made, reports surfaced that another Big 12 school, believed to be Baylor University, is considering legal action to block the move. Baylor reportedly has launched a public campaign intended to keep all fellow Texas schools in the Big 12, according to the Wall Street Journal, much to the dismay of Texas A&M.
“… [We] are disappointed in the threats made by one of the Big 12 member institutions to coerce Texas A&M into staying in the Big 12 Conference,” University President R. Bowen Loftin said in a statement. “These actions go against the commitment that was made by this university and the Big 12 on Sept. 2. We are working diligently to resolve any and all issues as outlined by the SEC."
The novelty of the situation doesn’t seem to be lost on Big 12 Conference Commissioner Dan Beebe, who provided his take on the Big 12 website.
“This is the first time to my knowledge that a conference has been requested to waive any legal claims toward another conference for any damages suffered with a membership change,” Beebe wrote. “The Big 12 Conference was asked by Texas A&M University and the Southeastern Conference to waive any such claim to help facilitate Texas A&M’s departure from the Conference without any consideration to the Big 12. Although they were not obligated to do so, the Big 12 Board of Directors decided to accommodate that request as it relates to The Big 12 Conference, Inc., which is reflected in the September 2 letter sent to SEC commissioner Mike Slive.
“However, the waiver did not and could not bind the individual member institutions’ governing boards to waive institutional rights,” he continued. “If the departure of Texas A&M results in significant changes in the Big 12 membership, several institutions may be severely affected after counting on revenue streams from contracts that were approved unanimously by our members, including Texas A&M. In some cases, members reasonably relied on such approval to embark on obligations that will cost millions of dollars.”