September 8, 2011 10:57:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State President Mark Keenum was one of 12 Southeastern Conference member presidents or chancellors to attend a vote on introducing a 13th member of the league.
Little did these 12 men understand their vote would do nothing but create more drama in the conference realignment story involving Texas A&M, the SEC, and the remaining members of the Big 12 Conference. Keenum, in a written statement to The Dispatch, said he arrived in Atlanta to vote on making Texas A&M a new member of the conference, but was then informed by SEC Commissioner Mike Slive that the president of one Big 12 member school said he no longer would support his earlier agreement to give Texas A&M a legal waiver to leave the Big 12.
"That came as a surprise to all of us because we had received a letter from (Big 12 Commissioner) Dan Beebe on Sept. 2 saying their league had unanimously voted to give Texas A&M a complete waiver from any potential legal action, allowing them to leave the Big 12 conference," Keenum said.
Late Tuesday night, Beebe sent a copy of a Sept. 6 email to Slive that said the legal waivers from each school hadn''t been attained.
"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," Beebe said in a written statement released by the league. "In some cases, members reasonably relied on such approval to embark on obligations that will cost millions of dollars."
At the time, Keenum said "it was his understanding" that Baylor was the institution standing in the way of Texas A&M''s departure, but multiple reports have stated Iowa State, Kansas State, Kansas, Missouri, and Texas Tech also haven''t waived their legal rights.
"The letter we received from the Big 12 needs to be re-affirmed by their league," Keenum said. "Once that is the case, we will extend an invitation, but it has to be to our satisfaction that we won''t be encumbered by lawsuits that will be tied up in courts for years."
Keenum feels Texas A&M, which has been in the Big 12 since the conference''s inception in 1996, is a fit for the SEC in part because it is a member of the prestigious American Association of Universities.
"It is rich in history and tradition with a huge supportive fanbase," Keenum said. "It''s a land-grant institution with a mission that is the same as ours, so there are a lot of similarities as well as relationships we already have due to research between our two institutions."
MSU football coach Dan Mullen, who coached at Texas A&M''s Kyle Field in 2003 as an assistant at the University of Utah, called the concept of the Aggies coming to the SEC "neat" Wednesday on The Scott Van Pelt Show on ESPN Radio.
"Another great team coming in and creating more competition," Mullen said. "That''s why we do it because of the competition."