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SEC Expansion 2011: It's Not You, Texas A&M, It's Me

Relationships are hard, and now's just not the right time. One SEC fan takes it upon himself to let the Aggies down easy.

Dear Texas A&M,

Wow. This is a tough letter to write, because, well, I never really pictured myself -- or my conference, I should say -- in this position. This is probably going to sound so snotty, but when you're the SEC, you entertain advances from all sorts of wannabes and hangers-on, some of whom really get what you're all about, most of whom just want to glom onto the money and influence that comes with being the top conference in college football. It's rare for someone to make as bold and as serious an advance as you've made. I gotta admit, Texas A&M, there's a part of me that respects you for it.

But I'm gonna have to let you down gently here, Aggies, because I just don't think it's a good idea for us to jump into a relationship right now. No, no, it's not because of you or anything you did -- well, OK, it's a little weird for any school that isn't a service academy to be running around in military uniforms. And all right, fine, since you pressed me, I still have no idea what this is all about. But in the end -- and I can say this honestly, as much as it sounds like a cliché -- it's not you, A&M, it's me. Or us. Let me explain.

I know every conference out there seems to be in a hurry to get hitched these days. My parents have been talking non-stop about it. Some good friends of mine have even started applying the pressure -- "When are you gonna settle down and form a superconference?" "I see you chatting with those nice guys from College Station and Columbia all the time -- how is it you're not interested in pursuing anything further with them?" I know they're not trying to be pushy -- after all, we were the first conference to go to 12 teams and start a league championship game, and that's worked out like gangbusters so far. Not only that, but everyone's been following in our wake ever since. I won't lie, it feels good to be at the front of a trend.

But this "superconference" thing -- you ever looked at something and thought, "Man, that might be great for some people, but it's just not for me"? You have to understand, Aggies, the SEC is a country girl at heart. We were brought up in towns like Athens and Tuscaloosa and Oxford and Gainesville, where tradition means everything. And yeah, our family is just as nuts as everyone else's, if not more so, and they fight and kick and scream and raise holy hell whenever they get together, but in the end, we're a pretty close-knit group. What we've got going now works for us -- we've won the last five national titles, and we're 7-0 in BCS national championship games -- so put yourself in our shoes. Would you mess with that just for the sake of messing with it?

Look, I harbor no delusions about our future. Down the road, I'm sure we'll find the right someone (or someones, most likely) and start a superconference of our own. We've got dreams like everyone else. But for right now, we've got a career to think about. And some people might say that's selfish, but who are they to judge? I want us to win a few more national titles, land a bigger TV contract . . . it's all right there in front of us, A&M. And some might say becoming a superconference would only make that easier, but I'm not so sure.

Let me tell you about this other conference I know, the WAC. Just a few years after we went to 12 teams, she decided to take the plunge and go to 16. I thought she was a little young to go the superconference route, and I'll be honest, some of the guys she was hanging around with were not folks I held in the highest of regard -- but I held my tongue because I knew if I said anything it'd just sound catty. Well, you know how long that marriage lasted? Three years, and then it was an ugly divorce. Eight of her schools broke off to do their own thing, and a few years after that she was reduced to hooking up with Sun Belt teams just to make the rent. Now I see her around and she's this dried-up shell, throwing herself at sketchy D-IAA schools who've only had a football team for a year or two, just so she can feel like a real conference. (I'm tempted to say she's trying to be a cougar, but the Cougars went independent.) It's one of the saddest things I've ever seen, but there's not much any of us can do for her at this point.

Let's face it: Going to 14 or 16 teams is a huge commitment. Heck, even holding 12 teams together is more work than people think, and you know that, right? I mean, if you guys can't make a relationship between Texas and Nebraska work, what hope is there for the rest of us?

I'm teasing you, of course, but in all seriousness, I'm just not ready for us to commit to becoming a superconference right now. Yeah, it may be "the wave of the future," but based on what I've seen, I'm perfectly happy to let someone else pioneer that trend before I commit to it. I figured that would be the Pac-12 -- you know those folks out west, they kind of have their own ideas about relationships and whatnot -- but even they're not so sure that's the way they want to go. Which is fine: They'll do what's best for them, whatever that is, and we'll do what's best for us. If we ever do decide to go the superconference route, I know there'll be someone out there for us. But we've got a lot of living to do before we get there.

I know you're hurting right now, Texas A&M, but that doesn't make this a good decision. I don't want the SEC to be anyone's rebound, and if you hooked up with us just because you're mad at Texas, that's all we'd be. Take it from someone who's been doing this 12-team thing longer than anyone, Aggies: Stick around. Try and make this relationship work. Not saying you and the Longhorns have to become soul mates or anything, but maybe y'all can find your comfort zone. And maybe a couple years down the road you find a nice Mountain West or Conference USA program that makes you happy, and before you know it you're back at 12 teams and you've got a conference championship game again.

I don't blame you for wanting to put a ring on our finger, Aggies but at the risk of sounding stuck-up, we've got all the rings we can handle right now. You're probably disappointed, but trust me, it's for the best. And who knows, maybe we are perfect for each other, but if it's meant to happen, it'll happen. Right? For right now, we just gotta do our own thing. I hope you understand.

Best of luck,

Doug Gillett

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.