Believe what you want to believe about mega/super conferences and the likelihood of them becoming real, but I am a realist.
Conference expansion will happen, and it will be in the very near future.
This is not a debate over which schools should join the SEC; it is a realistic approach to which schools would most likely benefit themselves and the conference by joining.
Now I like many would love to bring in the best schools in the nation to make the conference even stronger, but this is more about money than power. However, the schools that will join must at least have the ability to be competitive. There is only one Vanderbilt, after all.
So here is my list of 12 schools that might join and they are listed in order of likeliness to join and likeliness that the SEC would want them. It is not a perfect list, nor does it reflect which schools I would most want, but is a logical list.
As always, I love debate and opinion, so please feel free to agree or disagree, and leave suggestions of schools that should fit and why. Thank you.
No North Carolina school is going to join the SEC. It may be an up-and-coming hotbed for recruiting, but it is a basketball-first state, and its schools will remain in a basketball-rich conference.
UNC would not join without Duke. Duke would not make it in SEC football! N.C. State is not going to bring a big enough media market, and East Carolina is in the same pickle.
North Carolina is a state of interest, but it's not a realistic possibility.
Let's face the facts and just state for the record that Texas is the Golden Goose that every conference wants. Texas is the namesake of one the richest recruiting bases in America and it attracts huge audiences, which equals lots of money.
The biggest problem with all of this is that Texas knows it, and the Longhorns are greedy. The SEC is not going to let Texas have more revenue than any of the other schools, and Texas won't like that.
Texas at no time in any world is going to agree to take the same share of revenue as Vanderbilt. Texas is way too cocky and full of itself to do that.
The other main reason why the Horns are No. 12 is because Texas legislature has adjoined Texas A&M at the hip to Texas. They are a package deal, and no matter how much the SEC may want Texas, it has no interest in A&M other than to get Texas.
Texas is the least likely to join the SEC based on the fact that Texas will demand more money and the SEC will not pay them any more than any other member school. Unless Texas is willing to play nice and share, this is almost a dead issue.
Unlike Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida, Kentucky would not be opposed to allowing Louisville in the Conference. It would clear up an out-of-conference game and would improve the strength of the basketball schedule in the conference dramatically.
Also, think how much fun it would be to see Bobby Petrino have to take Arkansas into Louisville for a conference game. Then again, what are the odds he is still there?
The market and money would not be great with the addition of Louisville, but overall the conference would improve in all sports.
Still, I doubt Louisville joins the SEC. In the end, it is not about improvement; it is about power and MONEY!
Well, if the Tigers are unhappy with the Big 12 anyway, why not take them?
What do they bring to the table, you ask?
The St. Louis television market. It is not the best TV market, but it is better than most others out there.
Plus Missouri still fits in geographically, though I admit it barely makes it.
Still, Missouri would be a legitimate addition to the SEC and would improve the overall strength of the conference. Right now Missouri could beat four SEC teams if they played today.
What SEC fan would not want to bring this man back to the conference? Aside from everyone.
On a serious note, though, the SEC wants to expand into Texas, for the recruits and the TV money to be made there.
Right now Texas Tech is not a Texas power with a large fanbase, but it would explode with the TV coverage from the SEC deal, not to mention the money. It has the potential to become a massive power in Texas.
This would be a gamble, but it is one that I feel would pay off for the SEC in the long run. However, I doubt we see Tech in the SEC ever.
Why not? I mean, the Tigers have a rivalry with current and former members of the confrence and they would fit right in every aspect and sport. Or you could just as easily put Georgia Tech in and we could have a very nostalgic reunion of sorts.
I would fall over dead if the SEC took Clemson in, but a push to find some one if things took off quickly could force the SEC to turn to an old familiar school or one with natural rivalries such as Ga. Tech.
Think about it this way: Clemson has yet to win the ACC, so I think the Tigers would jump to be in a football-first conference.
West Virginia, though it does not bring a large media market to the table, could bring credibility and a huge fanbase to the SEC in not only football but basketball as well. These are measurables the SEC looks for.
However, the biggest thing that West Virginia can bring to the table is that it is well rounded in all sports and has an explosive offense. The defense is not that good, but offense will bring in a viewer base that might not particularly watch the SEC weekly.
West Virginia is a football state and people there love their Mountaineers, so this would be a good fit.
Obviously Houston would not be able to come in and compete immediately in the SEC week in and week out. Then again, the same can be said of Vandy, Kentucky, and South Carolina.
However, what cannot be said of Vandy, Kentucky, and South Carolina is that they have a huge media market like Houston and its surrounding areas. If expansion happens, money will be the key, and this move would be about money and the recruiting ground that is Texas.
The SEC needs schools in Texas to expose the state to great football and to strengthen its position above the rising Big 12.
Houston would be a school that, with the SEC TV exposure and the massive amount of money that comes with it, could explode. I am not saying the Cougars could ever challenge Texas or A&M in popularity in the state, but they could definitely pass Tech and Baylor.
Another added bonus and a good fit is Kevin Sumlin. The SEC is as much about coaches as it is defense and fans. Kevin Sumlin is a star in the making and would be a great fit in SEC media days.
This is by far the best fit for the SEC in terms of regional proximity, style of play, and media market. Virginia Tech would bring the D.C. TV market and possibly part of the Baltimore market.
Frank Beamer is an SEC coach in ACC sheep’s clothing, and Bud Foster has always created an SEC defense. In the simplest terms it is a match that should happen.
The Hurricanes may not be the best fit geographically or ideologically, but they certainly have tradition and style. They have a good TV market in Miami and could be competitive immediately in the SEC in all sports.
Their academics are good and they have a great coach leading them in Randy Shannon. However, I doubt that Florida would be very happy to let them come in and join the SEC.
Florida would be opposed because right now Florida is on top in the state, and with the SEC money it would not be hard for an old power to catch up. Simply put, Miami won't get in unless the SEC has to let it in because of another school that's desperately needed.
TCU should be the SEC's prime target for expansion from a realistic point of view. The realistic point of view being that the University of Texas is greedy and will never join a conference where it will have to evenly share money.
Still, TCU is not a consolation prize for not being able to snag Texas. TCU has the potential to become the "Mega School" in the state of Texas. With the Dallas TV market behind it and SEC TV exposure plus SEC TV money, this program could supplant Texas A&M in a couple of years.
This school has everything the SEC wants. Potential to grow and become the premier school in a non-SEC state. The media market and TV market to expose the SEC even more and bring in substantial money to the conference.
Most importantly, the Horned Frogs also have the style of football that the SEC has made famous and would be a perfect fit all the way around.
Everyone knows that the most realistic choice the SEC is going to pursue and get in conference expansion is Florida State.
Florida may oppose this, but it is doubtful that it will matter. Besides, the Gators play the Seminoles yearly anyway, and this would free up an OCC game for them to make even more money.
It is a fit all the way around with a good media market, huge fanbase, great program, and great tradition. All in all this is the most likely school to join the SEC when the conference expands, and I far one cannot wait.
The only thing that might make this a non-option is how bad FSU wants Miami to come with them. The SEC may not want to take Miami depending on how big a fit Florida throws. That is the only thing that may make FSU a no-go.