GAINESVILLE — The Southeastern Conference will remain a 12-team league, at least for now, bypassing what had reportedly been an imminent opportunity to add Texas A&M to the nation's premiere football conference.
The SEC presidents and chancellors met in Atlanta on Sunday to discuss expansion criteria and ultimately decided not to make a move at this time, Florida president Bernie Machen said.
Machen, who is chairman of the SEC's presidents and chancellors committee, did not rule out future expansion.
"The SEC presidents and chancellors met (Sunday) and reaffirmed our satisfaction with the present 12 institutional alignment," Machen said in a statement released by the conference. "We recognize, however, that future conditions may make it advantageous to expand the number of institutions in the league. We discussed criteria and process associated with expansion. No action was taken with respect to any institution, including Texas A&M."
It appears the SEC officials' biggest reservation about adding Texas A&M was the potential for a legal battle because of the Aggies' Big 12 television contract. The SEC also did not want to be perceived as raiding the Big 12.
ESPN had reported that FSU, Missouri and Oklahoma were also possible additions; those three denied talking to the SEC.
Talk of expansion heated up last summer when several other conferences realigned, but ultimately that didn't occur in the SEC. Speculation began again late last week after it was reported that Texas A&M had contacted the SEC about joining the league — which Arkansas chancellor Dave Gearhart confirmed Sunday — and that a meeting with SEC officials had been scheduled.
Texas A&M reportedly is considering leaving the Big 12, partly because the university is disgruntled about the new Texas Longhorns television network. The Texas A&M System board of regents will meet today, and among the items on the agenda is conference alignment.
In a statement released Sunday, Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin lamented the "considerable amount of misinformation" about the situation.
"As we have seen over the past several days, there has been a considerable amount of misinformation regarding these discussions and any associated timelines," Loftin said. "The chairman of our board has indicated that the regents will proceed with (today's) agenda item, which authorizes the president of Texas A&M to take all actions related to athletic conference alignment."
Texas State Rep. Dan Branch, chairman of the Texas House Committee on Higher Education, called a hearing before his committee for Tuesday with Big 12, SEC and Texas A&M officials. Loftin said he has accepted Branch's invitation.
"These are extremely complex issues, and it is imperative that we proceed methodically and in the best interests of Texas A&M," Loftin said.
Gearhart said A&M was among a number of topics discussed.
"It was really an open discussion, not just about A&M but about the future of the conference and the future of other conferences," Gearhart said. "We did talk about Texas A&M. It's a great university, a great place. But … the decision was to make no decision at this particular time."
Texas A&M said athletic director Bill Byrne was not available.
Information from Times wires was used in this report.