So, if A&M makes the plunge, what's next? First, Read Part I here. Second, remember that A&M isn't in the SEC yet, and a lot can happen before Monday. Texas has proven to be incredibly resourceful in a shifting landscape.
One of the common mistakes fans make is that they think the current football landscape will continue like it is forever, and that it is has been this way forever. Programs rise and fall. Hell, even Bama has a losing season from time to time.*
*Speaking of which... Bama fans... you are getting verrrrrry sleepy.... verrrrry sleepy... you want to hire another one of Don Shula's kids.... verrrrry sleepy.....
This brings us to the interesting case of Baylor. Baylor did not force their way into the Big XII through politics, as the popular stroyline goes. They did use politics to "encourage" the Big 8 to expand to 12 teams instead of 10. And once the Big 8 made that decision -- Baylor and Tech were the only logical choices.
After A&M and Texas bolted from the SWC, only three of the remaining six schools were NOT on NCAA probation. And one of them was Rice, a school that had almost no interest in fielding a competitive football team.
Since joining the Big XII, Tech has enjoyed the greatest run of success in its history and Baylor has suffered through its worst stretch of football. Of course, greatest stretch is a relative term. Baylor and Tech have the same number of Big XII title game appearances: zero. But Tech has clearly been on a real run of success, flipping their traditional rankings. Baylor still has more wins all-time than Tech, and has had one less ranked team. Baylor has four outright conference titles, which is four more than Tech. Neither school is a powerhouse, but Baylor was better before the formation of the Big XII, only to be passed over the past decade.
I'm not entirely convinced Tech's resurgence is for real, or just a blip because they had a terrific coach who they since ran off. Now, football obviously drives the train, and Tech holds the advantage over Baylor there, though I am not sure their superior football is permanent. Otherwise, Baylor beats Tech on every other metric that is used to measure athletic departments. Baylor has won more overall conference titles and more national titles. Baylor's actually middle of the pack in Big XII conference titles. Baylor also has better academics and a larger endowment, which people say they care about.
The point is not that Baylor is some must-have, but that Tech is not nearly as attractive as you think. Baylor has a well-rounded athletic department, a credible football tradition, and would probably thrive in the Mountain West. The question is how Baylor, and Tech, will act in the possible post-Big XII world.
But the interesting thing is what happened to TCU. TCU was left behind by the expansion because A) they weren't as good back then and B) they were on probation. But getting left out of the Big XII has been the best thing that has ever happened to the Frogs.
They used it as motivation to build a mid-major powerhouse and last year, the Frogs made it to the Rose Bowl. There is probably no chance this happens if TCU went to the Big XII. The demotion to the bottom rungs of Division I actually sparked a revival of their football program. Which begs the question, can history repeat itself?
Baylor better hope so. But the demise of the Big XII could be the best thing that happened to Baylor. Their secondary sports are still really good, and their football could improve by simply no longer being Texas and Oklahoma's punching bag. sometimes it's good to fight in your weight class. It certainly helped TCU.
When the SWC collapsed, TCU had not won a conference title since 1959 (I'm not counting that 1994 five-way tie). Since then, TCU has won six conference titles and won at least 10 games eight times. That is a complete reversal of fortunes.
The member schools of the Big 12 live in constant fear that their conference is about to die. It's why Texas wields such disproportionate power. Only Mizzou and Oklahoma can really be confident of finding a major conference home in a post-Big XII world (though Kansas and Oklahoma St should also be optimistic).
The rest of the conference feels they have no other options. But they honestly do. Just look at TCU. It's a hard road, and it required a lot of things to break right, but there was a place for a forward-thinking AD in a post-major conference world.
Then again, you could end up being Houston. Or worse yet, Rice. Which is why teams stick with the devil they know. You don't go down the road TCU did unless you don't have a choice.
If A&M joins the SEC, no one has any idea what the college football landscape will look like in 20 years. Pretty much everybody has been consistently wrong over this past year (remember the Pac-16?), and I see no reason for the streak to end. The future is unknowable. The longer the timeline, the harder to predict.
Well, except for the fact the SEC will still be the best conference. Duh.