Texas A&M has taken the next step toward leaving the Big 12 and joining the SEC.

A letter from Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin was delivered Thursday afternoon to Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe to inform Beebe that Texas A&M is exploring its conference options. In the letter, Loftin asked Beebe to outline the procedures required should the Aggies decide to leave the conference.

Read Texas A&M's letter to the Big 12.

"If Texas A&M withdraws from the Conference, we want to do so in a way that complies with the Bylaws and is supportive of your efforts to seek a new member of the Conference," Loftin wrote in the letter. "We would appreciate your conferring with the other member institutions and outlining for us the process to be followed by Texas A&M should it withdraw from the Conference."

The letter is similar to the one sent last year by Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman shortly before the Cornhuskers left the Big 12 for the Big Ten. At the time, it also appeared Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, Colorado would leave the Big 12 and join the Pac-10. Only Colorado left. Beebe worked with television partners ESPN and Fox to stitch together a financial package attractive enough to keep the other schools in the conference. As part of the reformation of the 10-school Big 12, exit penalties were stiffened to discourage further departures.

Hostility bubbled to the surface again earlier this year when the Longhorn Network -- a joint venture between Texas and ESPN -- announced plans to televise one Big 12 football game a year as well as plans to televise high school games. The NCAA has stepped in and scuttled the network's plans to televise high school games, but the Aggies, who also flirted with the SEC last year, were sufficiently alarmed. After a meeting last month to discuss the Longhorn Network's impact, Loftin contacted the SEC.

Thursday's letter does not guarantee a withdrawal from the Big 12. Texas A&M has yet to apply for admission to the SEC, and the SEC has yet to extend an invitation. But after Thursday's move, it would be difficult for the Aggies to remain in the Big 12.

"As I have indicated previously, we are working very deliberately to act in the best long-term interests of both Texas A&M and the state of Texas," Loftin said in the statement. "This truly is a 100-year decision. While we understand the desire of all parties to quickly reach a resolution, these are extremely complex issues that we are addressing methodically.

"Ultimately, 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. As a public university, Texas A&M owes it to the state's taxpayers to maximize our assets and generate additional revenues both now and well into the future."

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