By HARRY KING
LITTLE ROCK — Reiterating a personal feeling, the details behind Texas A&M’s decision to get out of the Big 12 don’t matter much.
The fallout for Arkansas, in particular, and the Southeastern Conference, in general, is the issue.
On its website, A&M said it notified the Big 12 that it would end its membership on June 30. The SEC is not mentioned, but it is assumed that is the Aggies’ destination.
Immediately, the move gives the Aggies a recruiting advantage over Arkansas and LSU. As long as A&M was in the Big 12, the Razorbacks and the Tigers could court a Texas athlete with the promise of playing in the best conference in the country. Now, the Aggies can match that offer and close the deal with the player’s family by pointing out the half-dozen games per year in College Station.
No need to drive to Fayetteville or Baton Rouge to see your son play, the Aggies will contend. In the process, A&M can use the SEC argument against other Texas schools.
Now, for the sometimes outlandish speculation about the Big 12’s pursuit of Arkansas and who might join the Aggies in the move to the SEC ...
Arkansas to the Big 12 came up last week when Pete Thamel of the New York Times wrote: "If A&M leaves, the Big 12 will most likely target one university as a replacement. Its wish list, in order of preference, is Notre Dame, Arkansas and Brigham Young, according to a person with firsthand knowledge of the Big 12’s discussion."
Thamel admitted Notre Dame and Arkansas are longshots. As for Arkansas, longshot does not come close to describing the Razorbacks’ status. Longshot indicates there is some chance. Occasionally, longshots win at Oaklawn Park.
The Razorbacks aren’t going anywhere. Why would they? Why leave the league that is the envy of every other conference for an unstable Big 12?
Knowing that Arkansas is entrenched in the SEC, who else is the question.
Even for one year, a 13-team SEC would be awkward with a schedule contrived to accommodate seven teams in one division and six in the other.
The addition of Missouri still makes as much sense or more than any other school.
There are some who believe a 14th team is waiting in the wings, working out the details. If true, it could be a school that is under the radar.
South Carolina was not at the top of the pecking order when the SEC expanded in 1990. When SEC presidents voted May 31 of that year to authorize expansion, the targets were Texas, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Florida State, Miami and South Carolina.
Eager to leave the Southwest Conference, Arkansas joined that summer. Under pressure from Texas legislators, Texas and A&M stayed put. At that point, Florida State was the SEC’s first choice to accompany the Razorbacks and the proposed division alignment put the Seminoles in with Florida, Auburn and Alabama — a prospect that did not sit well with the FSU athletic director.
When it appeared that FSU might go to the Atlantic Coast Conference, SEC commissioner Roy Kramer arranged a conference call of SEC members to vote against inviting Florida State. Less than a week later, Kramer met with Miami. By then, South Carolina’s trustees had voted to say yes to the SEC if invited. Miami’s hierarchy was not as enthused and, in late September, the Gamecocks received their invite.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is email@example.com.