SEC expansion: It’ll happen soon, and there’ll be a 14th team

One of these teams would balance Texas A&M nicely. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

One of these teams would balance Texas A&M, and not the one in gold. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

For a dizzying minute, it seemed Texas A&M might land in the SEC soon enough to qualify for the 2011 conference title. Then the SEC offered no invitation and the Aggies decided to take a moment to assess options, and some folks are taking this to mean the whole deal — not there ever was an actual deal, but you take my meaning — is off.

To such folks, I offer this from Jackson Browne, who may or may not have ever seen a college football game: “Don’t think it won’t happen just because it hasn’t happened yet.”

The key point: Texas A&M wants out of the Big 12 because it hates the thought of sharing a shrunken conference with the overweening Texas Longhorns, who are about to launch their own TV network in collaboration with, wouldn’t you know, ESPN. Before it jumps, A&M wants to find a soft place to land. The SEC has made it clear it’s willing to be that place.

No, the SEC hasn’t said so. On Sunday its presidents met and “reaffirmed our satisfaction with the current 12-institutional alignment.” But this is posturing. The SEC, with its five consecutive BCS titles and its billion-dollar TV contracts, doesn’t want to irk anybody by appearing grabby. (The New York Times has reported that SEC commissioner Mike Slive had a heated phone conversation with Dan Beebe, his Big 12 counterpart, last week.)

The SEC has to figure out how to finesse this so its coming expansion — and expansion is absolutely coming — won’t leave the league mired in lawsuits or render it a villain in the court of public opinion. The SEC will be happy to ask Texas A&M into its living room when the Aggies officially say, “Please.” And they will.

The SEC also needs time to triangulate. The best conference isn’t going to sit on an uneven number. It needs a 14th team, and maybe a 15th and a 16th. It was rumored over the weekend that Florida State was SEC-bound, along with Clemson and Missouri, two schools that have nothing in common. The SEC’s problem won’t be in finding a new member or even three new members; the problem will be in identifying the best fit.

The Big 12 is already down to 10, and would Oklahoma want to remain in a league in which, due to the Longhorn Network, it faces a competitive imbalance? The ACC’s ballyhooed expansion hasn’t worked, and the schools who care most about football — Clemson, Florida State, Virginia Tech — must ask themselves if they want to linger in a conference that has had a hard time drumming up interest in its championship game. (In existence only since 2005, the ACC title tilt is on its third city.)

Which would be the best SEC fit?

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If you’re the SEC, would the proper complement to Texas A&M be another Big 12 refugee? Or would Virginia Tech, say, offer better geographic balance than, say, Oklahoma? The Aggies would give the SEC even deeper entree into the fertile recruiting ground of Texas, but Oklahoma recruits Texas, too. Would Florida State do anything to broaden the SEC base? Would Clemson? (Remember, the league already has members in both states.)

A factoid to note: The conference hasn’t expanded with Slive as commissioner. Indeed, each of the other five BCS leagues has taken on new members since the SEC grew to 12 in 1991. Even as critics contend that college football is out of control, it must be said that college football’s flagship league has been content to go with what it has.

As the landscape keeps changing and bigger programs come into play, the SEC cannot be content much longer. It wouldn’t want Texas A&M and Oklahoma follow Nebraska to the Big Ten. If high-profile programs are determined to relocate, the SEC will be duty-bound to open its gated community.

It will, but not just yet. The Texas A&M scenario flared so fast that nobody was ready for it. By the end of the year, Slive will have done his due diligence and his league will be ready to grow. To 14 teams, I’ll venture, with Virginia Tech being the 14th.

By Mark Bradley

465 comments Add your comment

could it be

August 16th, 2011
5:22 pm

jerry

August 16th, 2011
5:22 pm

Mark Bradley

August 16th, 2011
5:23 pm

It could and is. Kudos.

MatthewH

August 16th, 2011
5:23 pm

I don’t understand one thing about the Longhorn Network. Texas A&M doesn’t like it because it gives Texas an unfair advantage in recruiting (or so they feel). Well, Texas A&M will still have to compete against Texas in terms of recruiting, so how will a move to another conference change that?

MatthewH

August 16th, 2011
5:26 pm

Also, as a Georgia Tech fan living in Virginia, it saddens me to see that the ACC has slipped in terms of football. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Va Tech left. They have never been competitive in basketball. I just wonder if UVA would try to block it.

Chris

August 16th, 2011
5:26 pm

first maybe?

could it be

August 16th, 2011
5:28 pm

Thanks, Mark. It has been a rough day – but this victory will change my life forever.

Mark Bradley

August 16th, 2011
5:29 pm

Glad to help, could it be.

Chris

August 16th, 2011
5:31 pm

Oh well, another time maybe. I look for the ACC, Big10, and Pac12 to respond swiftly with any conference realignment. I see the ACC looking to expand further north up the coast and the Pac12 and Big10 to battle for the leftovers when the Big12 eventually dissolves. If super conferences are on the horizon those will be your four big leagues: SEC, ACC, Big10, and Pac12 (Names subject to change obviously).

Supes

August 16th, 2011
5:32 pm

The big “12″ is a dying conference, of course Texas A&M wants out of there…

I don’t see VA Tech leaving the ACC for the SEC right now.

Louisville seems like a much more likely candidate, to leave the big East and join the SEC, that gives the SEC 2 teams in the state of KY as well.

VinnyD

August 16th, 2011
5:35 pm

I see Clemson as an SEC fit but I think they go Va Tech due to money. Plus, South Carolina would not like Clemson in the same conference I assume. Just like UF would not like FSU and UGA would not like GT. Its nice having that out of conference/instate rival. Va Tech moves the tv market north a bit. If NC State didn’t stink at football, they could be potentially a good fit. They don’t fit like Wake, Duke and UNC in the ACC basketball.

5150 UOAD

August 16th, 2011
5:38 pm

VT will not go to the SEC neither will Clemson. VT and Virginia are too politically tied together to separate. Apparently MARK you forgot the mess when they came into the ACC. The SEC is already in South Carolina and and will not get more TV ratings.
Mark you need to do more research before you pick the TEAMS you think the SEC will choose.
The SEC has a better shot getting Boston College than Clemson or VT. It is about money and money is TV Contracts not teams closer to the SEC.

Chris

August 16th, 2011
5:39 pm

The Big 12 basically shot themselves in the foot when they allowed Texas to get its own network, although that was the only way to keep them in the league. If and when Texas A&M joins the league, recruits from Texas will see they’re in the SEC, which is a stronger conference top to bottom than the Big 12. This would in essence, put the Aggies one step ahead as a lot of recruits will still be able to play at an in-state school and still get to play in the best conference in college football. My opinion is by Texas getting its own network, the Big 12’s fate was sealed and Texas’ fate was sealed as likely becoming an independent, unless the Pac-12 takes them.

Cali-Dawg

August 16th, 2011
5:40 pm

Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Virginia Tech should be the targets!!

The second most popular school for Texas High School recruits is Oklahoma. You want to tap into that Texas market then OK has to be in the discussion. Oklahoma State is the kid brother (like Zander Ogletree) that tags along (and we all see how that is playing out…not so bad). Plus, OK State has a SEC caliber facilities and boosters. Virgina Tech would be the most awkward geographical placement but it opens up more of the East Coast viewership from Baltimore –>> south.

Stinger2

August 16th, 2011
5:40 pm

Bradley: You said last week that A&M would be in the SEC
like immediately and it did not happen. Is this just another article to cover up your mistake from last week?
Sounds like it to me.

nash

August 16th, 2011
5:40 pm

I think that ACC schools should be left alone only to preserve that conference. Adding FL st, Clemson or, Virginia Tech would be a great move to build the strength of the SEC but it would kill the ACC to loose anyone of those teams. The only way to expand the SEC and, keep the ACC competitively relevant would be for the SEC to poach the Big East and, take a team like south Florida, Louisville or, maybe West Virginia with W.Va being the ideal choice.

PatrickB

August 16th, 2011
5:40 pm

Very level-headed analysis Mr. Bradley, something you’re not seeing much of from some of your counterparts here (A&M=Walgreens..REALLY?) or especially on ESPN, but I like your take on it. I’m with you in thinking it’s VA Tech, but I still think Clemson could be a close contender. Mizzou made their thoughts very clear over the weekend. Good job!

Cali-Dawg

August 16th, 2011
5:41 pm

….typing too fast, excuse the mistakes.

5150 UOAD

August 16th, 2011
5:41 pm

The ACC will let the SEC have Clemson if:
Clemson keeps GT as an OOC game & the SEC sends over Vandy. Vandy fits better academically in the ACC anyway. Vandy is one of only 2 SEC that are members of the AAU, but the ACC is full of AAU members.

PMC

August 16th, 2011
5:42 pm

This is Dan Beebee’s fault in the first place. He made a deal with the devil (Texas) to keep his job rent is due.

The Big 12 signed it’s own fate when they decided to become Texas (and some other teams)

chazzo

August 16th, 2011
5:42 pm

It seems to me that the slightly smaller than Big 12 let one of teams wreck the conference. If the Big 12… er 10…. wants to survive, they should kick Texas out. I know I am naive, but clearly that was just bad business to let one of its teams take such a huge share of the media.

Personally, I don’t want the SEC to expand. It seems like there is a lot of potential to become unwieldy.

cattledawg

August 16th, 2011
5:43 pm

I’d like to see a&m make the move when the time is right, but the problem I have is for sports besides football. College Station is along ways from columbia for a thursday night girls basketball game , softball or even baseball..

k.chubbs

August 16th, 2011
5:43 pm

The SEC should not expand. Bummer.

PatrickB

August 16th, 2011
5:44 pm

@Stinger2, Mr. Bradley never gave a timeline, only “Called the election”. He’s dead on. The SEC didn’t reject A&M, they couldn’t make an offer to a team that is still in another conference. BIG difference.

Innocent Bystander

August 16th, 2011
5:44 pm

State legislature of the Commonwealth of Virginia tied VT and UVA together once the Hokies got into the ACC. No chance VT goes anywhere, at least not without UVA.

The Truth

August 16th, 2011
5:45 pm

Louisville? Seriously? It’s the SEC…not the ACC. What a joke. COME ON MAN!

GoooDawgs

August 16th, 2011
5:45 pm

Va Tech is the logical choice for the DC Market, then Texas A&M for the TX market. With the revenue sharing model the league has, it has to add teams that add market, so no Clemson or Florida State.

Michael

August 16th, 2011
5:46 pm

Clemson and Mizzou are both Tigers and thus have at least that much in common.

As for VT, I think that pick makes sense, but I keep hearing that the State of Virginia has somehow required that UVA and VT be in the same conference. Any truth to that? If so I find it highly unlikely for VT to get in.

really?

August 16th, 2011
5:47 pm

Louisville? Really? Why in the world “Supes” would the SEC invite Louisville into the SEC? That’s not gonna happen bro!

garcia

August 16th, 2011
5:48 pm

The SEC is the King Conference and they should not be worried about what the Big 12 thinks. The Big 12 should be ashamed of themselves for bending the knee to UT. I think that Texas AM, VT,FSU and Clemson would make great additions to the SEC.

The ACC will naturally try to respond, but they do not have the muscle to match any moves that the SEC can make. I think that the ACC will eventually return to its roots and become a basketball conference. Personally, I’d like to see Georgia Tech join the Big 10. I think that they, along with BC, UV and U Miami would make natural additions. The travel distances can be mitigated by the creation of divisions. The Big 10 is rumored to want to make a move into the South. Footholds in Atlanta and Miami would be attractive to networks.

really?

August 16th, 2011
5:49 pm

Sorry! The Truth beat me to it.

Bob

August 16th, 2011
5:51 pm

Thanks Mark, good insight. When the SEC expands to 14 teams, watch for the Big Ten and PAC 12 to expand, the ACC merges with the Big East, and Texas becomes an independant like ND. Then the BCS will become the ruling body for this group, rendering the NCAA meaningless in football, and maybe BB. Just my hunch.

$5 Dawg

August 16th, 2011
5:52 pm

The SEC should only admit state-named schools. That means dropping Vanderbilt, Auburn, and Miss St., and adding Texas, Oklahoma, UNC, and UVA. I don’t know what to do about Louisiana State.

Mike

August 16th, 2011
5:52 pm

Mark, I agree that its coming, and 14 is the number. That way the divisions can remain intact, and the league can even go to a 9 game conference schedule to preserve the cross division rivals and rotation games. To make this work it must be a team from the East and one from the West which will be A&M.

As for the teams from the East, Va Tech, Louisville, Miami and Ga Tech are the ones that are likely in that order. The SEC has to be careful not to upset current members that already fly the SEC flag in their state. This means Clemson and Fla St. are likely to draw ire from South Carolina and Florida. So lets look at the 4 I mention:

1) Va Tech – in a new state and new TV market area for the SEC. I dont buy they are as tied to Virginia and the ACC as people think. However, why would they go to the SEC where they are less likely to rule the roost as they do in the ACC? Will the money be that good?

2) Miami recruits mostly in the south Florida area and doesnt stomp on UF’s toes as much. The UF-Miami rivalry would resume. The south beach area is far enough from SEC country to justify it as an attractive TV market. They also have the national name brand. Miami needs a boost to get back going again, and the SEC could be it.

3a) Louisville would obviously not be as strong for football, but basketball would be a boost. I dont think Kentucky would have issues with this move either.

3b) Ga Tech is more attractive in football than Louisville and clinches the Atlanta TV market. Im not sure UGA would be as opposed to this move since they rule Tech anyway. They were once an SEC program and would renew deep rivalries with Alabama and Auburn.
I could see them mixing back in very well.

5150 UOAD

August 16th, 2011
5:52 pm

Mark next time you want to write this article call Barnhart and Durham so they can explain how it will work.
The ACC needs to call East Carolina, UCF, West Virginia, and Pittsburgh like tomorrow.
Send a Note to VANDY quietly.

New Knights Fan

August 16th, 2011
5:52 pm

What about UCF in all of these transitions?

Spanky

August 16th, 2011
5:52 pm

Excellent article, Mark!! I do think it’s inevitable that the Aggies join the West Division of the SEC, but I (for a new tv market) agree that Va. Tech would be a great fit for the balance of the East. Here’s my question for ya, I know that schedules are made yeeeeaaaars before they are actually played. Assuming this happens, what kind of red-tape magic will it take to re-arrange their schedules for conference play, as well as our schedules to replace a patsy with one of them? Keep up the good work, and GOOOO DAWGS!

Randall "Pink" Floyd

August 16th, 2011
5:53 pm

I’d rather have Virginia than Virginia Tech.

Big D

August 16th, 2011
5:53 pm

I personally would love to see Clemson come over, and would gladly trade Vandy for them. UGA and Clemson used to have a great rivalry. But with L-ville, the big advantage is opening up the SEC to the fertile recruiting grounds in Southern Ohio and Indiana which would really PO Ohio State and stoke the Big Ten’s inferiority complex.

Paul N Destin

August 16th, 2011
5:54 pm

Lawsuits just over the hill……ESPN has lots of work to do as well before this can end well for the SEC. The ACC didn’t slip because it never was anything other than FSU!!! Then Bobby got old and now we know the rest of the story.

Colleyville

August 16th, 2011
5:54 pm

I hope this is true. Would be a great complement to A&M (if you know anything about the two schools). Not sure what happens to all the other significant Big12 schools minus UTexas. Hope they get to the PAC. Unless UTexas/Big12 can pull off a miracle and bring in like 3 good schools to get the league back to 12, Texas has hung themselves with that network… and probably poor Baylor too. No way is Texas ready to go independent yet: rebuilding football staff, Mac Brown probably gone soon… network not even launched.

2dawgs

August 16th, 2011
5:56 pm

The SEC should dump S. Carolina, it’s an academic wasteland , and in general an embarssment in the way the football program is run (look out Auburn, you could be next on both counts). Replace it with let’s say VA, then add the Texas A&M and VT programs. Next shoot for OK and Louisville if they want 16 teams.

sogadog

August 16th, 2011
5:57 pm

A&M and Va. Tech make the most sense from a dollars and cents standpoint because they open the Texas and Va./ DC television markets to the SEC. Because money talks these two universities will likely land in the SEC. Money aside, from the perspective of a college football and Dawg fan, I hope the SEC sticks with 12 teams.

What would we call the SEC if these two join? Va Tech is technically in the southeast but Texas is a stretch.

Sonny Clusters

August 16th, 2011
6:00 pm

We still receive the Clemson newsletter that they started sending us when they wanted us to come there and play ball. From what we are reading we would not be at all surprised to see Clemson in the SEC. They are already talking about a cosmetology college and a tree removal degree. That would be some good majors for some of the SEC athletes they would attract.

Old School

August 16th, 2011
6:00 pm

Good job MB, thanks. I would love to have heard that conversation between Beebe and Slive. You think they’ll exchange Christmas cards this year?

sogadog

August 16th, 2011
6:00 pm

And whatever happened to Tony Barnhart? Did he get too big for his britches and leave the AJC?

East Cobb Hokie

August 16th, 2011
6:02 pm

VT is not tied to UVA. Hokie controlled legislature and Governor told UVA how to vote if they wanted to continure receiving the state revenue they wanted. VT would also not be the ACC team to leave. IF Clemson or FSU would leave (and thereby significantly diminish ACC football from wherever it is now) VT would go. But repeat, Hokies will not be the 1st to go.

5150 UOAD

August 16th, 2011
6:02 pm

sogadog

with all the A&M schools in the NEW SEC if Texas A&M and VT join the new name will be: the REDNECK Football Comference. YaHOO we got 2 Academic Institutions and 12 football & farming factory schools.

bamaguy

August 16th, 2011
6:02 pm

Imagine the recruiting advantage it would give Texas A&M: Son, how would you like to come play for the Aggies and line up against the last four National Champions?

I would like to see FSU rather than Virginia Tech, but I think Florida would not like that as it would give a recruiting advantage to FSU (like they need it these days).

I would like to see VT, A&M, Clemson and FSU all in the SEC.

Fine by me

August 16th, 2011
6:03 pm

I’m all for the ACC to go back to the “original” eight teams (minus SC of course). The ACC is and always will be a basketball conference. Expansion for the sake of football money hasn’t worked. The football has gotten worse since then. GO AWAY BC, VT, THE U, and FSU.