As fans and media wait for the inevitable announcement that Texas A&M will be joining the SEC, a number of southern writers have been talking about expansion the past couple of days. Here are six pieces we thought you might find interesting:
1. Since last May we’ve been trying to explain that expansion has more to do with business, revenue, television markets and geographic footprints than it does with football success and easy driving distances. Still, many people refuse to accept those facts. They still wonder, “Why Texas A&M?”
Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News once more attempts to explain just what A&M offers the SEC and why the league wants to make College Station its foothold in Texas. If you still haven’t grasped the motivations behind all conferences’ expansion plans, you likely never will. But we suggest you read the above piece as one last attempt to figure out what’s up in the SEC and why.
2. Tim Griffin of The Houston Chronicle looks at the likely A&M-SEC pairing from an Aggie point of view. Laughably, he takes time to discuss whether or not leaving Baylor, Texas and Texas Tech would cripple the Aggies.
First, Arkansas left all those schools and more 20 years ago and the Hogs since then have made millions of dollars, won the SEC West a couple of times, made millions of dollars, reached a BCS bowl, and made millions of dollars. We think A&M could survive.
Plus, if the Oklahoma-Nebraska rivalry can be halted, Baylor-Texas A&M can be nixed rather easily.
3. Brent Zwerneman of The Houston Chronicle says that, legally speaking, A&M’s move to the SEC is in the fine print stage at this point. That’s why the process has slowed down since last Monday’s announcement that A&M had empowered it’s president to start looking at realignment options.
Zwerneman also states that everything is a go from A&M to make its move… “no matter the vocal protests of Baylor” or possible Big 12 exit fees.
4. The Aggies likely departure will leave the Big 12 looking for a replacement and Arkansas is starting to get mentioned as a possible target once again. No, really.
Some think it’s possible that Arkansas might leave the SEC — and its riches and stability — for a league that’s University of Texas-centric and wobbling. The people making such claims also ignore the fact that A&M’s move to the SEC will give the Razorbacks their first true rival in 20 years.
Arkansas to the Big 12? Not. Gonna. Happen.
5. In case you missed it over the weekend, Mike Strange of The Knoxville News Sentinel penned an excellent column showing why A&M should be more than able to hold its own in the SEC in any number of sports. Go on, snickerers, give it a read. The Aggie program is better than you think.
Many SEC fans, jilted Big 12′ers, and national media types continue to say that Texas A&M football will be all but crushed if it enters the mighty SEC. But as we’ve noted on several occasions, teams rise and fall all the time in Mike Slive’s conference. Doubt us? Go check the SEC standings prior to Nick Saban’s arrival at, first, LSU and, then, at Alabama. Check Florida’s record under Ron Zook. Compare Tennessee in the 1990s to Tennessee in the 2000s. Now look at the recent rise of Arkansas and South Carolina. Ole Miss and Mississippi State have combined to play in three straight January bowls. There’s room for upward mobility in the SEC.
The Aggies are projected to be a Top 10 program this year. Historically, they rank in the Top 20 when it comes to the AP’s all-time football poll. In other words, they’re likely to enter the SEC with a stronger football team than did Arkansas in 1992. And they have a much stronger overall football program than South Carolina did when it entered the SEC.
We at MrSEC.com don’t expect A&M to enter the SEC and reach Atlanta in Year One, but we also know that the school ranks among the top programs in the country dating back to the 1930s. The Aggies shouldn’t be underestimated.
6. Finally, some folks just don’t seem to realize that the powers-that-be in the SEC do not want to be the first football-first league to hit the 16-school mark.
The SEC wasn’t looking to expand, A&M was looking to escape the Big 12. Knowing what A&M brings to the table, that sped up the SEC’s expansion clock. At most — according to our sources in Birmingham — the league will find a 14th member to pair with A&M and then it will wait to see what unfolds elsewhere as a result.
Still, folks like Jerome Boettcher of The Nashville City Paper are talking about a 16-team superconference. He discussed that possibility with Vanderbilt’s vice chancellor of athletics David Williams. Judging by Williams’ answer, do you think the SEC is hurriedly rushing to reach to 16 teams?
“Growth for growth’s sake is not always the best thing. What is the advantage of 16 teams? Do you now have four conferences of 16 and you got 64 teams and it is those 64 that boo-boo all the rest of the colleges? I would hate to see that. No, that is not something I would look forward to.”
Now, will it eventually come to that? Probably. But that doesn’t mean Slive and other SEC administrators like Williams want to be the ones to usher in such a day.
The SEC may well announce tomorrow that it’s expanding to 18 or 20 teams — anything’s possible — but we would be shocked if Slive and the SEC’s presidents go further than 14 in this round of expansion.