Big 12 future remains shaky after chaotic week

Oklahoma’s decision to stay in the Big 12 or leave will decide the fate for Texas A&M and the conference.
Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles watches the ball slip through his hands during MU's homecoming game Oct. 23, 2010, at Faurot Field. MU now hopes Oklahoma won't slip out of the conference, causing a complete collapse of the the Big 12 Conference. Maneater File Photo

Those planning funeral arrangements for the Big 12 Conference will have to wait a bit longer, as threats of lawsuits against Texas A&M’s departure this week have kept the league breathing — even if it is still on proverbial life support.

After Southeastern Conference presidents voted unanimously Tuesday to accept Texas A&M as a new member, only one of the remaining nine Big 12 teams was willing to waive its rights to take legal action against the move. That school, Oklahoma, will also ultimately decide the Aggies' (and the Big 12’s) fate once it decides whether to stay or seek another conference.

Texas A&M University and the Southeastern Conference requested that Big 12 members waive any such right to help smooth the progress of Texas A&M's departure from the conference.

"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,” Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe said Wednesday.

However, Oklahoma was the only school to express willingness to waive its legal rights. Baylor and Iowa State were the first schools reported to have not complied with the request, and some reports even suggested Baylor was considering filing a lawsuit. A source told ESPN’s Joe Schad that Baylor was the leader in the attempt to keep TAMU in the Big 12.

There remains hope for Texas A&M’s departure. A source with knowledge of the situation told ESPN on Wednesday that if Oklahoma decides to remain a Big 12 member, TAMU would be permitted to complete its move to the SEC. In that scenario, the Big 12 would pursue BYU to fill the Aggies' void as the league's 10th member.

Oklahoma finds itself unsure of which conference it would like to call its own going forward. OU president David Boren announced Friday that the school would render a decision within three weeks on whether or not to stay in the Big 12.

"I don't think OU is going to be a wallflower when all is said and done," Boren said.

In explaining the resistance from the schools, Beebe referred to the 13-year, $1.2 billion TV deal the Big 12 signed with Fox earlier this year.

“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,” Beebe said.

Meanwhile, Texas A&M is left to wait while the conference sits in limbo. The school canceled a news conference and celebration plans on Wednesday amidst the swirling rumors.

"We are being held hostage right now," Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin told ESPN. "Essentially, we're being told that you must stay here against your will and we think that really flies in the face of what makes us Americans, for example, and makes us free people."

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