Rumors have abounded that Texas A&M wants to join the Southeastern Conference, and while the reports that Texas A&M and the SEC have come to an agreement are dubious at best, it does bring up discussion.
One of the most common theories about how a Superconference would take shape is that it would be two divisions of either 14 teams or 16 teams and that scheduling would be a nightmare. I offer a different solution. If the Southeastern Conference moved to 15 members there is a simple way to work the divisions that would both keep traditional rivalries alive and promote variety in scheduling.
Create THREE divisions.
Assuming that SEC fails to get any ACC team or marquee Big 12 team to join the the conference other than Texas A&M, I have them at a worst-case scenario adding Missouri and West Virginia to make 15 teams with the divisions set up as follows.
If the SEC does expand, how many members should they stop at??
This is of the current SEC East and maintains most of the traditional rivalries within that division. Kentucky gets the nod here over South Carolina due to the lack of traditional rivals for South Carolina.
This keeps the Alabama-Auburn rivalry alive and South Carolina is moved to the Central Division due to its lack of traditional rivalries with the rest of the SEC East. Upstart Mississippi State and newcomer West Virginia round out the division with solid résumés.
This division is made up of the western-most schools in the new SEC and reunites old Southwestern rivals Arkansas and Texas A&M, along with Big 12 refugee Missouri. LSU and Ole Miss join the trio as the two western-most members of the original SEC. This pairing greatly decreases the travel burdens that newcomers Texas A&M and Missouri would have to face.
With five teams in each of three divisions, scheduling changes have to be made. The first move that would have to be made would that the league would have to switch to a nine-game conference schedule. Each team would play the other members of their own division along with two rotating members from each of the other divisions, to go along with one permanent rivalry.
This would ensure traditional rivalries would be maintained in the new format. Alabama would play Tennessee, Ole Miss would play Mississippi State, and so on.
There would be a few problems with this set up. A minor one would be that some rivalries would not be maintained, such as Alabama vs. LSU. However, since this rivalry has picked up steam only recently, its loss is acceptable. A much larger problem has to due with the championship format. Three teams to go to one championship game presents a problem.
I believe the simplest solution would be to take the top two division winners and pair them up in the conference game. However, this would create much controversy that may never be dispelled. A more complicated yet more thorough solution would be to create a play-in game between the two lower ranked division winners to the SEC championship game, thus rewarding the top ranked team in the conference a bye week for the Championship game. However, this would add an extra week to games, which would be opposed by University presidents.
Overall, the benefits of this format would only create more interest in the conference with a variety of matchups from year to year, and would only serve to create more revenue and exposure for the conference.