Texas A&M University has told the Big 12 Conference they're leaving, according to the Associated Press.
The Aggies said Wednesday they will leave the Big 12 by July 1, 2012, if they are accepted by another conference. A&M didn't say where they had hoped to go, but it's been no secret that the Aggies are interested in joining the Southeastern Conference.
A&M President R. Bowen Loftin notified the conference in a letter and said departing the Big 12 "is in the best interest of Texas A&M." He said he hopes the move can be amicable and presumably hopes to negotiate a reasonable exit fee.
"I certainly appreciate the discussion among the Big 12 presidents/chancellors and the expression of their desire for Texas A&M to remain in the conference," Loftin said in a statement Monday afternoon before The New York Times report. "We all agree that Texas A&M is an extremely valuable institution; thus, it is incumbent upon me, as the president of the university, to ensure that we are in a position to enhance our national visibility and future financial opportunity."
The SEC said earlier this month it was happy with its current 12-school membership but left the door open to expansion. Should they chose to bring the Aggies into the SEC, that announcement could come at any time.
Texas A&M has been in the Big 12 since the conference's founding in 1996. Loftin said the school wants greater visibility nationwide as well as "the necessary and stable financial resources" needed to support athletics.
If A&M leaves the Big 12, it will leave the conference with only nine schools. SMU is, so far, the only school to publicly express an interest in joining the conference.
Here is the statement from Texas A&M University President R. Bowen Loftin:
"After much thought and consideration, and pursuant to the action of the (Texas A&M University System) Board of Regents authorizing me to take action related to Texas A&M University's athletic conference alignment, I have determined it is in the best interest of Texas A&M to make application to join another athletic conference. We appreciate the Big 12's willingness to engage in a dialogue to end our relationship through a mutually agreeable settlement. We, too, desire that this process be as amicable and prompt as possible and result in a resolution of all outstanding issues, including mutual waivers by Texas A&M and the conference on behalf of all the remaining members. As I have indicated throughout this process, we are seeking to generate greater visibility nationwide for Texas A&M and our championship-caliber student-athletes, as well as secure the necessary and stable financial resources to support our athletic and academic programs," Loftin said. "This is a 100-year decision that we have addressed carefully and methodically. Texas A&M is an extraordinary institution, and we look forward to what the future may hold for Aggies worldwide."