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For now, SEC will stick with its 12 schools

Sunday, August 14, 2011 | 4:53 p.m. CDT; updated 5:09 p.m. CDT, Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Southeastern Conference is staying just as it is — for now.

University of Florida President Bernie Machen, the chairman of the league's presidents and chancellors committee, said the group met Sunday and "reaffirmed our satisfaction with the present 12 institutional alignment."

Machen said no action was taken regarding Texas A&M or any other schools. He did not, however, close the door on change.

"We recognize, however, that future conditions may make it advantageous to expand the number of institutions in the league," Machen said in a statement. "We discussed criteria and process associated with expansion."

The Aggies reportedly are looking to leave the Big 12. The Texas A&M System board of regents is to meet Monday, and among the items on the agenda is conference alignment.

A&M President R. Bowen Loftin said in a statement Sunday there is "a considerable amount of misinformation" regarding the school and the SEC. Loftin said he did not participate in Sunday's meeting with the SEC, but is authorized by the regents to "take all actions related to athletic conference alignment."

Texas State Rep. Dan Branch, the chairman of the Texas House Committee on Higher Education, called a hearing before his committee for Tuesday with Big 12, SEC and Texas A&M officials. Loftin said he has accepted Branch's invitation.

"These are extremely complex issues, and it is imperative that we proceed methodically and in the best interests of Texas A&M," Loftin said.

Arkansas Chancellor Dave Gearhart was at the meeting and said A&M was among a number of topics discussed.

"It was really an open discussion, not just about A&M but about the future of the conference and the future of other conferences," Gearhart said. "We did talk about Texas A&M. It's a great university, a great place. But I think the decision was to make no decision at this particular time."

Gearhart said the SEC presidents and chancellors are "very comfortable" with the 12-team alignment, financially and competitively. But he, too, said they wouldn't rule out expansion.

"If some other conference is going to make changes, it behooves us to take a look at that," said Gearhart.

He added: "I think everybody will sort of be watching what happens in Texas and what they do."

Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe and the conference's board of directors discussed the future of the conference and Texas A&M's possible departure during a conference call Saturday.

"The board strongly conveyed to Texas A&M its unanimous desire that it remain a Big 12 member, and acknowledged its value to the conference," the Big 12 said in a statement Saturday night.

The Aggies' football team went about business as usual Sunday with a two-hour morning practice indoors.

Coach Mike Sherman has said that he's not in the loop on developments involving the SEC. He was not available for comment after Sunday's first workout, but said Saturday he and his team are concentrating solely on the Sept. 4 opener against SMU.

The school said athletic director Bill Byrne was traveling back from France and also was not available.


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