SEC Football: Making the Case for Not Expanding the Conference
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The current discussions regarding the expansion of the Southeastern Conference to possibly include the likes of Texas A&M and, perhaps, Florida State, deserve some serious consideration. Millions of dollars are at stake for the potential new members as well as the conferences these teams may leave and the one they may be joining.
More important to many purists are the traditions and history that may be affected by such moves.
First of all, conference shake-ups seem to be the norm these days, with a new alignment seen in the inappropriately named Big Ten, Big 12 and the Pac 10. Even the Mountain West and Big East have joined the bandwagon for conference realignment. It's the thing to do these days.
The SEC has always been the pacesetter for college football; case in point is the creation of a conference championship. But conference expansion and realignment by the SEC at this point could be seen as playing catch-up. It's as if the conference is saying, "Hey, we've got to get in on this act." Such a move would run counter to the notion that the SEC leads—it doesn't follow. It reeks of change for change's sake.
In addition, the conference is uber-competitive already. What do these teams bring to the table that is not already being served to the consumer? True, Florida State appears to be on the rise under Jimbo Fisher, as does A&M under Mike Sherman, but will the Aggies add to the tough schedules already played by SEC teams over the long term? A&M has had some lean years and has not finished a season with a top-10 ranking in over a decade.
A much better argument can be made for including the Seminoles based on the impressive track record of the school over the past quarter century. But as good as the team may seem under Fisher, the jury is still out on how the program will fare without Bobby Bowden at the helm.
Even Bowden, who was FSU football, had problems producing a consistent winner over the past decade. Since 2000, no Seminole team won more than 10 games in what is considered to be a relatively weak football conference.
And Fisher may soon find his program squeezed in the recruiting wars in his state as other D1 programs in Florida rise.
Finally, the traditional rivalries that help make SEC football what it is are lacking in these potential conference members. True, A&M used to play LSU regularly (over 50 games played in that series), and there is a left-over tradition between the Aggies and Arkansas from the old Southwest Conference days but, otherwise, Texas schools find their closest rivals among other instate foes.
Florida State and Florida have played 55 times, with the Gators holding a slight edge in the rivalry. Otherwise, the Seminoles, whose football "tradition" goes back to the mid-1940s, have played other SEC schools only sporadically.
Where's the history? Are these teams SEC-worthy? Or are they being considered for inclusion in the conference simply because of money?
Sure, for the skeptic, college football is all about the financial gain, and this possible expansion will probably come down to money. But, for the true fan, the Holy Trinity of History, Tradition and Rivalry trump the dollar every time.
The SEC is fine the way it is: exclusive, traditional, excellent, competitive and dominant. It needs no dilution.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
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