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Loftin authorized to negotiate conference alignment

Published: Monday, August 15, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 19:07

Loftin

Emily Villani

University President Bowen Loftin addresses the media Monday at the Board of Regents Annex.

The Texas A&M Board of Regents authorized University President Bowen Loftin to make any decision regarding conference alignment in athletics in a special meeting Monday.

After the Regents' meeting, Loftin addressed media regarding the Regents' vote and Texas A&M's future.

"It means only one thing: that I have the authority to move forward with conversations or negotiations over time." Loftin said. "It's not so much what's wrong with the Big 12 but what's right for Texas A&M. We have for quite some time evaluated the effect of our visibility on our brand value."

A&M attracted national attention during the weekend after rumors surfaced that the University would join the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Now, with the Board's approval, Loftin is authorized to negotiate with the SEC on behalf of the University, and move forward with any decisions. However, Loftin said the decision will take time, and may be impacted by an exit fee to the Big 12. Loftin said the Board's authorization does not guarantee a move to the SEC, nor does it mean that A&M will stay in the Big 12 in the immediate future.

The SEC Board of Directors and Chancellors met Saturday and voted not to extend a league invitation to Texas A&M, a decision that Loftin said was not surprising. He said he expected nothing from the SEC until the situation gained financial and legal stability. When asked if A&M would accept an invitation to the SEC, Loftin hesitated to answer but said he would consider it.

"There are so many variables, I can't answer that question," Loftin said. "There is no bid. There's never been a bid. If we were to receive a bid, we would certainly evaluate that."

Loftin said he spoke with SEC Commissioner Mike Slive on the phone on July 21, the first time since their meeting at the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 7, where they discussed A&M's interest in the SEC. Loftin said he spoke again with Slive last month over the phone to air his concerns about A&M's membership in the Big 12. 

"The Big 12 went through a major upheaval last year. I think all of you are aware of that. We've gone through another one more recently," Loftin said. "You can judge for yourself if that's stability or not."

Student Body President Jeff Pickering said regents' action reflect student opinion at the University. Students attending graduation ceremonies last week started an "SEC" chant in the presence of regents and University officials. 

 "I believe the students will like this move," Pickering said. "I think over the past few days we've seen it's becoming increasing clear that our students are enthusiastic about the aspect of a change in our conference alignment."

Loftin said he had a "frank" discussion with A&M coaches about the possible move. He said they discussed potential problems, including scholarship regulations and playing in different parts of the country.

The financial and legal aspects of switching conferences are what Loftin said will provide security at A&M in the future. He explained the decision will affect the university, other Texas institutions and collegiate sports for the next century so he will approach the subject with caution.

"We view this as more of a forwardly positive thing in evaluating where we are in time and achieving greater visibility for us as a university and for our student athletes and also being able to deal with provisional revenues to help our university enterprise be successful," Loftin said. `

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