Texas A&M and the SEC: What Will It Look Like When the Dust Settles?
An amicable divorce. That's how the Big 12 chancellors and presidents described the situation.
When asked, the Big 12 insists that they do not want Texas A&M to go anywhere. Yet, when prodded further they will gladly inform you that they can easily plug the Aggie hole with three sexier schools and that will be the biggest story, and not the Aggies SECeding if you will.
Still it would seem that Texas A&M absconding is indeed the biggest story. But, one story begets another right? Adding one school does not make the SEC whole. MIke Slive said over a year ago when speaking about the PAC-10 expansion that he would not sit by and ignore what was going on around him. Slive will have to add at least one school to shore up the east, and with the Big 12 threatening to become the Big 14 it only makes sense that Mike Slive won't stop with the 14. So, it begs the question—where will the phone ring next?
Florida State Seminoles
First off, you have to find a mirror for the Aggies so that the conference alignment plays out evenly.
This seems to be the popular consensus, everybody seems to want FSU in the mix because of their prestige. And, if HC Jimbo Fisher has anything to do with it the Seminoles will soon be mentioned again in the same breath as their neighbors in Gainesville, which only solidifies their celebrity status in the ACC.
But, if you had a catalog of blue chip recruits in your backyard, and were going to be king of the hill in your own conference again would you leave?
From 1992-2000 former FSU HC Bobby Bowden lead the Seminoles to nine straight ACC championships and two National Championships. If I had to bet money, I would think that the Seminoles will stay put and re-establish their dominance in the ACC. Thanks anyway, Mr. Slive.
If there was a single school that was a natural fit it's Clemson.
First off the Tigers already have a history in the SEC as they have battled regularly with in-state rival South Carolina each year. Then there is a little bit of a stare-down whenever they find themselves scheduled against Georgia. Tennessee has most recently got their feelings hurt when the Tigers beat them back in 2004 in the Peach Bowl. Needless to say the SEC and Clemson are familiar with one another. Yes, FSU looks better on paper but this makes more sense.
For the number crunchers the Aggies and Tigers at least share cosmetic similarities. The Aggies have appeared in 32 Bowl appearances, the Tigers 33.
Aggies' stadium Kyle Field 83,000. Clemson's Memorial Stadium 80,300.
Aggies' debut—1894. Tigers' debut—1896.
Aggies' all-time record: 677-443-48 (.599) Tigers' all-time record: 625-426-48 (.591)
National Championships: Aggies 1 Tigers 1
TCU Horned Frogs
Yes, there is a bit of a stadium issue, at present they can only host some 44,000 fans and students, but after the 2012 renovation Amon Carter Stadium will be increased to 50,000. Now it's a far cry from 103,000 fans screaming at Neyland Stadium, but you know what they say....if you invite them they will build it, err you know what I mean.
Anyway, by bringing in the Horned Frogs you build a geographic lock seeing as how TCU is a little more than a hundred miles south of Texas A&M. They aren't exactly newcomers either as they also debuted in 1896, have 27 bowl appearances and they have a good competitive program that gets more prevalent each season. The most unfortunate problem here is that the Big East has already written the check. TCU wanted that BCS nod and they finally got it. They can still have the BCS, but the SEC would be a much nicer vehicle in getting there. However, those pesky contracts do tend to get in the way.
It won't happen, but they would be a great fit.
Most likely it will be Mizzou that gets an invitation; if in fact a 16-team super conference is created. The funny part is if Clemson comes on board there will be four SEC schools with the Tigers as a mascot; Mizzou, Clemson, LSU and Auburn.
Anyway, the Big 12 doesn't want to lose any more teams, especially when they are running out of high profile universities to stay relevant. But, if Mike Slive was to come calling I believe Mizzou would pick up on the first ring. There is the same contract dilemma that faces the Aggies by leaving the Big 12, but in retrospect the money they would make in the SEC far outweighs the pittance check the Big 12 could write. Each SEC school each year can make in excess of $22 million from media outlets alone, not to mention the chance for a larger bowl berth by being scheduled routinely against SEC teams who for the majority are ranked in the top 25 each year.
It might be a good idea for SEC fans to find Columbia Missouri on the map, or just ask the Razorbacks. It seems that Arkansas knows the way quite well, as they have established a little rivalry emerging with their state-line Missouri neighbors. They aren't exactly slinging slurs at each other, but bad blood is bad blood.
The East Mess
Back to the east. Once you pilfer one team from the ACC it won't get any easier to lure anyone else out. Taking one major program from them may weaken the conference, but it will strengthen the others left behind. Removing an FSU or Clemson pretty much ensures that Virginia Tech will be the conference winner for the foreseeable future. That in it itself gives the school the perfect reason to stay put, versus landing in the middle of a combat zone. So SEC Commissioner Mike Slive will have to break out his little blackbook and start dialing. So...who you gonna call? Remember it won't be easy but there are other ACC teams that could be swayed, and this will only arise should FSU or Va Tech not enter the picture.
The likelihood of the following teams being called is the act of desperation should the 16 team scenario arise, but he will need to bring in schools with a respectable program with fanbases that can substantiate the media order, and keep ticket sales stabilized throughout the conference.
In random order-
- South Florida Bulls: stadium capacity 66,300, all-time record 103-62-0 (.624)
- West Virginia Mountaineers: stadium capacity 66,000, all-time record 691-453-45 (.600)
- Louisville Cardinals: stadium capacity 55,000, all-time record 431-411-17 (.512)
- Virginia Cavaliers: stadium capacity 61,500, all-time record 601-521-48 (.534)
- North Carolina Tar Heels: stadium capacity 63,000, all-time record 645-488-54 (.566)
- North Carolina State Wolfpack:stadium capacity 57,600, all-time record 543-531-55 (.505)
- Miami Hurricanes: stadium capacity 76,500, all-time record 568-320-19 (.637)
Note: With the mess going on at Miami this would be a perfect time to start over in a new conference with a somewhat clean slate.
The Rest of the Schedule
Is this thing on?
Look at a schedule and remove a cupcake and non-conference challenger.
As it stands the majority of SEC teams usually schedule two to three non-conference opponents each season. If the SEC expands by two or four teams one or two of their non-conference games will need to be eliminated to accompany the influx of SEC teams to satisfy charter requirements.
This can be good or bad depending how you look at it. If the majority of the ranked opponents fall inside conference borders then the BCS stays home providing the SEC teams can finish the seasons with their records intact, a monopoly you might call it. If the poll numbers don't fit inside the SEC boundaries then schools with room to play can venture outside to challenge higher ranking BCS opponents, and leave the SEC fighting over BCS scraps.
Of course Mike Slive will have already thought of that and deciphered a new charter to keep everything in the family. So add two to four more teams that break the top 25 and the SEC will virtually be impregnable no matter how good the other conferences get, including the PAC-12.
So, does the Big 12 still have enough confidence to be indifferent?