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Dispelling Five Myths Of SEC Expansion

As Texas A&M-to-the-SEC rumors continue to swirl — with one Aggie subscription website saying in its messageboards that a deal is already done and a more reputable site stating that that report appears to be bunk — there are five bits of information floating around this here interweb that we simply do not buy.

Last year, we put together an in-depth research piece on SEC expansion possibilities.  While most people focused on football and television markets only, we looked at things such as academics, budgets and facilities.  Since posting our “Expounding on Expansion” series, we’ve heard from multiple administrators at multiple BCS schools who have told us that having gone through these expansion scenarios in real life… they found our reporting to be spot on.  One former Penn State athletic department official told us just last month that when the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten, the school’s administrators talked about exactly the kinds of things we broke down for you a year ago.

Because of that feedback from insiders, we feel rather confident that we’ve got a decent handle on the way Mike Slive and the SEC’s 12 presidents and chancellors will want to conduct their business when planning possible expansion.

With that in mind, here are the five myths of SEC expansion that we feel need some serious dispelling:

1.  It would be a bad move for Texas A&M to join the SEC.

Media members, some A&M supporters and many SEC fans are under the impression that a jump to the SEC would doom Aggie sports to second-tier status for decades to come.

Bull, say we.

You can be quite certain that fans in Arkansas and South Carolina — the last two schools to venture into the league — are feeling pretty good about their teams’ chances in the big, bad SEC this year.  They should, too.  Carolina reached Atlanta last season and Arkansas made it all the way to a BCS bowl game.  Both programs are on the rise.  Good thing, then, that their administrators didn’t chicken out two decades ago.

Now, will it be easy for A&M to step into the SEC and dominate in football?  No.  But it’s not easy for anyone to dominate the SEC in football.  Last time we checked, the SEC hadn’t had a repeat champion on the gridiron since 1997-1998.

A&M has the budget and the facilities and the fan support to survive and — at times — thrive in the Southeastern Conference.  To suggest otherwise is a sign of pessimism and/or shortsightedness.

2.  The SEC doesn’t need exposure in Texas.

Here’s the theory: Some SEC fans point to the league’s contracts with ESPN and CBS and state that the conference is already a national conference.  It already reaches into Texas.  It doesn’t need to grab the television markets in Houston and Dallas.  (With A&M’s huge alumni base, the SEC could claim Austin and San Antonio, too, by the way.)

Sure enough, SEC games are available in Texas.  But let’s move past the remedial level and examine things from a true television perspective.

If an Arkansas-Mississippi State game currently does an X rating in Houston, what would that same game get if A&M were wedged between those two schools in the SEC West standings in late November?  Answer: It would get a bigger rating.

If you’re CBS or ESPN and you’re carrying that game, it’s suddenly more valuable from an advertising perspective in the Houston market (and the other Texas markets, too).  A&M joining the SEC would increase interest in SEC games in Texas and that would earn the networks more cash.

Knowing this, the SEC could then say to ESPN and CBS, “Excuse us, but we’ll be needing you to add some zeroes to next year’s checks.”

Increased exposure equals more money for the SEC.  Period.  Texas is a massive state with massive television markets.  Increased exposure in the Lone State state would, therefore, equal massive new cash for the league.

3.  The SEC would sit at 13 teams for a year to land Texas A&M.

This sounds good.  It works great as hyperbole.  And it drives the point home that the SEC wants Texas A&M badly.

But it’s just not so.

Last summer, the SEC opened its doors to A&M and Oklahoma.  It was eyeing a move to 14 teams.  We’ve been told that’s still the goal.  And we believe the same two schools would/will be targeted by Slive and crew this time around.

Why race to 16 teams when no one else is at that level yet?  Let someone else be that guinea pig.

And why sit at 13 and deal with the huge scheduling problems that such a scenario would cause in the short term?

Oklahoma — reportedly — was ready to head to the SEC last summer before Fox and ESPN stepped in to save the Big 12.  There’s no reason to think OU wouldn’t be interested in heading east again if Sooner brass believe the Big 12 to be steadily decomposing around them.

And if Oklahoma has lost interest, you can bet Missouri — a school that was desperate for a Big Ten berth last year — would be more than happy to move south.  (Missouri already borders three SEC states, by the way.)

So we say 14 is the key number.  If such a move then forces the Big Ten to raid either the remaining Big 12 teams, the Big East or the ACC, then the SEC might branch out further.

Slive made it clear last year that he doesn’t want to be viewed as the man who blew up the college football landscape.  If he has eyes on teams to the East, he’s going to let someone else start to break up the Big East and ACC before he invades.

Fourteen, people… 14.  Sixteen would be the second part of an expansion process.  And 13 would only come into play if — for example — a move by Oklahoma gut hung up in the courts.

4.  Oklahoma can’t join the SEC without Oklahoma State.

About 16 months ago, 90% of the people writing about potential conference expansion were claiming that Texas politicians would prevent Texas and Texas A&M from moving in separate directions.

How’s that lookin’ now?

And remember, the folks in Norman didn’t seem too worried about their neighbors in Stillwater while they discussed marriage with SEC officials last June.

We believe Oklahoma officials would likely try to make their own way in the world and then sit back and wait for T. Boone Pickens and some OSU-friendly legislators to try to muddy up their deal.  Maybe Pickens and the politicos could force the two schools to stay together.  Maybe they couldn’t.  But to emphatically declare “OU must bring OSU” is silly at this stage.

There are a lot of options on the table, a lot of variables at play.

5.  If the SEC spreads too wide, travel will become too big a problem for fans and athletes.

We touched on this nonsense earlier this week.

First, how many fans hop in their cars and drive from Gainesville to Fayetteville now?  From Baton Rouge to Columbia?  Fans are obviously important in college sports, but if you haven’t figured out by now that you’re not really the first thing schools consider when they make multi-million-dollar decisions, you’re probably not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

As for the athletes… please.  In the Pac-12, athletes already had to travel from Seattle to Tuscon even before that conference expanded.  In the ACC, road trips can take teams from Coral Gables in South Florida to Chestnut Hill in New England.  The millions of dollars brought in from television contracts — contracts which grow larger as leagues expand — more than make up for the travel costs involved.  Not to mention the fact, that divisional play helps to cut down on cross-continental trips.  It’s not like Texas A&M or Oklahoma would be in the same division as Georgia and Florida.

As Sean Connery said in “The Untouchables,” here endeth the lesson.  Sure, we realize that we could be proven wrong tomorrow, but we simply don’t believe the five myths laid out above.

And we don’t think you should believe them either.

 


16 comments
nole 34
nole 34

The best option for the SEC would be to add Florida State.

Matt
Matt

cant grow

Matt
Matt

John,

Are you mad you could not go a killer mustache like Jamie. If you can, do it.

SEC fan
SEC fan

One compound word : )

SEC fan
SEC fan

Try first tier as al,au,fl,ga,lsu,tn past 20 years, give a little take a little. Ark comin on strong along with SC, lately. SEC is total domination for a long time com in. Om and msu..... Giant killers any given saturday!! The season is here!!!!!! Vandy n ky, Two words.... Basketball. Southern kids = Talent

Houston TX
Houston TX

So you hold South Carolina and Arkansas up as examples of why A&M would not be doomed to second tier status. South Carolina hasn't won much of anything since they joined. How long have they been in the SEC? And Arkansas joined in '92 and it only took them "two decades" to get to a BCS bowl and they haven't won the SEC. And one year (so far) of success takes them out of second tier status? I'm wondering how you would tier the SEC. In my mind, LSU, Alabama, Florida are the top tier (up until just a few years ago I think TN was up there). The bottom tier is Vandy, Ol Miss, or Kentucky. Everyone else second tier. How do you see it? I think A&M would indeed be a second tier team. Call it defeatist, but that is just how the SEC rolls.

HoustonVol
HoustonVol

I firmly believe that the deal between TAMU and the SEC is done. I think all the parties are working behind the scenes to help make sure that the B12 does not implode. I firmly believe that the second school will be Mizzou, and not OU. Why? With a reworked B12 with out TAMU, the RRR is now a playoff game for the BCS game in most years. OU is working to form their own network. In the B12 they would have control of that network like Tx does. They would have to play one big conference game each year to possibly make a BCS game. There would be two other quality games(TxTech and OSU) on the schedule in conference to keep a respectable schedule. Why go to the murders row in the SEC when you can be Queen of your own conference with Texas as your King. You round out the loss of schools with Houston to keep 4 Texas schools in the conference and pick up Memphis. Memphis brings a top level basketball program and allows the B12 to plant their flag in the heart of SEC country.

SECGuy
SECGuy

FSU brings nothing to the SEC in terms of television markets or new states. They can't even sell out Doak for home games these days and are starting to look more like UK than UF.

Further, we already have enough problems with schools that, ahem, "bend" the rules and have no need of another school that literally and figurativaly likes to hit to the echo of the whistle.

Murray
Murray

Arkansas has played in the SEC title game three times. Want to guess how many times Georgia has been there? Three. LSU and Auburn are at four. While the Razorbacks have only played in one BCS game, they aren't that far behind LSU in SEC titles games. Arkansas was ranked #8 in the SEC title game in 2006. Also after entering the SEC, Arkansas was in the SEC title game in year four I believe. You are right, took Arkansas forever to win games in the SEC. Damn wikipedia and all their "lies".

Are the Aggies going to win the SEC year one? Probably not. But to be fair, it goes Florida, Bama, the rest in the SEC. LSU was the 5th SEC West team to finally make the SEC title game. That's right, they beat out Ole Miss...

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

South Carolina was terrible before they ever came to the SEC. Historically speaking they are among the biggest losers of all time and that was with most of their history in the ACC. Do you think they could have hired Lou Holtz or Steve Spurrier had they not been in the SEC? How many televised games do you think they would have had over the past few years without SEC coverage? USC coming to the SEC made them better, but since they were not even an average program to start with it has taken a lot of time to become competitive.

Arkansas has also been improved. They won the SEC West 3 times(one was a technicality, but there's something to be said for 2nd place) and have now been to a BCS bowl. A&M brings a lot of resources to the table and being in the SEC will improve their standing and gives them an opportunity to become a major power.

Remember, it wasn't that long ago that Florida was nothing as a program. Add a good coach who knows how to recruit the locals and bam, you got a winner. Texas has a lot of great talent just as Florida does. A&M is in a good situation.

B. Roberts
B. Roberts

Are you really comparing the resources of A&M to that of South Carolina? I'm not a Gamecock, but I have lived here for abut 10 years. South Carolina has (for the most part) a great fan base. The problems in South Carolina is population based. SC is a small state. Only 4 million people live here (roughly the size of metro Atlanta). Border states (Georgia, Tennessee namely and sometimes Florida) raid SC of it's top talent. That is starting to change, but then Clemson and SC split the rest of the players. The talent (pound for pound) is as good any where, there just aren't as many ball players to go around. Compare that with Texas A&M. Money spent on athletics has long been a problem for South Carolina in the SEC, but that is starting to change. IN recent years, SC revamped their booster program (to some bitching and complaining) to bring it up to par with other SC teams. A&M is not an issue at A&M. I am not as familiar with Arkansas' program.

I am of the opinion that any BCS school is one great hire and a couple of strong recruiting classes away from competing for Championships. Look at what Dan Mullen has done in 2 years at Miss. State (Mullen would be hell on wheels in College Station, FWIW). If A&M went out and spent the money on a coach, it wouldn't be long before the wrecking crew defense was back.

JakeRMFT
JakeRMFT

B12 flag in SEC county!?!? I would say a B12 tooth pick in SEC country...

guest
guest

You put way too much emphasis on markets. If markets were the biggest prize, the Big East would have the most lucrative TV contracts. Ratings bring in TV money, not markets. Ratings are achieved through matchups. FSU vs. just about any SEC team is a sexy matchup and would be gobbled up by ESPN/CBS. I don't think anyone thinks FSU is on UK's level, some think they have probably passed Florida in the near future. Also, selling out a stadium has nothing to do with television revenue. That doesn't matter anyway, FSU will sell out every home game this season, the fans finally got what they wanted in ousting Bowden and are starting to show up to the games again, and booster money is at an all time high. In the end, this will be a business decision, not based on personal feelings between schools. If FSU can bring the SEC money, they will be invited, even if Florida kicks and screams about it.

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

Gentlemen,

South Carolina was nowhere near as successful in football or basketball as A&M when they joined the SEC. They had a much steeper climb. And yet they've grabbed as high as a #2 seed in the NCAA basketball tournament since joining and their football program is now working for back-to-back East Division championships.

Arkansas' basketball program entered the SEC and won a national title before its head coach had a blow up with UA administrators and the program was set back by bad hires. The football program lost to the Citadel as the Hogs entered the SEC. Still, the Hogs have won the West Division twice and reached a BCS bowl game.

Some people can preach doom and gloom when it comes to A&M in the SEC, but I think with their resources, facilities, recruiting base and fan passion that they would fit right in. For those discussing the greatness of Alabama, go back a decade and check out those 3- and 4-win seasons. As for Florida, the Gators lost 5 games last year. Ditto LSU two years ago. Programs rise and fall in the SEC. That's the beauty of it. Perhaps you didn't notice the line about the SEC not having a repeat champion in football since 1998.

In the SEC, five different schools have won national titles since 1998. That's a far cry from other leagues that have been dominated by one or two schools for a decade (Big Ten - Ohio State, Pac-12 - USC & Oregon, Big 12 - Texas & Oklahoma, etc).

John

HoustonVol
HoustonVol

Almost every SEC school recruits Memphis. You don't think Texas playing a game every other year in the Liberty bowl and every year in Basketball is planting a flag? Also toss in OU with the same schedule.

Hogdini
Hogdini

Arkanas couldn't get out of it's own way. We succeeded despite our best efforts. Our president blocked Frank Broyles from hiring Tommy Tuberville in 1998 which gave us a decade of Houston Nutt and then blocked Frank from hiring Bill Self when Nolan left because President White wanted a minority hire to diffuse the lawsuit Nolan would undoubtedly bring. Thank the lord that Jim Grobe and Tommy Bowden turned down offers to be our coach when Petrino was hired. And props for knowing that Arkansas backed into the SECCG in 2002 due to Bama being on probation. The average joe sees that Arkansas has been there 3 times and assumes it meant we won the west 3 times.

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