Adams favors Texas A&M, to a point

sports@macon.comSeptember 9, 2011 

ATHENS -- When he got to the end of his opening statement to the UGA athletic board on Friday, Georgia president Michael Adams referred to “the elephant in the room.”

Some may have felt Adams meant something else. But he started talking about SEC expansion.

Adams was among the 12 school presidents who had voted earlier in the week to admit Texas A&M as the 13th conference member, pending legal issues. In his first public comments since the Texas A&M-SEC story arose last month, Adams wanted to make one thing clear:

“I think all of us were happy with the way life was, has been for the last 17 years,” Adams said. “This issue did not start with the SEC. It started with undulations in the Big 12. I’m not sure that message has gotten out there as clearly as we might wish it had.”

Texas A&M now seems destined to join the SEC, but first the other Big 12 schools have to resolve not to sue the SEC. Baylor is reportedly the holdout in that conference, and records released under a Georgia open records request show that Adams has been corresponding with Baylor president Kenneth Starr.

Adams said Friday he has heard “from several friends in the Big 12.”

He stated several times that he and the SEC do not want to see that other conference dissolve.

“The thing that matters most to me is trying to do what’s best for the University of Georgia, and that’s what I’ve tried to do through this whole thing,” Adams said. “I’ve cautioned all of us to be responsible, to not get ahead of the process. I think top to bottom this is the strongest conference in America. I think we want, if some of the speculation were to happen, we want to protect our interest. But I don’t think we have to do anything.”

Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity said he hasn’t been “in the loop” on the expansion story. During the meeting of SEC athletics directors in Orlando last month, according to McGarity, he and his colleagues were told they wouldn’t be told what was going on because it was “sensitive information.”

Speaking for himself, McGarity said he felt that expansion would not affect games that schools hold dear.

“I’m just guessing here, but I’m thinking your traditional rivalries will always be maintained,” McGarity said. “I don’t think the SEC is going to do anything with Georgia-Florida, Tennessee and Alabama, Auburn-Georgia. Those are steeped in tradition.”

McGarity and Adams were in agreement that the SEC didn’t necessarily have to add anyone beyond Texas A&M. Many have assumed that the conference would follow up with another addition, possibly three more, in order to get to an even number.

“Take the Big Ten, they had 11 teams for 20 years,” McGarity said. “Penn State came on in 1990, and Nebraska came on in 2010. It worked out fine for all their sports. I’m not really too worried about it. Whatever happens, happens.”

Adams also pushed back on the idea that super-conferences -- basically, 16 teams in the major conference -- were inevitable. That depends on what happens elsewhere.

“The Big Ten has said publicly that they’re happy with life as it is (with 12 teams). The Pac-12 has not quite said it that way,” Adams said, offering a smile with the last sentence. “I think some of the reports have gotten ahead of the reality.”

Finally, Adams was asked what attracted the SEC to Texas A&M.

“Well they’re a great school. And that’s what we look for,” Adams said. “They have a rich tradition. They have a good, strong student body. And they have good leadership. But you could say that about a lot of schools.”

Basketball note

First the SEC got rid of divisions in men’s basketball. Now it appears set to expand the conference schedule by two games.

McGarity said he and his colleagues approved an 18-team schedule at last month’s meetings. The only hang-up now is who would play who.

“That is the piece that’s being discussed now. How does that work,” he said.

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