Texas A&M and SEC Expansion: Who Will Join the Aggies?
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The SEC has joined the "Grand Conference Realignment." In this football equivalent of the Cold War, drastic measures soon will be taken. Enter College Station, Texas. While Texas A&M might or might not join (depending on legal ramifications), Mike Slive has to keep the future of the SEC in mind.
There is no doubt that this conference is the best in college football. How can it be made better?
Some say, "If it ain't broken, don't fix it."
Yes, but there is a ton of money to be gained from Texas, and—let's face it—all sports are about making money. Conference expansion needs to make sense to SEC fans, though. Are you a fan of letting Texas A&M in a conference that it has nearly no relation to? Permitting Mike Sherman's A&M squad to join the cadre of good ole' Southern football would disrupt the balance of power in the SEC.
What happens after that. Do we try to become the Pac-16?
It's our only choice. Conference realignment demands it. Mike Slive and company won't randomly pick new members. The process will involve much maneuvering. If the SEC is smart, it will take the chance to knock out each of its neighboring conferences from threatening their dominion.
Here's how the SEC can—and soon will—achieve total control of football's southern kingdom.
Florida State Seminoles
FSU has a history of playing SEC teams; the latest clash was last year's bowl victory against South Carolina.
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14th SEC member: Florida State (SEC East)
Why they should join: Florida State's recruiting outpaces most SEC schools. We all know that says something. Top 3 recruiting classes under Jimbo Fisher? That puts them at the same recruiting level as Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide!
It's no secret that the 'Noles also have a great rivalry with Florida. Being in the Panhandle means that Tallahassee is right in the Old South.
Alright, naysayers. Let's review the facts. Last month, University President Mark Barron said FSU's imminent departure to the SEC was a rumor, but he never denied the possibility. With the tumultous shifts in alliances collegiate athletics, it's pretty much every school for themselves.
Financially, FSU was 53rd in the country in athletics revenue a couple of years back. Simply put, Florida State doesn't have get the big bucks. For them, going to the SEC would be the same thing as winning the lottery. FSU's acceptance would also bring even in more viewers from the densely populated state of Florida. And even if UF tries to stop the 'Noles from coming in, remember the Gators only have one vote in a twelve member panel.
The fans, after all, bring the money--so the SEC would approve Florida State to allow these captivating in-conference plot lines to ensue.
Consider the implications for game day coverage of the Florida-Florida State rivalry. Jimbo Fisher and Will Muschamp worked together and have shared a beach home for their respective families. Wait--FSU and UF coaches being friends--and now in the same conference? Preposterous!
Yes! The duo were coordinators on Nick Saban's championship LSU squad. Naturally, both love LSU and having to play their former mentor at Alabama makes the Crimson Tide match up more interesting. Bobby Bowden's connections to Alabama also make a captivating historical twist.
Most importantly, Mark Richt stalks the sidelines Behind the Hedges (yes, he'll keep his job). As FSU's offensive play caller during their unprecedented run at the AP Top 5, love for Mark Richt runs deep in Tallahassee. How deep would it run in the SEC? Put it to the test.
As a Seminole fan (and student) I love this idea, but who else would join us to bring balance to the SEC East?
Implicated Future Rivals (besides UF): LSU, Alabama, Georgia
Clemson University Tigers
Clemson is familiar to SEC opponents. Ask last year's national champs.
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15th SEC Member: Clemson Tigers (SEC East)
Why they should join: Despite 18 years of experience in the Southeastern Conference, South Carolina has never really gotten that snug with its new conference brothers. With Steve Spurrier in charge the rivalry with Florida has reached new heights, and the close games against Georgia keep the hate alive in Columbia and Athens. But that is only with two schools. The majority of South Carolina's existence was spent in the ACC or as an Independent. Therefore, doesn't it make sense for the Gamecocks to have an ACC rival in the conference?
Clemson is a great fit. They recruit like an SEC school, even though they don't play like one (sorry, Dabo Swinney). With Clemson's top notch talent, opponents will always be on upset alert. A second South Carolina school in the fold also makes South Carolina seem like less of an outlier.
The move makes even more sense with Clemson's other SEC rivals. Though not on the same scale as Spurrier's team, Georgia and Auburn are historic rivals. Heck, they played Gene Chizik's national title team last year!
Florida State would make another great rival, even though the Bowden Bowl days are over. Clemson would actually come into conference play with four SEC rivals--a certain win-win for fans.
Implicated Future Rivals (besides SCAR): Georgia, Auburn, Florida State
Baylor wants to keep A&M out of the SEC's clutches.
16th SEC Member: Baylor Bears (SEC West)
Why they should join: Baylor isn't that rich (as of 2007, its athletic revenue was 57th in the country), but it has authority. Pretty much, though the bear is not pretty the SEC needs it. The conference approved Texas A&M on the condition that all Big XII schools would allow the transition. Baylor President Kenneth Starr is now putting the inevitable departure of the Aggies on hold the best he can.
The Bears have great reason for concern. Think about the ramifications of this week's headlines. If the Pac-16 emerges, it will likely invite Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, and Texas Tech into the fold. That leaves Baylor as the only Big XII team in the former South Division without a new home.
Such a scenario is unacceptable. The Bears are used to seeing drastic actions (such as this one) succeed. Former Texas governor Ann Richards personally brought Baylor into the Big XII during her tenure--they were not swept under the doormat like other members of the defunct Southwestern Conference. UF President Bernie Machan, while not willing to address this threat by name, knows (or should know) that Baylor will not go down without a battle.
The ultimate solution is to bring Waco into SEC country. It would solidify a Texas rivalry in the SEC (between them and fellow SEC West member A&M), and make more geographical sense. More Lone Star state recruits would also want to come to play in the SEC. And Baylor would shut up. Even if they are another Vanderbilt (losing seasons will resume once Robert Griffin III leaves), at least SEC fans won't have to hear more griping.
Future Rivalries (besides A&M): Arkansas