Is the SEC the ACC's Unlikely Ally in Conference Expansion?

Jeffrey Fann@TalkinACCSportsAnalyst IMay 6, 2012

CLEMSON, SC - SEPTEMBER 24:  Andre Ellington #23 of the Clemson Tigers runs with the ball against the Florida State Seminoles during their game at Memorial Stadium on September 24, 2011 in Clemson, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Conference expansion rumors swirl every day.

The latest rumor de jour is that Clemson and Florida State are in discussion with the Big 12.

Somehow this rumor, which appeared on a West Virginia message board, seems to have taken on a life of its own. When it comes to expansion, nobody really knows what's going on and neither do I. That doesn’t mean I don’t have opinion about them.

On Twitter Friday, @Younglefhander, @KilroyFSU and I had a little discussion about the Clemson and Florida State rumors.

Even if it’s true that the Big 12 could potentially have a higher TV payout than the ACC, I’m having a hard time buying this, and I think the SEC is part of the equation.

I’m an ACC fan—always have been—but I won’t argue the SEC is the king of the hill when it comes to college athletics at the moment. They are getting it done on the field and that’s a fact. They are making a ton of money and that’s a fact too.

During the expansion chaos of last year, had the SEC made a major move to poach an ACC team to balance the Texas A&M addition, the ACC would have had hard time holding on to Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech or whomever.

Would it have been a lock that an ACC team moved? No, but there would have been some nervous moments in the ACC offices.

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The SEC never made a move on the ACC. I believe this was due to the "gentleman’s agreement," meaning the SEC doesn’t pick up a school where an in-state SEC team already exists.

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 26: Brandon Boykin #2 of the Georgia Bulldogs is tackled by Jemea Thomas #14 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Bobby Dodd Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

The Virginia and North Carolina schools were still in play, but nothing ever happened, and the SEC moved west and secured Missouri.

The ACC and SEC have coexisted in much of the same region for more than 50 years.

Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech play in-state rivals from the SEC each year, and five of the six Chick-fil-A kickoff games have been ACC/SEC matchups.

At no time since both conferences have existed has either conference directly poached the other. They were even aligned on the college football playoffs years ago when no other conferences bought in.

Now the ACC’s John Swofford and SEC’s Mike Slive are in agreement over any four-team playoff while the Pac 12 and Big 10 favor the conference champion scenario.

Which scenario favors the SEC getting multiple teams in? The SEC still needs a BCS conference to agree with them, and a move to four super conferences may prevent this.

Four super conferences and four playoff teams makes sense, but the SEC doesn’t want this. The SEC isn’t making a preemptive strike any time soon against the ACC.

Now if the Big 12 is truly trying to move East, and Clemson and Florida State are the teams, do you really think the SEC will allow this? Really?

Sharing part of the region with the ACC is one thing. As I’ve said, it’s been that way for years, but a Big 12 with Clemson and Florida State suddenly becomes an expanding conference that stretches from the  Midwest to the deep South.

That is a direct affront to the SEC. If talks ever got far with the Big 12, the SEC would sidestep their gentleman’s agreement and make a move for Clemson and Florida State. Of course, Clemson and Florida State probably would respond much the way TCU left the Big East hanging.

Suddenly, the Big 12 is left without the additions they want and the SEC becomes even more powerful by sheer numbers.

If there's one thing expansion has shown, it's that you go after easy targets.

Teams like Texas A&M, Nebraska, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Colorado were desperate to get out their conference. The frustration of these teams was well known.

That’s part of the reason I’m so skeptical on the Clemson and FSU to the Big 12 nonsense. For the Tigers and Noles, it’s just a little Internet message-board rumbling.

Sound a little far-fetched that the SEC is an unlikely ally to the ACC? Maybe, but not any more crazy than the SEC sitting and watching the Big 12 move directly into states they are in, or the Big 12 taking such a risk as challenging the SEC in their own backyard.

Of course, the ACC can end any discussion of team movement on their own with a strong, new TV contract. We talked in-depth previously about that here a few weeks ago.

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