Florida State and Texas A&M to the SEC? Going to 14 Teams Makes Sense for Now
Some of the major conference realignments of 2010 will start taking effect with the new college football season only weeks away.
TCU will have to wait one more season until joining the Big East. They will be joined by Boise State in the revamped Mountain West Conference.
The Pac-10 is no more. Although commissioner Larry Scott fell short of his initial goal of raiding the Big 12, he was successful expanding eastward with the additions of Colorado and Utah.
Like the new Pac-12, the Big Ten will finally be able to have a conference championship, with Nebraska now playing the likes of the Buckeyes and Wolverines instead of the Longhorns and Sooners.
Although the Pac-16 never became a reality at the Big 12's expense, more than a year later the long-term future of the conference is still in question.
Texas was able to save the Big 12, at least for now, after turning down the then Pac-10. The Longhorns were able to launch their own TV network, something that was not going to be allowed had they bolted for another conference.
The launching of the Longhorn Network has been cause for many of the problems facing the Big 12. Other schools in the conference are upset that the network will now be allowed to air two games, instead of one. The biggest uproar has been over the plans to air Texas high school football games on the channel.
Most feel this would give the Longhorns an unfair recruiting advantage. This idea has been put on hold for now, but it has done little to slow down rumors of conference expansion.
Much of the speculation has been in regards to the possibility of Texas A&M joining the SEC. These rumors have gained traction in the last few days.Texas governor and Aggie alumni Rick Perry recently told the Dallas Morning News "that conversations are being had" about the school joining the SEC.
Conference expansion is on the minds of more people in the Lone Star State than just a presidential candidate.
On Monday the Texas A&M system board of regents will hold a special meeting. One item on the agenda is about the school leaving the Big 12.
The Texas House Committee on Higher Education will hold a similar hearing on Tuesday about conference expansion. Officials from the SEC, Big 12 and Texas A&M have all been invited to testify, including Mike Slive and Dan Beebe.
The SEC's keen interest for Texas A&M makes sense. It will help the conference gain a recruiting foothold in the nation's second largest state and two Top 10 media markets. Although the Aggies have never reached the level of success as their in-state rival from Austin, Mike Sherman has built a great program in College Station that will enter the new season ranked ninth.
If Texas A&M is added, who will be the SEC's 14th school?
Even if the SEC is able to annex Texas A&M, there is still the question of which school would join them. There is no chance of the conference adding the Aggies and just playing with 13 teams.
Another candidate that has emerged recently is Florida State. Bobby Bowden turned down a chance for the Seminoles to play in the SEC before it was a 12-team conference, but the Jimbo Fisher administration may be having different thoughts.
The ACC is far from being the premier conference in the nation. Playing in the SEC would give Florida State more opportunities to play high-profile teams. Miami is nowhere near the elite level they were 10 years ago and the only other currently ranked ACC team is Virginia Tech.
The addition of the Seminoles along with the Aggies means the SEC doesn't have to change its division structure, at least for now. Texas A&M would join the SEC West and Florida State would join the SEC East.
A lot of the expansion scenarios have Alabama and/or Auburn going to the SEC East if the SEC expands beyond 12 teams. It's likely the conference would not want to put them in different divisions.
College football could very well be heading towards four 16-team super conferences, but the conferences are going to have to get to 14 teams before having 16 teams.
This new-look 14-team conference would put the SEC expansion in a good position for further expansion eastward or westward.
The conference would be able to add Virgina Tech or Clemson to the SEC East. Adding the Hokies makes more sense as it would give the SEC a foothold in a new area, while getting Clemson doesn't do much to help them as far as expanding to new markets.
While the addition of the Seminoles would give them two schools in Florida, expanding in the Sunshine State makes more sense than having two schools in a state with the population of South Carolina.
Even though the SEC is looking to add Texas A&M, getting Oklahoma to join the conference would be met with even more enthusiasm.
The Sooners are one of college football's most storied programs. Their addition would bring in a program that is a national title contender year in and year out. As much as the SEC would love to add Oklahoma, it might not be possible without also taking their in-state rival from Stillwater.
In any conference-expansion scenario, getting Oklahoma would likely be a package deal with Oklahoma State. Assuming Texas A&M is added to the SEC, the conference will try to add only Oklahoma so the divisions don't need to be shuffled around.
If Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State all join the SEC West, one of the schools in the division will have to move eastward. The most likely candidates are Alabama and Auburn.
If the SEC is really determined to add Oklahoma, they might just decide to take Oklahoma State as well.
If these three former Big 12 schools join the conference along with Florida State, there is another scenario to shift the divisions: Florida State could join the SEC West and then both schools from the state of Alabama could go to the SEC East.
The Seminoles may have to travel farther for road games, but they could still maintain their annual rivalry with the Gators. Florida State would be new to the conference and doesn't have any rivalries with any SEC school other than Florida. Also, Alabama and Auburn would not be split from each other. On the downside, the annual LSU-Alabama matchup would be in danger.
If the SEC decides to go a different route than the Oklahoma schools, Missouri could be considered. It would once again expand their brand in new markets and help to balance the divisions geographically. Missouri would bring another solid football program to the conference and the Tigers would be one of the better basketball teams around.
If Florida State declines altogether, maybe the SEC will go after Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Texas Tech. If this happens, Alabama and Auburn would then go to the SEC East.
The Big 12 might have been able to survive the losses of Nebraska and Colorado, but their existence would be in further doubt if additional teams are lost, especially a program like Oklahoma or Texas A&M.
If the demise does happen, Texas would likely go independent and the remaining schools in the conference would be chased by the Big Ten and Pac-12 in an effort to keep pace with the SEC.
Numerous scenarios can happen in the next few years with expansion in college athletics. The rise of 16-team super conferences and nine conference games is one of them.
If the SEC is able to get the Aggies and Seminoles to join, they will be in a great position to continue their success as the premier football conference—whether it's with 14 teams, 16 teams or more.
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