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Draw swords, Texas A&M, and carve out your SEC future

Colorado is gone. Poor, put-upon Nebraska is sure to be next.

And then who will be the next school out the Big 12 door?

One thing that Pac-10 Conference commissioner Larry Scott said Thursday during a media teleconference made my ears stand at attention.

When asked about the reported group of Big 12 schools that are supposed to be headed Scott's way, the commissioner answered, "There are no assurances. No invitations have been issued."

No invitations? What -- Colorado just showed up and rang the doorbell?

It was a curious answer, because it lacked the conviction of the original reports about Texas leading a stampede to the Pac-10.

Sounds as if somebody is still weighing its options. And this whole headache-inducing story has been all about options.

The University of Texas? Many options. Pac-10, Big Ten, or athletic director DeLoss Dodds can make a few phone calls and save the Big 12.

But why would he save the Big 12? The league is already bleeding in public.

A patched Big 12 would be like the Black Knight character in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail"

"'Tis but a scratch," Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe could say, as another limb falls off its dwindling body.

No, there's no saving the Big 12. Not now.

But what are the others waiting for? How did Colorado end up at the head of the Big 12 parade?

Clearly, the Buffs' announcement serves the purpose of thwarting Baylor's efforts to have Texas politicians hijack the Pac-10 and force it to take the Bears. I wonder, though, if such a public rebuff was necessary.

Unless it was intended for Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma, to remind them that, hey, fellas, the Pac-10 means business.

It's all about options, remember?

Texas A&M? Not as many options as Texas, perhaps, but its choices are intriguing.

For those who think Texas and Texas A&M would never go separate ways, for those who think the Aggie governor's office would never allow it to happen, and for those who think the Aggies have an emotional need to forever chase the Longhorns, like Ahab and Moby Dick, I say it's time for A&M to draw swords and act for itself.

Of course Texas wants A&M to follow it. If the two schools moved together to the Pac-10, Texas could maintain the status quo. With nothing still to differentiate the two schools, the Longhorns could continue their recruiting momentum.

But Texas A&M can change that dramatically by joining the Southeastern Conference.

It could offer recruits a choice, a chance to play in the best football conference in the nation, in front of rabid fans and in sold-out stadiums, in cities and college towns that their families can drive to.

And the best part -- A&M would likely double its current share of TV revenues. The Aggies would be getting more than Texas.

Traditions don't have to be compromised. The Aggies and Longhorns could still meet on Thanksgiving Day. It just wouldn't be a conference game.

Through this whole conference upheaval saga, the loudest sound in the room has been the silence coming from the SEC. Anybody else find that odd?

SEC commissioner Mike Slive, however, has been anything but a disinterested bystander.

His league is doing well, Slive has said, as long as the earth doesn't move under college football's cleated feet.

Well, it moved Thursday. And when Nebraska leaves for the Big Ten, probably today, the ground will shake again.

The SEC is waiting to see what the numbers will be, a source said Thursday. Does the Big Ten expand to 12, or all the way to 16? Does Scott stop at 11 -- "no assurances," he said -- or does it go the full 16?

The Aggies are very much in the SEC picture. The league reportedly would like to add Texas, but the Longhorns appear to be looking west.

Under the SEC plan, the conference reportedly would issue invitations based upon increasing its TV footprint.

Florida State, Miami, Clemson and Georgia Tech aren't being prominently mentioned, because the league already has footholds in those states.

One team in Texas would do, the SEC reportedly figures. The Aggies may not carry the majority of the state's TV sets, but with SEC opponents as the backdrop, the A&M audience could hold its own.

My educated hunch is that the other SEC targets would be Oklahoma, Virginia Tech and North Carolina. If Oklahoma wants to tag along with the Longhorns, the SEC will look at Maryland and the Washington, D.C., market.

Nobody told me that. But nobody denied it or scoffed at it when I asked, either.

It's all about options.

If Texas A&M is serious about getting back in the football business, it may never have a better one.

© 2010, Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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