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September 8, 2011 2:56 PM

Robinson Bradshaw, Polsinelli Shughart Get Call on Aggies' Big 12 End Run

Posted by Brian Baxter

UPDATES: 9/8/11, 10:00 p.m., EDT. Baylor will not waive its right to sue the SEC unless the University of Oklahoma Sooners, a fellow Big 12 member, commit to remaining in the conference, according to ESPN.com. In addition to Oklahoma, three other Big 12 schools have waived their rights to sue: the University of Texas, Texas Tech University, and Oklahoma State University. 9/12/11, 6:30 p.m., EDT. Texas A&M general counsel Ray Bonilla told us in an e-mail that W. Mike Baggett, chairman at Winstead in Dallas, is serving as outside counsel to the university.

The member schools of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) voted unanimously Wednesday to accept the Texas A&M University Aggies, paving the way for the school to exit the Big 12 Conference next year and setting the stage for potential legal challenges to block the move.

Eight Big 12 member universities have reportedly retained legal rights to sue the SEC for taking on Texas A&M. Among the issues in play: what impact the Aggies' departure could have on the Big 12's 13-year, $1.17 billion television contract with Fox Sports.

The Am Law Daily has learned that Charlotte-based Robinson Bradshaw & Hinson partners S. Graham Robinson and Robert Fuller are advising the SEC on any possible legal ramifications that may arise from the addition of Texas A&M. Contacted via e-mail, both lawyers declined to comment on the matter.

Robinson Bradshaw is a longtime legal adviser to the Birmingham-based SEC and to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Last year the firm, which is known for its media deal expertise, helped the NCAA negotiate a $10.8 billion television contract with CBS Sports and Turner Broadcasting for the broadcast rights to the annual men's college basketball tournament known as March Madness.

As reported by The Am Law Daily last week, the Big 12 is being advised by Kansas City, Mo.-based Polsinelli Shughart corporate finance partner Kevin Sweeney. The Am Law 200 firm has long served as outside general counsel to the Irving, Texas-based Big 12. (Sweeney did not respond to a request for comment.)

Texas A&M is reportedly on the hook for a buyout estimated to be in the range of $15 million in order to leave the Big 12 for the SEC. Aggies spokesman Jason Cook confirmed to The Am Law Daily that the university has retained outside counsel in the matter but declined to disclose the identities of its lawyers.

Earlier this week, the Texas A&M University System board of regents selected Ray Bonilla, a name partner at Austin firm Ray, Wood & Bonilla, to become its new general counsel. Bonilla did not respond to requests for comment on whether Texas A&M has retained outside counsel for representation in connection with its Big 12 exit.

The Big 12 itself has waived its right to sue the Aggies over their planned departure in June 2012, but some of its members could still pursue their own claims, according to The Associated Press.

Baylor University, which last year named former Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr as its president, appears to be the most likley candidate to lead such a charge. Starr, a former federal judge and U.S. solicitor general, who has also been a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and Kirkland & Ellis, reportedly wants to sue if Texas A&M does indeed follow through on its jump to the SEC.

Baylor's general counsel, Charles Beckenhauer, did not respond to requests for comment on whether the university has retained outside counsel for a potential lawsuit.

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Might want to update your article. Texas, OU, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State have all waived their rights. That leaves 4 schools, not 8.

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