Forget SEC Expansion, the Conference Is Fine with 14 Teams

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Forget SEC Expansion, the Conference Is Fine with 14 Teams
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It's the offseason, which means there will be an increased focus on legislative issues like autonomy, player welfare and, yes, the future of the Big 12.

The NCAA voted to deregulate conference requirements for football championship games earlier this month, which allows the 10-team Big 12 the possibility to hold a title game with its current membership, provided that it continues its round-robin scheduling.

As my Bleacher Report colleague Ben Kercheval pointed out earlier this month, simply holding a championship game as is mandates that the eventual conference champion must beat its second-best team twice if it wants to finish the season unblemished.

Expansion would prevent that, and Oklahoma president David Boren stoked the flames of expansion in a statement to the Oklahoma Daily:

The Big 12 is disadvantaged when compared to the other conferences in three ways. We do not have at least twelve members, we do not have a conference network, and we do not have a championship game. I think that all three of these disadvantages need to be addressed at the same time. Addressing only one without addressing all three will not be adequate to improve the strength of the conference.

Well hello to you, expansion talk, annual Goliath of the college football offseason. 

The fact that Oklahoma is vocal about its displeasure and openly politicking for change has spurred several articles speculating what would happen if the Big 12 doesn't expand and how the SEC could scoop up the Sooners, including from Chadd Scott of GridironNow.com and Jay Clemons of SECCountry.com.

Let's hold off on forcing the issue of this becoming the sequel to the realignment bonanza of the 2009 and 2010 offseasons. It's not going to become that.

Not even close.

John Bazemore/Associated Press

Why on earth would the SEC expand now?

For the television market in Oklahoma City that currently ranks 43rd in the country, according to Nielsen? For No. 60 Tulsa?

That mattered much more in the era prior to the SEC Network, when Missouri and Texas A&M brought in four media markets in the top 33 (Dallas, Houston, St. Louis and Kansas City). 

National carriers DirecTV, DISH Network, Verizon Fios and AT&T U-Verse already have the SEC Network packaged with other sports channels, and it is in the sports and info tier on Cox in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas along with ESPNU, NFL Network, MLB Network and other comparable channels.

Jackson Laizure/Getty Images
Oklahoma beat Tennessee in Knoxville in 2015

Yes, the eyeballs of Sooner fans—or any other fanbase for that matter—will increase the ratings of the network. But the market is already paying for it now, so any added revenue would be minimal.

The SEC distributed $435 million out of a total revenue of $455.8 million last year at spring meetings—an average of $31.2 million per school. According to Steve Berkowitz of USA Today, that total revenue will jump to $527.4 million for the fiscal year that ended on Aug. 31, 2015. 

Are the 14 schools currently in the SEC willing to split that among a few more schools, even though from a visibility standpoint they won't add much in terms of subscriptions to the SEC Network?

Of course not.

The only way the SEC even considers expansion is if the entire landscape blows like it would have in the ill-fated Pac-16 scenario Texas tried to orchestrate in 2010. If that happens and simply adding teams for synergy purposes in order to create four 16-team leagues becomes the primary goal, then sure, the addition of Oklahoma (or any prestigious teams) would make a ton of sense.

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It doesn't make sense now from the SEC's perspective, though.

The conference is doing just find with its current membership. SEC inclusion certainly is desirable for outside programs due to the financial windfall and massive exposure the current programs enjoy.

Would they want to share that? 

Of course not.

While the sands might be shifting in the Big 12 now, the SEC footprint is currently registering a 0.0 on the realignment Richter scale.

It's about as stable as it can be.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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