When it comes to SEC expansion, anything is possible. Here at MrSEC.com we’ll give you what we hear from our sources in Birmingham and around the league. We’ll also try to let Mike Slive’s history of decisions, moves and timeframes have some bearing on our opinions of current SEC events.
And yet we still know full well that Slive could step to a podium tomorrow and announce that Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Maryland, and Tulane have signed on for an 18-team SEC.
In the spirit of anything is possible, we want to toss out a possibility for you to consider. By now you’re aware of the claims being made by an ex-Miami booster who’s currently locked in the hoosegow for taking part in a $930 million Ponzi scheme. Read this breakdown of the damning Yahoo! Sports report and you’ll understand what The U might be facing punishment-wise.
In recent years, the NCAA has steered clear of two things:
1) Television bans — because with conferences holding multimillion dollar contracts these days, if the NCAA bans one team from TV, it could void an entire league’s contract by default and cost 11 “innocent” programs big cash.
2) The death penalty for major programs — because after seeing how long the SMU recovery took, it’s viewed as just too harsh a sentence. And, again, there’s the rest of the league to consider.
That said, when you scan all of the allegations made against Miami — allegations the NCAA will still have to investigate on its own, by the way — you come to the conclusion that anything less than devastating sanctions would come off as too soft… at a time when the NCAA is trying to show that’s it’s actually getting tougher. (So, yes, the timing of these accusations couldn’t have been worse for The U.)
Now let’s do some real supposing. If the NCAA does decide to kill the Miami program altogether (highly unlikely) or deliver a stiff television ban as part of other sanctions (more likely), the ACC could suddenly find itself destabilized.
Word has leaked from various SEC sources that Slive has no desire to raid an existing league, especially the ACC. There’s also talk of a gentleman’s agreement — though we hear it would really just be four schools banding together to nix specific candidates — to keep out ACC schools already in the league’s footprint.
That said, there’s also been talk from inside that Sunshine State that the SEC has already had some form of communications with Florida State. There have been multiple reports dating back a full year now that Slive would love to land North Carolina and Duke. And Virginia Tech and NC State are also being tossed around as potential candidates for SEC expansion. Clemson and Georgia Tech always get mentioned, as well, but we see those two as being even longer shots.
So if the SEC does have an interest in ACC teams but it wants ACC teams to approach it first, it would need for something to upset the ACC’s apple cart. There might now be two things that could do just that:
1) The ACC’s most recent television deal assures that its schools will make nice money for the next few years… but that cash will be nowhere near as nice as what the SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12 schools will be making.
2) And that’s before the possibility of television sanctions hitting Miami which could cause ESPN to try and broker a cheaper TV deal for the — in effect — 11-team league.
If the NCAA hammers Miami — and we don’t see how it cannot — then the entire ACC could be affected in small ways (competitive balance) or in large ways (loss of revenue). In addition, Miami was brought in to be one of the league’s premier draws. If the Hurricanes are downgraded by penalties, the ACC’s overall exposure in football could be impacted. Example: Miami provides a reason for football fans in New Mexico or Indiana to watch an NC State or Virginia football game. But if those schools are playing a Miami program that’s been SMU’d via harsh sanctions and massive recruiting restrictions, such a game might have the national drawing power of, well, NC State and Virginia playing one another.
That could be enough to lead a current ACC school to say, “You know, we like this league — all things being equal — but with fewer dollars coming in and less national exposure, it might be time to find a new home that can fix those problems for us.”
At that point, the SEC might start looking a whole lot better to the Virginia Techs, Florida States, North Carolinas, and Dukes of the world.
Again, this is just speculation on our part. Who knows how the NCAA will react to the allegations made in the media by a jailbird? But it’s possible this whole fiasco could become a Hurricane in the ACC’s teapot. It could destabilize the Atlantic Coast Conference.
And that could open up more possibilities for the SEC.