To modify an old saying, “There will be conference change, and rumors of conference change,” and this is where we are today. Conference change is coming, and the question that remains is what will it actually be after all the speculation is over.
If it was not planned, it should have been. All the discussion about expanding the NCAA basketball tournament to 96 teams moved our attention away from the real change coming to the world of college athletics, and that is the sweeping realignment being considered by the conferences.
While most of the discussion from all corners will center on football, don’t forget those hard-working athletes playing soccer and other sports that don’t get to fly to all of their away games because they don’t generate enough revenue. They stand to be impacted much more by change than their high profile friends playing football and basketball.
Here is what we wanted to find out at College Sports Matchups : Do the fans want the change that is being considered, and if so what do they want to see happen when it comes to expanding the SEC and Big Ten?
We asked fans to answer a few simple questions, and what follows are the answers to a few simple questions they gave us. We will also provide a few insights into what they told us. After we consider all of this we will give a brief analysis of what we believe the message is from the people who watch the games on television and fill the stadiums on Saturday.
Yesterday we provided the Big Ten results. Today we look at the answers regarding the SEC.
Question: Do you want the SEC to Expand?
- Yes - 39 percent
- No - 61 percent
Unlike the Big Ten, there is not as much excitement to expand the SEC. When your conference is enjoying the success the SEC has in the last few years it is hard to believe change will be good.
While Big Ten expansion is viewed more favorably, it would be interesting to see how disposed people would be for growth if it did not include Notre Dame or one of the major Big XII teams.
Question: If expanded, how many teams should the SEC add?
- One - 5 percent
- Two - 45 percent
- Three - 1 percent
- Four - 49 percent
While growth may not be desired, the sentiment seems to be for either a simple expansion of two or stepping out to become a mega-conference with sixteen members. Remember when twelve was considered too big?
Question: Which one school would you most want to see the SEC add?
- Florida State - 26 percent
- Virginia Tech - 5 percent
- Clemson - 12 percent
- Miami - 7 percent
- Georgia Tech - 12 percent
- Texas - 37 percent
Texas and Florida State were the top two choices. What was surprising? The Seminoles being knocked down to number two by the Longhorns. FSU would be a much better geographical selection, but Texas obviously brings in a whole new dynamic to the league.
Virginia Tech would also be interesting as it opens up a new television market for the conference.
Question: If the SEC and Big Ten expand which conference will be the biggest loser?
- Big Ten - 3 percent
- SEC - 3 percent
- Big East - 40 percent
- Big XII - 39 percent
- ACC - 10 percent
- PAC-10 - 5 percent
While the Big East cannot afford to lose any members in football, this vote seems to reflect sentiment that the Big XII just has more to lose than the Big East if teams bolt to other conferences. Really, would you miss the drama of hoping there is not an undefeated Big East champ in football? They don’t play football on par with the rest of the Big Six no matter how you slice it.
The Big XII, meanwhile, is home to many traditional powers for football, and can you imagine Oklahoma and Kansas trying to decide if they want to join the PAC-10 or some new version of the remaining teams from the Big East and ACC?
While there is not a strong demand for change in the SEC, that sentiment might change very quickly if the Big Ten did broaden their membership to fourteen or sixteen teams.
If this were to happen, there seems to be a strong desire to bring Texas in, but it is hard to believe that would be the best long term decision for the conference.
Those who want to force a new era with college football playoffs believe the new mega conferences will hasten the day when teams make progress through a playoff system in their pursuit of a national title in football.
One or the other will get what they are wishing for. The real question: Will it still feel like college football when the major players complete their coming expansion? Time will tell.