Adding A&M to SEC raises some questions

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LSU Chancellor Michael Martin said he can see advantages for his school if Texas A&M joins the Southeastern Conference, but that he has questions which need answering before he can support any expansion plans.

“There are some benefits for LSU,” Martin said Saturday. “We have had a rivalry in the past with Texas A&M and rivalry games are fun. There is certainly the opportunity for a rivalry.

“But there are an awful lot of questions I have for any expansion. It isn’t all about money. I want to know about travel for all student-athletes and if that school really fits into our mix, whether they share the same values that we do.”

According to SEC spokesman Charles Bloom, SEC Bylaw 3.1.2 states that “A three-fourths vote of members is required to extend an invitation for membership.” That means at least a 9-3 vote in favor of expansion.

The New York Times reported Saturday that at least 11 of the SEC’s 12 presidents and chancellors are to meet Sunday to discuss inviting Texas A&M (the 12th will participate by phone). Neither Martin nor Bloom would confirm the meeting, though The Associated Press is reporting the meeting will take place in Atlanta.

Martin said he isn’t sure that remaining a 12-team league, which the SEC has been since adding Arkansas and South Carolina in 1992, isn’t best.

“I’ve always thought a 12-team league for the SEC is a good one,” Martin said. “It’s fairly easy travel and we’ve been successful competitively.

“Prove to me a new model is better than what we have and we’ll put it to a vote.”

Some of Martin’s concerns stem from who else would join the SEC to keep the conference at an even number.

“It doesn’t make sense to add one school, to be a 13-team league,” he said. “If Texas A&M, then who else?”

A number of schools have been bandied about as “who else” in recent days, although most of the speculation has met with swift denials from their respective school officials.

Some of the speculation centers on adding a school from the Atlantic Coast Conference to geographically balance off Texas A&M and thus add one school to each SEC division.

Florida State and Clemson are two of the schools most frequently mentioned, but both their presidents said their schools have engaged in no discussions with the SEC.

“From coach to (athletic director) to president and the board chair (trustees), there has been no discussion,” Florida State president Eric Barron told The Associated Press.

“I feel quite certain if any of those individuals had any discussions, including me, we would have shared it with each other.”

“We are committed to the ACC,” Clemson President James Barker said in a statement.

Missouri and Oklahoma have also been mentioned as potential schools to join A&M in bolting the Big 12 for the SEC.

However, Missouri athletic director Doug Alden also denied such reports.

“Where are we going?” Alden asked a reporter from the Kansas City Star. “We haven’t had any discussions with anybody else. Our focus ￉ is on the Big 12.”

Alden, however, told the paper he does expect A&M to bolt.

“It certainly appears that way,” Alden said. “I don’t know that to be a fact. But that’s the impression I’ve been receiving.”

Texas A&M moved up a meeting of its board of regents from Aug. 22 to Monday, ostensibly to deal with an agenda item about conference realignment.

Meanwhile, a Texas legislative committee has called a hearing on Tuesday that includes an item to allow Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin to “enter into negotiations with the SEC if a bid is extended.”

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive, Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe, Loftin and Texas A&M Board of Regents Chairman Richard Box have been invited to Austin for the hearing by the Texas House Committee on Higher Education. State Rep. Dan Branch, chairman of the committee, said he has been assured by Texas A&M officials that they are not attempting to pre-empt legislators questions by moving their board meeting to Monday.

It would be “inappropriate” for Texas A&M to switch conferences before the hearing, Branch said.

“This will take perhaps a week to two weeks to work out anyway, if a bid is extended,” Branch told The Associated Press.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.