Texas A&M informs Big 12 of plan to leave conference

The Aggies intend to end their Big 12 membership next June and hope to join the Southeastern Conference.

After weeks of denial and speculation, Texas A&M has formally announced its intention to leave the Big 12 Conference, the school president announced Wednesday. If the school's application to withdraw is accepted, it will end its membership with the Big 12 on June 30, 2012.

The announcement follows a series of meetings between TAMU President R. Bowen Loftin and Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Silve, beginning on July 21st. Yesterday, a TAMU spokesperson denied a New York Times report claiming the school had already submitted a withdrawal request to the conference, but this afternoon Loftin confirmed his school's intentions.

"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," Loftin wrote in a letter to Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe today.

According to ESPN, the SEC has not reported receiving an application to join from Texas A&M as of Wednesday. The Big 12 responded earlier this week to requests from Texas A&M to outline the necessary procedures for withdrawing from the conference.

"We appreciate the Big 12's willingness to engage in a dialogue to end our relationship through a mutually agreeable settlement," Loftin said in the statement. "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 A&M and the conference on behalf of all the remaining members."

Texas A&M has been a member of the Big 12 since its founding 16 years ago, and the announcement comes after one of the more successful years in Aggie athletics history. Texas A&M earned nine conference championships and four national team titles. The school has claimed 55 conference championships since becoming a member of the Big 12.

Even so, a move away from the conference would be in the best interests financially for A&M. The Aggies have long lived under the shadow of their arch-rival Texas, and have seen the new Longhorn Network as a further hindrance to their visibility. A move to the SEC would be beneficial for the school, according to Loftin.

"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."

Loftin did not specifically set an application timeline in his letter to the Big 12, but he previously has intimated he does not wish to prolong the application process for an extended period of time.

Texas A&M's departure leaves the future of the Big 12 in doubt. The conference is down to 10 teams after Nebraska (Big Ten) and Colorado (Pac-12) left the league in July. Missouri chancellor and Big 12 board chairman Brady Deaton expressed the conference's desire to explore its options.

"The chancellors and presidents of the Big 12 are committed to keeping our conference competitively and academically strong," Deaton said. "We have a process in place that enables us to move aggressively regarding the possible expansion of the conference and to assure our members and student-athletes that we will take advantage of the most productive opportunities in the best interests of all."

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