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SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 27, 2011
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon and welcome to today's Southeastern Conference, Texas A&M media conference. Joining us today will be SEC Commissioner Mike Slive and Dr. Bowen Loftin, president of Texas A&M University. We'll have each begin with some opening remarks and then proceed to take questions from the media.
At this time we'll begin with opening remarks from Texas A&M University president Dr. Bowen Loftin.
DR. BOWEN LOFTIN: Howdy, as we say at Texas A&M. We're proud to be part of the SEC family today. We have gone through a great experience last night. Commissioner Slive, the chair of the SEC, chancellors and presidents, Dr. Bernie Machen, joined us last night in College Station for what was like a wedding celebration. We had a lot of formal celebrations, a lot of informal celebrations as well. Had a great time.
We're delighted to be part of this new family and we're delighted to see Texas become part of SEC territory.
Our decision process in reaching this point, we certainly back as early as late spring of 2010 began thinking about this because of the potential at that time for the Big 12 Conference to dissolve based on the departure of several members of it to the PAC-10. At that time we began a very serious look at different conference options for Texas A&M University, in addition to going to the PAC-10, did the homework to understand where the best fit was.
At that time we even saw early that the SEC was the best fit for Texas A&M athletically, academically and culturally as well. For the time being the Big 12 last year hung together after the departure of Nebraska and Colorado. But this year, again, we had issues arise that made the conference at best to be very unstable so we resumed our discussions internally about conference alignment, which led to a July 21st telephone call from me to Commissioner Slive to initiate conversations which culminated yesterday with our celebration.
Our reason for being in the SEC are multi-fold but primarily relate to the national stage it provides for our student-athletes and for our university. We're so very pleased about the media markets available to the SEC and are now very happy to see Texas being a major part of that.
We see the opportunity for growing so many ways with our SEC friends and partners. We look for this to be something that will bring us much-needed stability to our programs for many years to come.
I'll pause right there and defer to the Commissioner.
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with SEC Commissioner Mike Slive with opening comments.
COMMISSIONER MIKE SLIVE: President Bowen, thank you very much for joining us on the call and hosting us last night. I am delighted to reiterate to you as I did to Aggie Land yesterday how pleased we are to have Texas A&M in the family and want to welcome you again this afternoon.
It was a great event last night. The passion and the excitement of your fans and everyone involved at A&M was so evident, it certainly makes us very excited about our future together.
As you indicated, Texas A&M is a great fit for the SEC academically, athletically and culturally. When push came to shove, it was clear to our presidents and chancellors unanimously that once you applied and we worked through some issues that we were delighted to have you as part of our family.
As part of the process of welcoming Texas A&M into the conference, we have put together a transition team within our office to work on scheduling and all other aspects of integrating Texas A&M into the SEC. We were able to introduce members of our transition team last night to members of Texas A&M's transition team. They will work together and will develop scheduling options for review along with all the other areas that require integration such as television, championships and other areas, then our transition team will develop options for athletic directors to consider. Obviously time is of the essence and we're working on this on a daily basis.
So it's still early. Texas A&M has been part of the SEC now for about three days and we'll let everyone know when we have something to report as we work to fully integrate the university into our family.
THE MODERATOR: We'll proceed with questions from the media.
Q. Mike, you mentioned last night you had a look-in in your contract. Is that the CBS contract and when will those discussions take place? Dr. Loftin, you mentioned last evening that Texas A&M wishes to continue its relationship with Texas athletically. Does it feel the same way about Texas Tech and Baylor?
COMMISSIONER MIKE SLIVE: I don't think I got the first part of your question. You're talking about our television contracts.
Q. Yes. You mentioned you had a look-in coming up.
COMMISSIONER MIKE SLIVE: Let me clarify that a little bit.
Almost every conference television contract has a couple of parts to it. One part is what we call the conference composition component where if there's a change in conference composition we can sit down and talk about that as it impacts the agreement. We have that standard clause in our agreement. That's one piece.
We have something somewhat maybe unique. This is in the ESPN contract. It's called a look-in. The look-in, when we entered into 15 years, that's a long time, so we knew that things change, so we put into the agreement the concept of a look-in.
That means that periodically, when either side wants to, we can take time out, meet, look into the agreement based on all the changes in the landscape, changes in technology. The bottom line is to make sure that both sides of the agreement get the basis of the bargain that they came to the table with at the outset.
So we will certainly be doing that with ESPN.
As to CBS, we are in the process of scheduling a negotiation with CBS sometime this fall. Obviously we will sit down and talk to them about the change in our league and how we believe that impacts the current relationship that we have in all of its aspects.
DR. BOWEN LOFTIN: I've said many times that we certainly would welcome the ability to continue our rivalry with University of Texas at Austin. It's 117 years old, I believe. Very much a fabric part of Texas A&M University and also of UT Austin, I believe.
Having said that, if you want to look at football opportunities beyond that for non-conference play, that poses some real difficulties. I think it's very feasible to think in every so many years looking at playing other traditional rivals in Texas, such as Texas Tech and Baylor, but it would be difficult to do that every year because of the limited number of non-conference games we have.
Looking to other sports, there's many other opportunities there. We have a hot rivalry with Baylor in terms of women's basketball and we anticipate being able to play them if they're willing to do so as well.
We see opportunities for the full range of sports to be able to play many of our traditional rivals here. Clearly in the case of football, there's limited number of opportunities for non-conference games. Things need to be looked at before we make any more commitments than we've made publicly.
Q. Mike, you said yesterday you anticipate the SEC being a 13-team league next year. Are you definitively saying there will be 13 in 2013 or is there a door open if another candidate comes along?
COMMISSIONER MIKE SLIVE: Exactly as I said last night, we anticipate being a 13-team league in 2012/13. Let me add something to what I said last night.
First, there are no institutions currently under consideration by the SEC's presidents and chancellors. Secondly, we have not received any applications from any institution other than Texas A&M.
Q. When is the point that the SEC absolutely must know how many members you're going to have next year?
COMMISSIONER MIKE SLIVE: I don't know if there's a particular point. Obviously, as I said, when Texas A&M applied to our league, I'll go back and reiterate a couple things, one is that we were not looking to expand. As I said last year, we have been strategic and thoughtful when thinking about expansion.
When A&M expressed an interest in coming to the SEC, we realized that Texas A&M, by any measure, was a great fit for the conference. It was an opportunity in our final analysis that our presidents and chancellors decided this was a very important long-term decision for the Southeastern Conference as we think ahead over the next several decades.
We understood when we agreed to take Texas A&M that that was 13. We also understood that scheduling is not easy with 13. We knew that. We are going to continue to be strategic and thoughtful when we think about any further expansion.
So I guess, as I said yesterday, we anticipate being a 13-team league in 2012.
Q. Commissioner Slive, is there any way to quantify what an economic impact would be for the SEC on bringing Texas A&M into the league, be it television contracts or other?
COMMISSIONER MIKE SLIVE: Well, I don't think I can sit here today and tell you that we're able to quantify that. The focus of the discussions of our presidents and chancellors, as you would expect, had really to do with the quality of Texas A&M. They're an AAU institution. They have 50,000 students. They have one of the largest endowments in the country in terms of sports. They are nationally competitive, as we are. They have a huge fan base that are just as passionate as the fans in our league.
We thought about them really in those terms. To say that we don't know what state they're located in would be somewhat naÃ¯ve. But it really was about the quality of this institution.
Over time, as we integrate Texas A&M into our league, as we move ahead in the future, I am sure there will be some added value. But for me to be able to quantify it is really not possible at this point.
Q. You mentioned scheduling a renegotiation with CBS. With those look-ins with the ESPN contract, is that something that will be looked at this year as well? Also I'm assuming Texas A&M will go in as a member of the SEC West and there will be seven teams in that?
COMMISSIONER MIKE SLIVE: We will be 'looking in' this calendar year and throughout next year. I mentioned to you that we had this transition team in place. Obviously it makes sense to me that Texas A&M be in the west, but I don't want to get ahead of our transition team. I don't want to get ahead of our ADs. We're going to let them work through all these issues.
Q. Commissioner, I'm wondering how many teams, how many schools, discussions, how many programs were considered, and was there anything that stood out that you were looking for?
COMMISSIONER MIKE SLIVE: I can't emphasize enough this has really been all about Texas A&M. Texas A&M came to us. We have not initiated any conversations with any institution. This was about Texas A&M, understanding some of the complexities that 13 brings. That's really it.
Q. (Question the Arkansas/A&M game staying in Dallas.)
DR. BOWEN LOFTIN: Like you heard Bill Byrne last night, my AD, he was pretty clear in saying we value the ability to play in that market. It assists in recruiting. It assists Arkansas as well. Clearly this is not a decision we would make by ourselves. It's one we have to talk about with our colleagues at Arkansas very closely and carefully to see what really makes sense for both of us.
Again, I think both of us value the location because of the recruiting potential. Again, we make this decision ultimately as a part of the SEC along with Arkansas and the Commissioner's team.
Q. Mike, I know you said you're not sure about how the realignment will come. Assuming A&M was in the west, would you envision everybody playing one less team in the east?
COMMISSIONER MIKE SLIVE: You're way ahead of everybody. Remember, Texas A&M has been in our league for three days. Our transition team is working on these issues in terms of scheduling.
We understand it's not easy. We understand it's particularly difficult in football. The transition team is hard at work on it. We'll be convening our ADs in the next several weeks and they'll begin to view the different options we can put together.
I really just don't want to get out in front of all that at this point.
Q. Mike, you're happy with 13. What at this point would it take to make 14 appealing? What would change that isn't there now?
COMMISSIONER MIKE SLIVE: At this point we have been very, very careful and strategic and thoughtful about thinking about expansion. The question would be ultimately, we wanted to get Texas A&M into our league and get that completed and begin to work on integrating them. Obviously we're a league that has had some success, and we value the kinds of institutions we have in this league. So we'll just see how the future plays out.
Q. Can you talk about what emotionally it's been like for y'all?
DR. BOWEN LOFTIN: Emotionally, that's a good question I guess. Clearly we went through, over last year and several months recently, a lot of careful soul searching about our future at Texas A&M vis-Ã -vis the Big 12 and our conference affiliations. We felt, again, after a really good look at that that the SEC stood out clearly as the very best fit for Texas A&M.
The emotional part came about because we had to work through some issues that were pretty much in the media play, as you've been aware of. It wasn't straightforward and easy like applying one day and getting in the next. We certainly worked through that, Mike and I together, with other folks on both sides.
I must say this about my colleague, Mike Slive: We bonded well over the last several weeks, my friend.
COMMISSIONER MIKE SLIVE: Maybe the best way to describe it is, as soon as you folks let me off this call, I'm going to go home, sit on my porch and do what I'd like to do best and relax. It's been a complex and intense couple months.
There's also this enormous feeling of satisfaction that the Southeastern Conference has added really one of the preeminent institutions in the country to the family.
Q. Dr. Loftin, Texas A&M's football program has certainly improved in recent years. Last year's game with Arkansas was decided by a touchdown. Do you feel like this coming week is an early chance for the Aggies to prove something to Arkansas and the rest of the SEC?
DR. BOWEN LOFTIN: Every week you prove yourself, sir. That's the clarity of a football game.
We have had, of course, a very long relationship with Arkansas, going way back, so this is not a new issue for us. We see this, though, as a way in which we will initiate now this year our true belonging in the SEC by playing I'll call it a very early conference game for us right now. Looking forward to it. It's going to be a great game. We're both highly ranked teams. A lot of passion out there. We're going to be playing in a great venue.
Q. Can you talk about playing in Cowboy Stadium. Arkansas has many players on their roster from Texas. Talk about the atmosphere.
DR. BOWEN LOFTIN: Well, I'll give you a couple of pointers here. I worry about the freshmen and the sophomores. They tend to gawk at the screen rather than looking at the field itself.
You have to understand, we have about 55,000 former students living in the DFW area. Arkansas has many as well. It's a very good place to be because we have so many of our fans right there, as does Arkansas. So the place will be packed. It will be a great game, televised of course nationally. We're going to have, again, a lot of fun out there.
Q. Commissioner Slive, can you elaborate on how the league handles third-tier rights.
COMMISSIONER MIKE SLIVE: When we put together our television packages, the conference has the rights - talking football first - all of our games belong to the conference package except that we provide one pay-per-view opportunity for each of our institutions on an annual basis.
Our current package involves CBS, the ESPN platforms, ESPN, ESPN-2 and ESPNU, and then we have over the air an SEC Network game that is now in 73 or more million homes. It's the ESPN's third most widely distributed platform on a Saturday. Then in addition we have two cable packages, one with Comcast and one with FOX. So all of our games, except the occasional pay-per-view, go into that.
In basketball, men's basketball, all conference games are televised through the conference. Many non-conference games, the games that are not then televised, are available for our institutions in their local packages.
We did allow our institutions to retain local packages, with the exceptions I just outlined to you, because it's been a long-standing tradition here and our schools have been able to monetize their local package at a very considerable level. That was at that time one of the reasons why we elected to forego the concept of a channel in light of the ability to become nationally distributed at the level we are, plus the ability to preserve local rights to our member institutions.
Q. Except for the pay-per-view, all the other revenue is equally distributed, correct?
COMMISSIONER MIKE SLIVE: Well, you're now asking a very different question. You asked about third-tier rights. I just explained to you how they work.
The SEC distributes its revenue from our conference package equally. We have some very minor appearance fees, but they really don't amount to much. For the most part, all of our institutions get the same amount of money from our package.
Q. Mike, just wondering about this transition team. How many people from Texas A&M, how many from the SEC, what are they going to consider...
COMMISSIONER MIKE SLIVE: We have a point person and then we have three of our senior associates at the executive level, then we have a whole raft of our people. I'll have to let President Loftin respond to the A&M piece.
Last night we were able to put together, for example, the point person - I won't identify him so he won't have to listen to all the phone calls - but we put him together with the folks at Texas A&M to begin some very preliminary conversations that we'll ratchet up in the next several days and next week.
DR. BOWEN LOFTIN: My AD has appointed one of his senior associates to oversee our engagement with the SEC on this particular issue. He has a number of people working, I can't give you the number exactly, but given the number of sports involved here, it will be well over a dozen people probably.
Q. President Loftin, we are dealing a lot with the realities of this addition to the SEC, Texas A&M's inclusion in the short-term. Our job being what it is, the fans' fascination with what's happened over the last few days, where do you see Texas A&M as a cultural fit with the SEC, specifically as far away as Gainesville, Knoxville?
DR. BOWEN LOFTIN: It was a long way to Nebraska, too, sir, and Colorado. We're not necessarily foreign to having to travel a ways to get to a game.
Culturally I go back to what I said earlier. We're a great fit. Eight of the schools in the SEC are land grants like us. We have extraordinary degrees of integration in terms of research, education, agriculture, engineering, areas like that that are quite, quite part of the fabric of the institutions of the SEC and Texas A&M both.
So we're not strangers to each other by any means. We work together, especially Florida and Vanderbilt, because we're part of the AAU. Timmy up at Tennessee is an Aggie himself.
If you go to one of our games, one of their games in the SEC, what do you find? The spirit is out there. It's an extraordinary experience wherever you go. You may recall that Sports Illustrated ranks Kyle Field as the best game-day experience in the country right now. We're right up there with the other SEC schools in that regard.
Our fans will travel. I-10 runs to the east, don't worry about that, we'll get up there.
Q. Mike, knowing the speculation will be ratcheted up now as opposed to leveling off, how does the SEC office deal with what could be a situation that could change depending on what happens everywhere else and within your league as well?
COMMISSIONER MIKE SLIVE: Well, I think we try to do it the way we've always done it. I hate to keep using these words, but I've been using them now for a year and a half. We try to be thoughtful and strategic. Other than phone calls like this, we don't say a whole lot. We try to do our work. We try to do what we think is best for the league.
I know there will be enormous speculation. There will be speculation about how we're going to schedule, whether or not we're going to go to 14, if we're going to go to 14 who is that going to be, how is that going to happen, when is it going to happen. I understand that. They're all appropriate questions.
But we will deal with those carefully on a timetable that works for us. We have operated here with integrity. We responded to an inquiry from Texas A&M. I think there will be a lot of swirling around us. But in the meantime we'll try to keep our head about us and continue to develop this league in a thoughtful way that ensures our success for generations to come.
Taking Texas A&M, notwithstanding some of the difficult short-term issues, is an investment in the long-term strength and success of the Southeastern Conference long after I'm gone.
Q. I know you've been asked this question, but what was your response saying there was an informal offer made to Missouri?
COMMISSIONER MIKE SLIVE: You know me well enough to know that I don't discuss institutions. So let me reiterate what I said last night. I'm happy to do it for you.
I said last night, we had a great celebration in College Station. I was asked a similar question. I said that we anticipate being a 13-team league in 2012/13. I wanted to add a couple other thoughts for you. One is there are no other institutions under consideration by the SEC's presidents and chancellors and we have not received any applications from any institution other than Texas A&M.
Q. President Loftin, Texas is a great recruiting ground. How much good does the SEC benefit football and the entire athletic department?
DR. BOWEN LOFTIN: If I heard your question right, it's about the recruiting benefits.
There are four thousand high schools in Texas roughly. That's a lot of kids. They play football. They want to go to the NFL. They know where the most NFL players come from each year. They want to play baseball. They know the legend of the SEC. You recall this past season, we were knocked out early in the College World Series by the potential winner of the series, South Carolina. So there's a lot of people looking east all the time to see the great teams, great competitions, great rivalries within the SEC.
I think given four thousand high schools full of talented young people here in Texas, we're going to have even better recruiting than ever before at Texas A&M. I think it's going to stand us in good stead with our colleagues in the SEC.
Q. How does it help you to dip into Florida, Georgia, those states?
DR. BOWEN LOFTIN: We'll probably do that if people reach out to us. I don't see us going out and beating the bushes. The coaches will be the ones that make that decision with the AD's support. I don't get into that detail. But there's four thousand high schools in Texas, guys. You don't have to go very far to find talent around here.
Clearly markets like Georgia and Mississippi are great places, but they're much smaller. When you're trying to maximize your recruiting efforts, you go where you have the most bodies. We'll be open selectively to recruiting anywhere in the country for that matter. When it comes down to it, we have a great place in Texas to go to.
Q. Commissioner Slive, Dr. Loftin obviously addressed the fact that Texas A&M has done its share of traveling to league games. You have an entire league now that LSU is the only school within 500 miles of Texas A&M. I know a couple of coaches came out last week expressing their concerns about fans traveling during these economic times. But how concerned are you about some of these fan bases being able to make trips like this?
COMMISSIONER MIKE SLIVE: Those are the kind of questions that our league, our office had to consider at the front end. Obviously we hope our fans will travel. But the decision to take Texas A&M factored all elements of the relationship into consideration. So you can just assume that we reviewed that, we understand those issues. But on balance we felt that the addition of Texas A&M, with whatever issues relating to that, was worth doing, and obviously still feel that way.
As rivalries develop, we hope that their fans will travel to our games and that our fans will travel to their games.
Q. Are you pretty confident that the current existing rivalries that have existed, some for 100 years, do you feel most every one of those can be protected even with just the addition of one team?
COMMISSIONER MIKE SLIVE: If you weren't on the call a little earlier, I'll tell you I don't want to preempt the work of the transition team. There are people on the transition team that have spent their lives scheduling games and are as good as anybody in the country. We're going to let them do their work and then present some of their thinking to our athletic directors, and then at some point in time we'll have some answers that we'll be able to share with you.
Q. Dr. Loftin, is Texas A&M rethinking its third-tier from a digital platform? Have you had any conversations with Judge Starr at Baylor for any sort of litigation arising from this move, given that there is a statute to the of limitations that runs for a couple years?
DR. BOWEN LOFTIN: We some months ago engaged a talented consultant to help Texas A&M look forward to its future in terms of better utilizing its third-tier rights. That's in play right now, so I have no answers for you yet. We are working very actively with our consultant and internal team to do the very best we can to make certain that we provide the best access we can to the rights we retain at Texas A&M for our fan base, exposing our athletes to every bit of the public that we can and to secure the best revenues from that. So that's ongoing right now. I think over the next six months to a year, we'll be talking much more publicly about our plans in this particular area.
I have not spoken to Judge Starr specifically. I engaged Thursday of last week in a teleconference meeting of the Big 12 directors, I'm still a member of that group, and there was I think fairly good amity among the group that day. Clearly based upon the decision of Oklahoma, there was a sense of stability in the conference going forward. It was accepted at that point clearly by the conversation I heard that Texas A&M was no longer going to continue as a member of the Big 12, even prior to the announcement made by the SEC more recently.
I had no indications personally from anyone there during that conference call that there was going to be any animosity directed at A&M since there was a clarity there that the Big 12 was going to be stable and, in fact, their expansion committee was reenacted that day. If there's no harm done to the members of the Big 12 that remain, there's really no basis for litigation.
Q. Mike, with adding the Aggies, do you think you can add another bowl game to your tie-ins?
COMMISSIONER MIKE SLIVE: That's a good question. We have nine now, and we've sent two up. But it is something we will look at. We will look at it. We have to take a look at the historical data to see how that plays out in terms of how many bowl-eligible teams we've had over the last five or 10 years to see what that would look like.
Again, I would send that back to the transition team. That definitely is one of the kinds of issues that we're looking at.
Q. Mike, I know you thought about this kind of thing. Have you thought about a first SEC game featuring A&M against an opponent in a special time slot or day?
COMMISSIONER MIKE SLIVE: You're right, I have thought about that. In my non-scheduling mind, I could conjure up a heck of an event. But actually the president and I have talked about that in the past as we've tried to bring this to culmination. I've asked the transition team to take a look at that to see if there is something we could work out.
It would be a lot of fun.
Q. Given where you are now, is there any thought to rescinding the two-team limit in the BCS?
COMMISSIONER MIKE SLIVE: No call would be complete, right (laughter)?
Q. I had to ask.
COMMISSIONER MIKE SLIVE: I do know this. Bill Hancock has put together a list of issues that he believes the commissioners and then the BCS bowl oversight committee ought to be looking at as the BCS develops its position on upcoming negotiations. I think that's one of them.
Q. That's going forward?
COMMISSIONER MIKE SLIVE: I think you have to talk to Bill. I don't want to put myself in Bill's head here.
Q. That would be one of them going forward after the current contract?
COMMISSIONER MIKE SLIVE: I think there are going to be several issues important enough to have serious discussion about, and that would be one of them.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you all.
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