Not long after the conference expansion issue really started to heat up, I found myself in a charity golf foursome with a couple of Georgia Tech guys. We were waiting to hit, so I just asked them point blank:
“If Georgia Tech got an invitation to leave the ACC and join the SEC, would you vote to go?”
Response No. 1: “In a New York minute.”
Response No. 2: “Can we go today?”
Now look, Georgia Tech has had a very good football home in the ACC since 1983. It is the defending ACC champions. And the situation got a lot better on Monday when the ACC landed a very good television deal with ABC/ESPN that will pay the league $155 million per year. In this economy, the ACC essentially doubled their money from the previous contract and that is quite an accomplishment. A number of people (this writer included) thought that the numbers might be lower so give the ACC kudos for getting that deal done.
Having said all that, there are two questions we will ponder today:
How/Why does Georgia Tech get on the SEC’s radar?
Why would/should Georgia Tech even consider leaving the ACC?
First, some history: Georgia Tech was a charter member of the Southeastern Conference in 1933 and remained in the league through the 1963 season, when the school withdrew and became a Southern Independent. We won’t debate the reasons why or the wisdom of Georgia Tech’s move. The fact is that Tech was a member of the SEC for 31 years.
People of a certain age will remember going to Grant Field and watching Georgia Tech, as a member of the SEC, play in some of the best rivalries in all of college football. The Georgia rivalry you know about, but did you know:
That Georgia Tech and Auburn have played 92 times? Tech first played Auburn in 1892 and from 1904 to 1987 the schools met every year but two (1905, 1943).
That even after it left the SEC, Georgia Tech also kept playing Tennessee? Between 1964 and 1987 Georgia Tech and Tennessee met every year but three (1974, 1975, 1978).
That there was no fiercer rivalry in the 1960s than the one between Alabama and Georgia Tech? Bear Bryant and Bobby Dodd were friends until the 1961 game, when Tech’s Chick Graning received a blow to the head from Alabama’s Darwin Holt. It broke Graning’s jaw and nose and put him in the hospital. The episode touched off a war of words between newspapers in the two states and drove a wedge between Bryant and Dodd. A year later Alabama came to Grant Field with an 8-0 record and ranked No. 1. Georgia Tech handed Alabama its only loss that season, 7-6. After the 1964 game the two teams did not play again until 1979. They played six straight years until 1984 and have not played since. They were scheduled for a two-game series in 2013 and 2014 but those games have now been postponed.
The point is that Georgia Tech has a lot of history with the current members of the SEC.
Here is how Georgia Tech could get an invitation from the SEC: If the Big Ten expands to 16 teams and exponentially increases its revenue (now at about $22 million per team), the SEC, which pays about $17 million per team, will have a decision to make. If the SEC decides that it must expand as well, some teams from the ACC could come into play if the SEC wants to strengthen its Southeastern footprint.
Whether or not the SEC would extend an invitation to Georgia Tech is a matter of some debate. The argument could be made that with the University of Georgia, the SEC already controls the state’s market place. But the same argument could be made about Clemson (because of South Carolina) and Florida State (because of Florida).
Why Georgia Tech would say yes:
1) More money. Georgia Tech needs it. Even with the ACC’s new contract, there will be about a $4 million gap in shared revenue per team. If the SEC expands, that gap could grow.
2) Easier scheduling. If Georgia becomes a conference game, then Tech has another non-conference game to play with. That would guarantee at least seven home games a season. That is also more money.
3) Better attendance: Bobby Dodd Stadium holds 55,000. With Paul Johnson in place, attendance is picking up as over 50,000 turned out for five of six games last season. The year before (2008) only one game drew over 50,000 (Florida State). But what if Georgia Tech were placed in an SEC division that included Clemson, Georgia, Florida, Florida State, Miami, South Carolina and Tennessee? How great would the demand for tickets be? How much more would people pay just for the right to buy them? More money.
Why Georgia Tech would say no:
1) The school has 27 years invested in the ACC. It has become a good fit for the Institute, both philosophically and academically.
2) Winning the ACC football championship is hard. Winning the SEC is harder. That’s just a fact. Writer Rick Bragg once said that every SEC game “is like a knife fight in a ditch.”
3) You can’t go back. As much as the old guard romanticizes about good old days the fact remains that it’s been 47 years since Tech left the SEC and the world has really changed.
So if you’re a Georgia Tech fan and you got a vote, would you vote to go back to the SEC if the invitation came? Or do you think the ACC is still the best place for the Yellow Jackets?
If you’re an SEC fan, would you like to see Georgia Tech come back?
The floor is yours.
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