Will SEC React in Wake of Big Ten Expansion?
Discussing conference expansion during the season is kind of like arguing in front of the kids—it happens, but is better left behind closed doors.
All that changed on Monday when Maryland announced it is headed to the Big Ten for the 2014-15 year, and it was reported that Rutgers will join the Terps in the soon-to-be 14-team conference.
The moves have triggered a new round of realignment talk, which included several teams bound for the Big East considering the Mountain West Conference and the ACC scrambling to find a member to replace Maryland.
Is this going to be the start of the next round of expansion, a round that could lead to 16-team superconferences?
It's possible, but unlikely.
Expansion is a slow process, but it could be accelerated if certain pieces fall in certain ways.
If those dominoes start to fall in a direction which threatens the long-term viability of the ACC, then it is very possible that the SEC capitalizes on its vulnerability and grabs its 15th and 16th members.
Virginia Tech and NC State, to be exact.
Those may not be the sexiest names in the world, but they would bring to the SEC what it means most right now—television sets.
Virginia Tech has been competitive in the ACC, winning three of the last five ACC Championship Games. It also would bring the SEC three of the top 50 media markets in the country according to Neilsen, No. 8 Washington, D.C., No. 27 Baltimore and No. 44 Norfolk.
Virginia Tech officials may deny interest now, but if the ACC starts falling apart, that may change.
How much of a presence the Hokies have in each of those markets varies, but it's certainly enough to get the SEC Network on a popular tier for cable subscribers when it launches in 2014.
What will the SEC do during this round of expansion?
That's exactly why NC State would be a draw as well. Other than being this year's reason why Florida State won't play for the national title, the football draw of NC State isn't anything to write home about. But they would bring the SEC the nation's No. 24 (Raleigh/Durham), No. 25 (Charlotte) and No. 46 (Greensboro) markets.
It's unlikely to happen this fast. The paint is sill drying on the SEC logo on the fields at Missouri and Texas A&M, and it's unlikely that the SEC would jump into the conference expansion pool unless it has to.
But if the ACC starts to fall apart at the seams, it will be every school for itself.
Since it appears the latest moves will be for the 2014-15 school year, and the SEC cable network is slated to go on the air at that time, don't be surprised if the SEC makes moves to increase its viability.
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