FORT WORTH — More politicians than Gov. Rick Perry are interested in Texas A&M's possible move to the Southeastern Conference.
The Texas Legislature is now involved. But will the Aggies already be SEC bound before politicians convene?
The House Committee on Higher Education has scheduled a public hearing Tuesday in Austin to "discuss matters pertaining to higher education, including college athletics." The hearing is set for 2 p.m., with the nine committee members listening to "invited testimony only."
A&M regents responded by calling a special meeting, via teleconference, on Monday. Item No. 15 on the agenda: authorization for the school president to "take all actions relating to Texas A&M University's athletic conference alignment."
SEC presidents are scheduled to meet this weekend in an emergency session to discuss the A&M situation. From all indications, A&M regents are ready to green-light a move to the SEC before Texas lawmakers can convene to discuss the topic.
A&M fans and students, who broke into chants of "SEC! SEC!" during Friday's summer graduation ceremony at Reed Arena in College Station, also embraced the idea.
How will that move be greeted politically?
The House Committee on Higher Education controls funding to the state's public institutions, including A&M. And the committee extended invitations Friday to A&M president R. Bowen Loftin, SEC commissioner Mike Slive, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe and Richard Box, an Austin dentist who is the chairman of A&M's board of regents.
Committee chairman Dan Branch, R-Dallas, said Friday that additional invitations could be extended before Tuesday's meeting.
"What we want to do is ask questions to make sure any possibility of a conference move is in the best interests of the state of Texas and our higher education systems," Branch said. "It may be a good thing for A&M to go to the SEC or a bad thing. I'm not pre-judging that. ... If the Big 12 can stay strong and the SEC has a [television] footprint in Texas, that may be a good thing for our economy."
The same committee met last year to discuss potential state funding implications and other ramifications involving Texas-based schools in the Big 12 when the league's future was in peril last June. The Big 12 eventually held together as a 10-team league following defections by Nebraska and Colorado.
At issue in the minds of committee members could be the timing of discussions between A&M and SEC officials and how those talks would impact existing contracts between A&M and the Big 12's television partners. Officials from other Texas-based Big 12 schools could be invited to address the impact of an A&M departure one year after the league almost dissolved.
"Is it in the best interest of our state's schools? Would [A&M's departure] have a negative impact on the Big 12? Those are the questions we want answered," Branch said. "We want to make sure this is a good thing for our state, our public institutions ... and a private institution like Baylor."
Big 12 rivals already are coming to grips with a move most consider inevitable.
In a statement, Texas men's athletic director DeLoss Dodds said his school is "actively looking at every possible option we have and have been talking to other Big 12 schools. We are strong supporters and members of the Big 12. We'd be disappointed if Texas A&M leaves, but, if they do, we wish them well."
Asked about the impact of a possible A&M defection, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said: "I still believe right now we're in a good, strong conference."
If the Aggies depart, Big 12 officials have indicated their first contingency plan would be to operate as a nine-team league. Expansion targets could include Houston, Brigham Young and Air Force.
Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich told The Courier-Journal of Louisville that his school would prefer to remain in the Big East rather than consider a move to the Big 12.