Eleven of the 12 Southeastern Conference presidents will meet Sunday at a secret location to discuss the admission of Texas A&M to the league, according to a high-ranking SEC official with first-hand knowledge of the talks.
The official said there was a 30 to 40 percent chance that the presidents could vote against Texas A&M's membership. (The president who will not be there in person will be on speakerphone.) The official said the discussion would also include which university would become the 14th team, something many in college sports will monitor. Clemson, Florida State and Missouri were the schools rumored to be at the top of the list.
But officials from each of those schools denied the various Internet reports Saturday.
"We realize if we do this, we have to have the 14th," the SEC official said. "No name has been thrown out. This thing is much slower out of the chute than the media and blogs have made it."
The official said that three weeks ago, Texas A&M's president, R. Bowen Loftin, called SEC Commissioner Mike Slive and said the Aggies regretted not joining the league last summer. Two weeks ago, Slive and the SEC counsel met with Texas A&M officials. The SEC requested that Texas A&M figure out the legal viability of leaving the Big 12 contract they signed last year.
"They have a contract now," the SEC official said. "We're very sensitive about being part of breaking a contract. What we asked them to do was to go settle their issues and not have us be on the table as the agent of causing them to leave."
Meanwhile, ESPN cited a "high-ranking Texas A&M official" as saying that the Aggies were poised to join the SEC.
But a Texas legislator said Saturday he doesn't believe A&M will leave the Big 12 before a hearing in front of his committee Tuesday.
State Rep. Dan Branch, the chairman of the Texas House Committee on Higher Education, has called a hearing with Big 12, SEC and Texas A&M officials. Texas A&M then moved up a meeting of the board of regents from Aug. 22 to Monday that includes an agenda item about conference realignment.
But Branch said A&M officials told him that moving the meeting wasn't "an attempt to pre-empt legislators' questions and that this will take perhaps a week to two weeks to work out anyway, if a bid is extended."
Clemson denies rumors
Clemson President James Barker said Saturday the school is not changing leagues, despite reports the Tigers might head to the SEC.
"We are committed to the ACC," he said in a statement. "We have had no contact with the SEC."
Clemson surfaced in reports that said the school would possibly join Texas A&M in a move to the SEC as that conference's 13th and 14th teams. The Tigers have been charter members of the ACC since it was formed in 1953.
FSU says 'no discussion'
Florida State President Eric Barron said Saturday that he doesn't know how to make it any clearer: There have been no conversations between university officials with anyone about joining the SEC.
"From coach to (athletics director) to president and the board chair (trustees), there has been no discussion," Barron told The Associated Press. "I feel quite certain if any of those individuals had any discussions, including me, we would have shared it with each other."
Barron, however, sounded more amused than irritated by all the reports.
"There's certainly a lot of scurrying about for sure," he said.
Football coach Jimbo Fisher said the only information he's heard about schools possibly leaving their existing conferences for the SEC is from reporters.
"Nobody has talked to me," Fisher said Saturday when asked about reports that the Seminoles might possibly join Missouri, Clemson and Texas A&M in the SEC. "There is no proposal or anything that I am aware of at all."
Missouri AD: 'Where are we going?'
Denying the credibility of a Twitter post by ESPN's Doug Gottlieb that Missouri appears ready to follow Texas A&M to the SEC, Athletics Director Mike Alden said Saturday that MU has had no discussions on conference membership with any league other than the Big 12.
However, Alden added, he and other Big 12 athletics directors were set to take part in a teleconference call with league commissioner Dan Beebe.
Told that Gottlieb had just tweeted that a "high-ranking Texas A&M official" had told him Missouri, Florida State and Clemson were likely to join A&M in a move to the SEC, Alden responded:
"Where are we going? We haven't had any discussions with anybody else. Our focus, as you know, is on the Big 12."