Texas A&M to depart the Big 12 by July

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HOUSTON — The official Texas A&M fight song includes a line that bids farewell to Texas, “so long to the orange and white.” By this time next year, Texas A&M may have said goodbye to a lot more than its storied, century-old rivalry with Texas.

Texas A&M announced Wednesday that it will leave the Big 12 Conference by July 2012 if it can find another home, preferably in the SEC.

The decision could set off another round of conference realignment in college sports and it raises questions about the future of the Big 12, which is starting the football season with 10 teams after losing Nebraska and Colorado. The Big 12 said it would move quickly to find at least one replacement for the Aggies but offered no timeline.

“The presidents and chancellors of the nine remaining member institutions are steadfast in their commitment to the Big 12,” Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe said in a statement. “As previously stated, the conference will move forward aggressively exploring its membership options.”

The Southeastern Conference said it had not received an application from Texas A&M to join the league and that it would have no further comment. The SEC has reaffirmed its 12-school membership, but remains open to expansion talks.

Leaving the Big 12 “is in the best interest of Texas A&M,” said university President R. Bowen Loftin, who formally notified the league with a letter after earlier securing details on the withdrawal process. He said he hopes the move can be amicable and presumably hopes to negotiate a reasonable exit fee.

“We are seeking to generate greater visibility nationwide for Texas A&M and our championship-caliber student-athletes, as well as secure the necessary and stable financial resources to support our athletic and academic programs,” Loftin said.

Texas A&M, which has been in the Big 12 since its founding in 1996, said it will submit an application to join another, unspecified conference. If accepted, Texas A&M will leave the Big 12, effective June 30, 2012.

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