Like Scipio in Hispania who saw danger in a combined foe, Mike Slive saw an enlarged Pac 10/16 and a Big 10/16 as a material threat to the SEC. The threat wouldn’t necessarily come on the football field, but the Pac-10 and Big Ten have historically worked together. This togetherness could threaten the SEC hegemony in the only sport that really matters—football.
Keeping with the theme of Scipio in Hispania, Slive wanted to the prevent the conjunction of these forces. He decided to deal with them before they were formed, and he had the opportunity to deal with them individually. In this case, he attacked the weaker entity first, the Pac-10/16.
Slive used the self-interest of Texas against the Longhorn plan to ally with the Pac-10 to form a superconference. Everyone in the Big XII understands the arrogant way the Longhorns have conducted business; the Longhorns view everyone in the Big XII as vassals—subjugated to the cash register of Texas. It has monopolized the cash flow, and created suspicion amongst its conference partners.
Slive used this simmering resentment to his own purpose. He contacted Texas A&M, and A&M hates Texas. The hatred has only increased as Texas conducted secret negotiations with the Pac-10 to form a Pac-16 from part of the Big XII. Chatter coming out of College Station indicated some of the regents resented the second-class way the Pac-10 treated A&M. Contrast that with how the SEC treated A&M—Texas wasn’t the intermediary of the deal. A&M was considered on its own merits.
Whether A&M stays in the reduced Big XII or joins the SEC, the SEC wins. If it joins the SEC, the conference adds the Texas television markets. By leaving a rump Big XII, he prevented the Pac-10’s power from growing. Now the Pac-10 is largely irrelevant in football thanks to the decline of its superpower USC.
With the map of college football about to be redrawn, Slive used his cunning to upset the plans of others. He defended the SEC’s position while making his opposition look bad. The tide of battle could turn at a moment, but today it looks like Mike Slive is winning and the SEC hasn’t added a team. Yet.