BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive said he remains hopeful Texas A&M will join the league by next season and that the SEC has started to look at schedules for next year involving 13 teams.
In a statement Monday, Slive also said the SEC was not currently looking to expand beyond Texas A&M.
The SEC has no "immediate plans" to add a 14th team, he said. Slive said the conference isn't "thinking in terms of numbers" and that the league only considers the strength of the SEC and the "attractiveness of Texas A&M as an institution."
SEC presidents voted to accept Texas A&M last week, but the invitation was contingent on Texas A&M being free of legal issues regarding its departure from the Big 12. Several Big 12 schools, including Baylor, have said they have not waived their right to consider litigation.
Slive was once again adamant Monday that Texas A&M approached the SEC about membership and that the league was not trying to poach schools from other conferences. But his statement is more proof that conference realignment is closer to reality.
"In the 78 year history of the SEC, the conference had accepted the membership applications of only two institutions — Arkansas and South Carolina," Slive said. "Texas A&M is now the third ... As I said over the past year or so, the SEC has had no particular interest in expansion. We were, and are, happy with 12 teams.
"If Texas A&M's President, Dr. Bowen Loftin had not called me in late July, we had no plans to explore adding an institution."
Slive said it was "impossible" not to be interested in the possibility of adding Texas A&M. The Aggies would give the league a stronghold in a state that has more than 25 million people, is known for its passionate fans and has a plethora of high school football recruits.
"Texas A&M is an outstanding academic institution with an exceptional athletic program, passionate fans and wonderful traditions," Slive said. "... As you can see from the unanimous vote of our twelve Presidents/Chancellors, we would very much like to have Texas A&M as a member of our conference."
Slive's statements are also an indication that the Big 12's current 10-team roster is on shaky ground.
Loftin said last week that Texas A&M was being "held hostage" by the Big 12. The Big 12's future has been the subject of debate for more than a year. Nebraska (Big Ten) and Colorado (Pac-12) left in July, while Oklahoma and Oklahoma State reportedly been eyeing the Pac-12.