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Texas holds the key in Big 12

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — With the future of the Big 12 at stake, University of Texas regents have scheduled a meeting for next week to decide whether the Longhorns will remain in the fast-disintegrating league or switch to another conference.

Texas is considered the lynchpin to the Big 12's survival, particularly after the league lost Nebraska (Big Ten) and Colorado (Pac-10) in a matter of two days this week. The regents said they will hold a meeting in Austin on Tuesday for "discussion and appropriate action regarding athletic conference membership."

The Pac-10 is reportedly interested in inviting Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech to form a 16-team league. Texas Tech officials also scheduled a Tuesday meeting.

Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe said Friday he is still working to convince the remaining 10 members to stay put.

"We've had a lot of positive feedback about the desire of those institutions to (stay) together," Beebe said. "There's been a lot of speculation about people going west ... I'm going all the way to the final whistle. I'm playing it out as hard and fast as I can."

Still, Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin said the rapid changes are forcing the school to consider other options.

"We're still working through the issues," Loftin said. "We're also waiting to see what happens with other schools. We were very happy to stay in the Big 12, the way it was. It's changing now, and we need to figure out what that means.

"The Big 12 is not what it was, and we have to think about its future, and ours."

Iowa State president Gregory Geoffroy said the future of the Big 12 was up to Texas.

"If the University of Texas were to decide that they want to be a member of the Big 12, then I'm confident the Big 12 would stay together," he said. "If the University of Texas decides they do not wish to and wish to do something else, then I think the conference will be greatly altered."

Longhorns athletic director DeLoss Dodds has said he wants to keep the Big 12 together. It was not immediately clear if scheduling the regents meeting meant those efforts have failed.

"Our goals and hopes all along have been to keep the Big 12 Conference intact," Dodds said in a statement. "It is both premature and inappropriate to speculate on what our UT System Regents will discuss at next Tuesday's meeting. But, as the dynamics of the Big 12 continue to change around us, we will utilize additional time to continue our work and evaluate our options."

A spokesman for the Texas regents said the nine members would not comment before the meeting. Texas president William Powers Jr., was out of town Friday and unavailable for comment.

Texas would need the regents' approval to change leagues. The meeting is required to be publicly posted 72 hours in advance, which would give Dodds the weekend to keep working if he thinks the Big 12 is salvageable.

Texas A&M, which is reported to be considering a move to the Southeastern Conference, has not scheduled a regents meeting. Loftin would not comment on speculation that A&M is considering moves to the SEC or the Pac-10, or say if the school was leaning toward one league over another.

"I can say that the first consideration in any decision involving conference realignment is the athletes' well-being," he said. "Geography has to be a part of the equation, and then, maintaining a strong academic program and keeping that in place will be paramount.

"We're also a school that has a very strong consciousness for traditions, and that's a part of this, too," he said. "You have many factors in play here, none of which I would say is dominant."

Loftin said he would like A&M and Texas to continue their annual football rivalry, even if the teams end up in different leagues.

Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw reiterated his school's desire for the four Texas teams from the Big 12 to "remain aligned" in the same conference — preferably the Big 12. Baylor, the league's only private school, would likely be left behind if Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech leave for other leagues.

"We're focused on keeping the Big 12 together and maintaining the rivalries that we've enjoyed with our four Big 12 Texas brothers," he said. "Those traditions go over the last 100 years and we certainly want to do everything we can to maintain those rivalries within the conference structure. "

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AP Sports Writers Chris Duncan in Houston, Betsy Blaney in Lubbock, Texas, Luke Meredith in Ames, Iowa, and Stephen Hawkins in Dallas contributed to this report.