Conference Expansion: How the SEC Can Counter Big Ten and Pac-10 Moves
The Big Ten is expected to officially add Nebraska and Missouri by the end of the week, and the Pac-10 is expected to follow that up with a super expansion that might include Texas and Oklahoma.
The SEC, considered by many to be the supreme conference in the nation, may need to make a few moves to keep up with the new “Super” conferences, and maintain its place atop the college football mountain.
So how exactly will the SEC counter these moves by the Big Ten and Pac 10 (or perhaps the Big 13 and Pac 16, in the not-too-distant future)?
Here are a range of reasons, varying from the very possible to the possibly absurd that the SEC could follow to be the most powerful conference in the Super Conference Era.
Create an SEC Network
The SEC just signed a lucrative contract with ESPN last season. The contract was signed for 15 years and an astounding $2.25 billion. The contract also coincided with a 15-year, $825 million deal with CBS. The deal was announced at last year’s preseason Media Days.
Sure, the deal is big. But “big” is not good enough these days. These days, you have to “Super” size things, and that means starting your own network.
The SEC needs to create an SEC Network to rival the Big Ten Network and monopolize the television earnings on their conference for every game that is played.
It will be easy to market, because the SEC is widely considered the most dominant conference in college football, as evidenced by victories in the last four national championship games.
This is one way to capitalize on that.
Monopolize the State of Florida
The state of Florida is considered one of the football hotbeds in America.
Along with California and Texas, Florida is considered a premier locale for high school talent.
This is evidenced by the amount of talent that is raised in Florida and spreads out across the rest of the nation.
It is also evidenced by the dominance that Florida collegiate programs have had in college football.
Miami dominated college football in the 1980s and early 2000s.
Florida State dominated college football in the 1990s and into the 2000s, with a streak of Top 10 finishes and a constant presence in BCS national championship games in the early part of the BCS.
Now, Florida is one of the dominant programs in college football, with two of the last four national championships.
The SEC can take in Florida State and Miami to capitalize on all these reasons, and keep most of the state’s talent within its conference.
The biggest problem with this idea is that Florida may not be keen on allowing their in-state rivals to get a piece of the lucrative SEC pie.
So the conference might have a hard sell.
It is now the age of Super conferences, so the SEC can usurp all other conference expansion by doing the unthinkable, and getting a monopoly on most of the national powerhouses of the past decade.
All it would take is an idea that has been floated recently, and would require beating the Pac-10 at its own game of stealing a chunk of the soon-to-be defunct Big 12.
The SEC would have to extend a lucrative offer to Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State, expanding the conference to 16 teams.
This would give the conference many of the last decade’s national champions and BCS Championship participants.
This might cause all kinds of realignment problems within the conference, though.
It would also cause problems within the state of Texas, as evidenced by Baylor’s trying to wiggle its way into the Pac-10 over Colorado.
There are many obstacles that the SEC would have to overcome to achieve this. It is kind of absurd, but many absurd possibilities are being floated in the age of Super Conferences.
Swallow up the ACC
If the Pac-10 does successfully swallow-up the Big 12, the SEC may then have to resort to going after ACC teams.
The ACC is not a sexy conference, though. And this may actually water down the SEC in the long run.
This would include offering teams like the aforementioned Miami and Florida State. It would also include taking on a combination of Georgia Tech, Clemson, and/or Virginia Tech to reach a magical number of 14 or 16.
All of these teams are very solid teams, but there is no real evidence that it would make the conference better.
If the Pac-10 is getting teams like Texas, I’m not sure any of these teams live up to that stature. They are all good but not great. It might be seen as a panic move by the SEC.
Offer Nebraska a Counteroffer to Join the SEC
This one is probably never going to happen, but it is within the realm of (not very) distinct possibilities.
Nebraska and Florida were powerful teams in the mid-90s, so this is one selling point.
It would also expand the conference west, including possibly grabbing Missouri in a package deal.
It would certainly add to the prestige of the SEC.
But the travel implications do not really make sense for any parties involved. Nebraska and Missouri are way too far west for this deal to make sense.
And it already seems like those two are set on joining the Big Ten.
Petition the BCS
This is kind of out of left field, but with all of the conference realignment, how many major conferences would be left standing? Four or so?
That leaves a few glaring holes in the BCS automatic qualifying discussion.
So, the SEC could petition the BCS to have each of their division champions become an automatic qualifier for the BCS.
It sounds absurd, but it might not be that far-fetched.
The MWC has already petitioned to be included in this discussion, so why couldn’t the SEC petition to have two teams.
This idea would probably go hand-in-hand with an expansion to 16, making their argument more legitimate, but it is a possibility if the BCS is in need of holes to fill.
With the absurd expansion of bowl games, why wouldn’t you want to see more quality teams included in the biggest games?
Jettison the Weak Teams
This would never, and I mean never happen, but while we are at it I am going to just throw this one out there.
What if the SEC decided to jettison the teams that are weighing down its conference (Vanderbilt, Miss State, etc.)?
This would allow for the SEC to have a conference completely comprised of legitimate teams, making it an actual Super Conference.
Think about it. Instead of Vanderbilt and Miss. State, you could have Miami and Florida State or Texas and Oklahoma.
You can expand this even further and jettison the Kentuckys of the SEC, as well.
This would ensure there is no argument that the SEC is the best conference in college football.
But there is no reason that the teams would ever want to leave such a lucrative conference.
There is no reason that the conference would ever set the bad precedent of sending the weak ones packing (Why would anyone want to join such a conference?).
And maybe most importantly, the top-tier teams would need those easy teams to have a break (“break” is a relative term in the SEC), so they don’t lose too many games to get into the National Championship discussion.
Remember, this is the SEC, where teams like Florida play the Citadel on a yearly basis.
Monopolize the Southeast, and Propose a “Big Four”
If you think about it, the way that conferences are expanding, there will be one major conference in each region of the country.
The Pac-10 will be the king of the West. The Big 10 will be king of the Midwest. The SEC could assume control of all the big teams in the Southeast, leaving perhaps the Big East to grab the rest of the ACC (and perhaps Notre Dame, since it is part of the Big East in basketball).
This would leave four major conferences that could secede from the NCAA and form their own corporation.
It would take a lot of collaboration and probably would never happen due to the many AD’s who are set in their old ways (although, as conference expansion is indicating, this may not be as big of an obstacle as once thought).
The SEC could take the first step in proposing this new college football world, and it would benefit them most of all because there would probably be a playoff, and they could have a great deal of sway in how the rules are set up.
But there are too many obstacles in the way of setting this up, so it is probably just a fantasy.
Threaten the NCAA for a Playoff System
The SEC teams could be in danger of simply beating themselves up and beating themselves out of the National Championship picture with the way the conference is set up (and could be set up with expansion).
Think about it: Alabama and Florida, perhaps the two best teams in the conference could play twice (regular season and SEC Championship). If they split, there is a good chance that neither will make the National Championship, even though there is a good chance that they are among the best teams in the nation.
The NCAA needs the SEC. The SEC may need a playoff if things keep going this way.
So, in conjunction with the last slide, the SEC could threaten the NCAA to invoke a playoff system or secede from the NCAA, possibly bringing other conferences with it.
Other conferences may buy in with this proposal.
Or the NCAA could call the SEC’s bluff and do nothing, leaving the conference looking like an absolute fool.
The SEC is ballsy, but I don’t know if anyone is that ballsy. File this under the absurd category.
This may be the best solution of all, in my opinion.
The conference is already the best in the nation, so why take the risk of diluting the conference by adding inferior teams.
While other conferences grapple with trying to fit 16 teams into an even schedule, the SEC will be laughing all the way to the bank by doing absolutely nothing.
They already have the reputation as the best in college football, so why ruin a good thing?
The SEC has many options (some absurd, I know) to counter the other conferences' moves to become Super.
I personally think the best option is to stand pat, as stated previously.
But these, days I have a feeling that is not going to happen.
I feel the SEC may make a move more absurd than thought possible.