Texas, Oklahoma SEC joining would break ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ between league schools

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If Texas and Oklahoma join the SEC, it would break a long-standing “gentlemen’s agreement” between SEC schools that gives conference members “absolute veto” over the addition of another school from their state, according to a former Texas A&M official .

R. Bowen Loftin, who helped lead the Aggies to the SEC in 2011 while serving as A&M’s president, said the oft-discussed unwritten rule was a “specific conversation” during expansion talks in 2010-11 when he was involved. Loftin also served as chancellor in Missouri from 2014-15 after the Tigers made the move to the SEC.

“There’s an understanding among members — at least it was 10 years ago — that you don’t allow a school from the same state as an affiliate school unless that affiliate school allows it,” Loftin told ESPN.com on Thursday. . “We’ve talked to each other from time to time that this would be the way it would be, that if we had another school in Texas that wanted to join the SEC, Texas A&M would have veto power.”

Loftin said the discussions took place while the late Mike Slive was commissioner. Loftin, who is retired and no longer involved in discussions at A&M or Missouri, said he believes current Commissioner Greg Sankey, who was Slive’s deputy before he took over the position of Commissioner in 2015, “is a very good long-term sense of the SEC.”

An SEC spokesperson said the league had no comment on Loftin’s comments on Thursday.

Three states — Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee — each have two SEC schools, but they date back to the conference’s inception. In 1990, the league added Arkansas and South Carolina in states that had no other SEC team.

Loftin said the agreement prevented expansion discussions with teams like Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Miami, even as the league targeted the ACC if 16-team super conferences were to take place in the final round of rescheduling.

“We discussed those specific possibilities,” Loftin said. “The state of Florida was never involved in the conversation for obvious reasons. It was clear they wouldn’t be allowed in unless Florida wanted to get them involved, and who can imagine that?’

Loftin said most of the expansion discussions focused on schools like North Carolina, NC State, Virginia or Virginia Tech, all of which are schools in a state with no SEC members.

“I can tell you that during my time with the SEC at two different schools, that was the deal we had,” Loftin said. “It was unwritten. There is no specific rule you can refer to. You can refer to the statutes, talk about a three-quarter majority to admit a new school, meaning four schools can prevent it legally and officially.” happens. But beyond that, there was this understanding.”

Loftin said he and members of the A&M board of regents specifically discussed Texas’ membership prospects during expansion talks with Slive, who was then a commissioner. Slive passed away in 2018.

“I can remember a meeting with the Commissioner and some of our regents who were with me, [Texas] came up in the conversation,” Loftin said. “Mike assured us that they got what they wanted in Texas A&M because they got the Texas market, and they got a school that was very compatible with SEC schools.”

Texas A&M’s current athletic director, Ross Bjork, said on Thursday that he “will be diligent in our approach to protecting Texas A&M. We want to be the only SEC program in the state of Texas. There’s a reason Texas A&M is the Big One.” 12 left — to stand alone, to have our own identity.”

The Aggies and Longhorns clearly haven’t had much love for each other in the past 125 years or so, but especially since their breakup when A&M left the Big 12.

“They left,” former Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds told the Daily Texan in 2013. “They are the ones who decided not to play against us. We get to decide when we play again.”

Loftin said he would be surprised if that was in the SEC.

“There would be a lot of anger on the part of the Aggie community,” he said. “It’s certainly ironic — and that’s a very soft word for it — after all the verbiage directed against us and trying to discourage us from [going to the SEC], and then beat us up after we did it, that’s really interesting to have that school come back and say, ‘Oh, we want to come with you now.’

And he found Texas interest in a turnaround, especially after discussing redeployment options with his Austin counterpart, Texas president Bill Powers, who died in 2019.

“They have a very high opinion of themselves — which isn’t surprising — but not always justified. And that drives a lot of thinking there,” Loftin said. “Bill Powers was very clear to me that they felt much more akin to the schools in the Big Ten and on the West Coast. He was very dismissive of the SEC because he felt it was an inferior conference academically. He is no longer there “I understand that. But the cultural fit of A&M and the SEC is very good. The Texas fit is not. That’s just obvious.”

Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz, a relative newcomer to league drama in his second year as head coach of the Tigers, joked during SEC media day Thursday about the rumored interest from Texas and Oklahoma.

“We are the best league in college football and everyone wants to play there, and now you have two iconic brands that want to join too,” he said. “It’s an exclusive club and not everyone comes in, so good luck. Especially if A&M has something to do with it.”

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