SEC Expansion: Right Idea, Wrong Strategy
ATLANTA, Ga—Talk about a dramatic June. I’m still suffering a hangover from what could have been in college football.
For a very short time, there was the hope of four super conferences. I was already shopping airline rates for my trip to Dallas to talk about SEC football.
It looked like all the world’s problems were going away. Order would finally be restored to college football. There would be an expanded SEC, Pac-16, bigger Big Ten, and an improved ACC.
It looked like Notre Dame would finally commit to a conference because they would be blocked out if they stayed independent. Maybe we could even have a real championship series to finish the year.
There was every possible scenario proposed for SEC expansion. ACC teams like Georgia Tech, Clemson, Virginia Tech, and Florida State wanted to be part of the new SEC.
ACC fanbases believed if the SEC picked up two from the Big 12, like A&M and Oklahoma, there would be room for two more from the ACC.
The SEC administrators were visualizing a westward expansion to include Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State. The SEC would pick up the huge Texas TV market, and with a realignment of the conferences, the SEC would be the undisputed king of the hill.
I saw it all unfolding before my eyes—then overnight it collapsed.
Apparently, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive was going for the home run and not a solid double, which would have improved the score and changed the game for everybody.
It appears Slive only wanted Texas, A&M, and both Oklahoma schools. It was a natural expansion thought process, connecting to SEC states Louisiana and Arkansas and a great TV deal.
Don’t mess with Texas
There was one main problem: Unfortunately, a big part of the universe lining up fell on the University of Texas. Texas got their Longhorn tails handed to them by Alabama last year in the national championship game 37-21. Texas was still stinging from that showdown, and they don’t want to be in that situation again.
Texas wants to compete for national championships, and flagship schools don’t play for the big game with a 9-3 SEC record. Texas didn’t have any interest in big games every week, playing LSU, then Auburn, then Alabama, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Florida, or Georgia.
What Could Have Been
If Slive had gone for A&M and Oklahoma, he could have then picked his two ACC favorites. The SEC would have been rock solid and would have a huge footprint in Texas and owned the South. The biggest TV deals would have fallen to the SEC.
Texas would have been left holding the bag in a Big 12 that was irrelevant playing a bunch of smaller Texas schools. They would have been the only big fish in a small pond. There would have been no demand for a Longhorn TV channel.
If the SEC had gone to 16 teams, the Big Ten would have probably moved to 16 teams and probably forced Notre Dame’s hand to join. The ACC would have restructured and probably have about the same status as they have now.
But the SEC and Big Ten would have been the Super Conferences.
I believe there is a finite number of dollars available for college football. If the SEC is better than another conference, then they get the biggest deals. By pulling A&M and Oklahoma, Texas would have gotten a smaller TV deal because there isn’t as much demand for a program whose big games include Kansas and Missouri.
It’s complicated, and only Commissioner Slive knows what went down behind closed doors. But it's also high stakes poker, and somebody wins and another loses.
Until next time, I will see you on the ball field.
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