The SEC's commissioner recently advised that if major realignment at the BCS ranks occurs, the SEC has some ideas in mind for an SEC expansion to assure their conference remains one of the elite BCS conference.
Since then there has been a rumoured leak of 2 plans for the SEC. The master plan? - Add Texas, Texas A&M, Florida State, and Clemson.
If they cannot land Texas, add FSU, Clemson, Georgia Tech, and Miami.
Mr. SEC has written a very well researched series of five articles on the potential SEC expansion that I strongly recommend.
With the minor exception of (IMO) a slightly distorted view of the timeline of Big 12 origin and as such a slightly distorted view on UT's availability to the SEC, it is a very well written, thoughtful, and informative series.
Among other things, Mr. SEC speculates that unlike the Big Ten which contracted expansion analysis out, that if the reported SEC candidate plan is accurate it may be more of plan based on a "who the SEC likes", fuelled by extreme confidence that they can land whoever they like and a belief that they understand the financials and don't need a company acting as a paid advisor.
I thought there was a need to take a more comprehensive look at who is out there and who it would make sense for the SEC to pursue and why.
A month ago, I'd have argued that to be able to afford to add schools in the existing footprint, the SEC would need to add major new markets outside of the existing footprint. The logic being that if TV already has Florida & South Carolina in their SEC package that can give them a game with great ratings and interest especially accross those states, how much more money would TV give the SEC for another Florida school or Clemson?
Now obviously with no TV in the equation (or even smaller TV in the equation) adding a school like Clemson that draws ~80K per game and is nearby offering lots of travelling fans could make a lot of financial sense for the SEC's eastern schools who would be playing them. At that scale of program often local money (booster contributions, ticket sales, merchandise sales, etc.) outweight TV money concerns.
In the SEC though, TV is a lot of money. This would seem to make the SEC a bit of a prisoner to their success in that adding most schools would lead to per team TV shares decreasing.
History suggests TV would demand valuable new markets in exchange for expanding the money total. As Vandy, Arkansas, Ol' Miss, and Mississippi State in the West take in a lot less athletic revenue than the other SEC schools and would not see a local revenue bump from the conference adding Clemson, a cut in leaguewide TV revenue shares to add Clemson would be a much bigger hit for their athletic programs than for the other schools, increasing the differences between the haves and the have nots.
Today, after the ACC recent deal, the near absolute nature of that new market for new money logic with regards to conferences not owning their own networks seems somewhat in question.
Today, I am lot less certain that the SEC could not add selected schools in their footprint and still retain a similar per share TV payout.
The reason for this is that the ACC deal seems to have been based in part on a network buying the rights to game broadcasts to retail out to other networks down the road.
In that kind of dynamic, I think it would be tough to say with any certainty that the SEC couldn't add two national brands like Miami and Florida State and that a TV networks wouldn't match the current per team payouts for 2 more members strictly on the idea of reselling some of those games. After all, those are the two national brands that the ACC was selling in landing their deal.
With this in mind, I have listed 6 schools within the existing footprint followed by 6 schools that offer new sizeable markets that all could legitimately fit the SEC in this new TV environment along with some thoughts on the viability of their candidacies.
With no further ado, 12 schools that the SEC should have on their list of candidates.