Texas Tech President Guy Bailey on Wednesday compared the state of the Big 12 Conference to “a traffic jam,” putting league members’ maneuvers on hold.
“You’re looking at, right now, the threat of a lawsuit holding up the process,” Tech spokesman Chris Cook said shortly after he’d spoken with Bailey. “Dr. Bailey said things are going to be in a holding pattern.”
Bailey relayed his comments through Cook shortly after the Big 12 Conference Board of directors met via teleconference.
Southeastern Conference leaders voted unanimously late Tuesday to accept Texas A&M as their 13th member, provided there were no legal backlash. But according to published reports, Baylor threatened a lawsuit to block the move and keep the Big 12 together.
“Today’s actions put everything on hold,” Cook said on Bailey’s behalf. “He just said it could be tomorrow; it could be next year. He didn’t put a time frame on it. It could be a while.”
Tech has not waived its right to pursue litigation, Cook said. To do so would require Board of Regents approval. However, “We’re not involved in a suit,” he said.
ESPN.com reported later Wednesday that eight Big 12 schools haven’t waived their right to sue. Until they do, an unnamed source told ESPN.com, the SEC won’t proceed with admitting A&M.
Wednesday’s developments rankled Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin, who claimed Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe sent out contradictory information in the last week regarding the ease of the Aggies’ departure. On Sept. 2, Beebe said in a letter to SEC commissioner Mike Slive that the Big 12 “and its members” wouldn’t pursue legal action against the SEC regarding the Aggies’ move.
On Tuesday, Beebe e-mailed Slive that such waivers would have to come one by one from each individual school. Loftin provided Beebe’s conflicting statements to The Associated Press.
“The waiver did not and could not bind the individual member institutions’ governing boards to waive institutional rights,” Beebe said in a statement. “If the departure of Texas A&M results in significant changes in the Big 12 membership, several institutions may be severely affected after counting on revenue streams from contracts that were approved unanimously by our members, including Texas A&M.
“In some cases, members reasonably relied on such approval to embark on obligations that will cost millions of dollars.”
Last week, Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt said departures — and speculation about more departures — from the Big 12 is “not something that can continue to occur” and said the league needs to get back to 10 members immediately. The next day, however, Oklahoma President David Boren said more than one conference had expressed interest in the Sooners and he was considering the options. Boren said OU would make a decision on which way to go by the end of the month.
Last year, Pac-12 Conference commissioner Larry Scott researched how several Big 12 schools might fit into that league. In the event of a Big 12 breakup, the Pac-12 remains a potential landing spot for Tech.
Bailey said via Cook that Tech officials are “closely monitoring the situation and will actively pursue a course in the best interests of Texas Tech University.
“We’re not sitting idly by. We’re active in this process.”
Tech coach Tommy Tuberville was fined last year for questioning the Big 12’s future. On Wednesday, he sounded a different note.
“You just hope everybody comes to their senses right here at the last minute,” Tuberville said, “and says, ‘The heck with it. We’ve got a great league. Let’s stay with it.”
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