College Football Expansion Final: The SEC Saves the NCAA
It looks like super–conferences are super–impossible right now. Texas and friends have allied under a 10-team Big 12 for the moment, ruining almost every expansion plan.
That doesn't mean college football expansion is dead, mind you. I'd imagine the Pac-10 is still going to get its 12th team so it can play a lucrative conference title game, but for now a ceasefire has been issued amongst the major players.
You can thank the SEC for dropping the atom bomb and causing this uneasy truce. When rumors of Texas A&M to the SEC first surfaced, Texas did its best Arnold Schwarzenegger impression and told the Aggies, "Come with me if you want to live."
The Horns threatened to break off the lucrative rivalry if the Aggies didn't remain in Texas' conference. A&M called Texas' bluff, invited SEC commissioner Mike Slive to College Station, and basically proved that they were serious.
Maybe the loss of A&M hurt Texas' projections for Pac-16 money, or maybe they really didn't want to lose an in–conference rival, but as soon as the SEC stepped into the game, all of the speculation came to a frantic peak and then a screeching halt.
As it stands, the expansion makes geographic sense. Dirty hippie Colorado can hang out with its Pac-10 buddies, and the corn–fed Nebraska gets to play in the Big Slow conference.
The doomsday button was not pressed. 2012 will not be the college footballpocalypse.
Don't get too comfy though. We'll remain at threat level "orange" for the time being. I don't think Larry Scott will give up on his quest to make the Pac-10 the most powerful conference.
I don't think Jim Delany will stop if the annexation of Nebraska proves to be highly successful either.
And then there's Slive. He's the hero for the moment, the preserver of the establishment. Still, don't forget that he's driving state to state in his Cadillac with a trunk full of cash and looking to stir something up.
The SEC kicked off Expansion 1.0 in the 90s with the additions of Arkansas from the old SWC and independent South Carolina ushering in the era of conference championships.
Then commissioner Roy Kramer saw the opportunity to expand his brand and change college football forever.
He may not have foreseen the BCS or all the positive implications of an SEC championship, but he did see the truckload of money that a high-profile, in-conference game would bring.
Like Kramer, the commissioners today don't know exactly what mega–expansion will bring. They don't know how it will go on to shape the college football landscape.
They can see the money-making potential, which is why I wouldn't be surprised to see the idea pop up again and again until someone finally gets it.
Fortunately for fans of the status quo, that day is not today.
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