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Report: SEC Would Be “Comfortable” With 13 Schools

From Day One of all this Texas A&M hubbub, our Southeastern Conference sources have told MrSEC.com that if the league were to add a 13th school, it will need to grab a 14th, too.  Other sources have said much the same thing to outlets ranging from CBSSports.com to The New York Times.

Now, the folks at OutkickTheCoverage.com said early on that the SEC would be okay with adding A&M as a stand-alone 13th school (and we’ll credit them if that turns out to be the case).  We disagreed with that assertion because we had been told the complete opposite.  And many respected Southern writers who have their own SEC sources have told us that they, too, have heard a totally opposite story.

Enter Thomas O’Toole of USA Today who writes today that “conference and league school officials, requesting anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, have said they would be comfortable with 13 teams.”

Last season, the Alabama administration had a hissy fit — and rightly so — over the fact that the Tide had to play six league opponents that were coming off open dates.  But now we’re supposed to believe that six West Division schools are onboard with the idea of having a 1-in-7 shot at Atlanta while their East Division neighbors enjoy 1-in-6 odds?  All to add a school that business analysts and ex-TV executives now say won’t add very much value to the league’s media contracts anyway?

Sorry, we’re not buying.  Not the idea that the SEC is welcoming A&M with no incentive.  And not the idea that the SEC is comfortable sitting at 13 schools.  It may have to for a year — because there’s apparently been less interest than anticipated from schools that were expected to want to join Team Slive — but we don’t see the league surviving long-term as a 13-school entity.

And before you ask, the NCAA requires conferences to field two divisions of six teams or more in order to hold a league championship game.  It’s possible the SEC could petition the NCAA to waive that rule, but it seems far-fetched — at this point — to be talking about one, grand 13-school league without divisional play.

There’s no question that Mike Slive and the SEC can still pull a total shocker of a move for School 14.  But judging by the silence and lack of leaks from potential members — the SEC is always quiet — it doesn’t appear as though the SEC is quite as sexy as it might have thought a month ago.

For that reason, a 13-team football season might be a necessity next year.  But we still don’t believe SEC officials are “comfortable” with the idea of a 13-school league in the long run.

 


58 comments
HoustonVol
HoustonVol

Here is a question for you. With all of the reallignment talks and inventory being taken on by ESPN. What if ESPN approached the SEC about forming their own dedicated channel. This would allow ESPN to move some of the committed inventory that it has to the SEC, onto an actual dedicated channel that could then be sold to cable systems. This would free up time slots for ESPN to fill with some of the other games that they have signed. They have their hands into so many conferences, and obligations to so many partners that it will be very hard to meet the obligations of all of the contracts. Plus if ESPN partners with the SEC on their own network(s), if will prevent the SEC from seeking out other avenues.

Alan Miller
Alan Miller

John - Love the site. I've been following conference expansion pretty closely on Frank the Tank's B1G blog for the last year and a half when all the action was up there, even though I'm a LSU Tiger.

One of the things I've brought up in the past, on Frank's site, that I don't see mentioned at all is the extra inventory that SEC expansion brings. Would ESPN automatically get it or would the SEC be able to sell those 16 additional football games to the highest bidder? Since CBS is already a SEC partner, I thought that CBS' cable sports channel might be a natural fit for those additional games. That channel doesn't have much carriage, or is buried in upper cable tiers, as it doesn't have much quality programming. Those 16 SEC games could do for the CBS Sports Network what the SEC/ESPN contract did for getting ESPNU more carriage.

Also, it seems like the SEC can really be patient until next summer regarding #14. ACC members have to give notice by August 15 they plan on leaving the following year. As that deadline has already passed for the 2012 season, Aug 15, 2012 is the ACC's D-Day for the 2013 season. As the groundswell of fan support for the SEC moved A&M leaders to seek out the SEC this year, a year of thinking about it may move Florida State or Virginia Tech's fanbase to lead their leaders to the SEC.

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

Alan Miller...

We've actually discussed that here -- and will do so again very shortly. The SEC -- as I understand it -- waived the right to start an SEC Network when it inked its mega-deal with ESPN in summer 2008. In essence, ESPN would serve as the SEC's network.

However, if the SEC adds two new schools, that's 22 new football games worth of inventory each fall (each school keeps the rights to one game for its own PPV purposes) plus all of the additional basketball, baseball, etc.

So would that shake up the contract enough to allow the SEC to start its own network? Or would ESPN still own that inventory and have the ability to sell some of it off to Fox Sports Net and CSS (as it currently does with about 12 football games per season)? Depends on the wording of the contract.

I also agree with your last point. There's no telling what the landscape will look like in a year. Of course, there's some risk in that, too. If the SEC brings in A&M and no one wants to move next summer, then the league would suddenly face a second year of having to work out a schedule for 13 teams. Or, perhaps, another league might swoop in and grab a school the SEC has its eye on.

There are so many variables at play, anyone who claims to have it all figured out is blowing a whole lotta smoke. We've done a pretty good job around here of calling our shots -- last July we stated that the Big 12 would eventually fold and that A&M would DEFINITELY land in the SEC at some point -- but even we've got some good sources who've proven to be right more times than not giving us completely different stories on this current mess.

At this point, I'm guessing even Mike Slive -- who I have a tremendous amount of respect for -- is scratching his head over a few things.

Thanks for reading the site, we're glad to have you,
John

ShannyDeridan
ShannyDeridan

It would be so epic if we could land Texas (the longhorns the REAL team in Texas) and the Aggies would have to deal with them all over again

can you imagine AU leaving to get away from Bama just to have Bama show up there to take over a few years later

xmego
xmego

Has anyone considered the possibility that a current SEC school may leave the conference, bringing it back to a 6/6 alignment? I'm thinking of a well-endowed private institution that has never really fit the SEC mold.

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

xmego...

Arkansas isn't going to leave one of the few solid leagues in the country -- just when it's appears ready to bring in one of the Hogs' old rivals -- for a league that has to worry about:

a) being raided because of its location
b) Texas leaving to become an independent
c) other schools leaving to get away from Texas.

Anything's possible, but that's got a .000001 percent chance of happening.

Thanks for reading the site,
John

xmego
xmego

I wasn't referring to Arkansas.

ShannyDeridan
ShannyDeridan

lol i didn't say they would consider leaving

just said that the Big XII would make a run at them... $30 mil + getting back to their more traditional rivalries- but its still not enough to leave the SEC for a timebomb waiting to explode

Jamie Thornton
Jamie Thornton

the big problem with arkansas and giving them 30 million is they would laugh. The big boosters at arkansas are known as the walton family. AKA Wal Mart. They have their H.Q>'s about 20 miles from campus. If that's not enough money(yeah right) try Tyson chicken and many others. 30 million to the UofA is like us handing them a 1 dollar bill to come to our conference.

UofA72
UofA72

John,
I think the chances you gave that Arkansas would go back, is WAY too high. lol

Some of the articles floating around list all the reasons A&M is leaving the Big12 and joining the SEC. Then they turn right around and mention Arkansas doing just the opposite. Sometimes I wonder if these journalists read what they write.

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

UofA72...

A lot of us just write things for the sake of getting pageviews. Doesn't say much for the industry.

We may make some mistakes around here on occasion, but we're not going to intentionally fling nonsense just to make headlines.

By the way, I've talked to one person in the Arkansas athletic department, chatted with several Arkansas media members and heard from a number of Razorback fans. Asked about a move to the Big 12, each and every person has laughed or scoffed at the idea. You're right. My odds are probably too high.

Thanks for reading the site.
John

ShannyDeridan
ShannyDeridan

ha- i think we all have thought that at some time, but I dont think that will happen we need Vandy as our off week

I did read that the Big XII was going to make a run at Arkansas...

potentially offering them all the money it gets from Texas A&M's withdrawal fee

Can't see them actually doing that though... although who knows 20-30 million is a lot of scratch (and the SEC has no withdrawal fee... I mean who in their right mind would ever leave the SEC)

UofA72
UofA72

Arkansas would never go back under Texas' thumb. The air has been too clean in the SEC. They don't need the money that badly. They just raised $30 million to expand, and renovate their football practice facilites, and they did it in a matter of a few months.

They also were the first public university to reach $1 billion in a single campaign. If I remember right they did it in a1 1/2 years. Texas was trying the same thing at the same time, but Arkansas made it first. None of this money was for the athletic department.

Jamie Thornton
Jamie Thornton

why do we need divisions anyway? why can't the two best schools play for the title at the end of the season?

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

Jamie Thornton...

In the piece above (a piece that several people chose to comment on before actually reading) I stated the following:

"And before you ask, the NCAA requires conferences to field two divisions of six teams or more in order to hold a league championship game. It’s possible the SEC could petition the NCAA to waive that rule, but it seems far-fetched — at this point — to be talking about one, grand 13-school league without divisional play."

John

HoustonVol
HoustonVol

It might not be to far fetched for the NCAA to do a waiver for conferences that have more than 12 schools. Why? If it prevents the SEC from having to add a 14th team right now, it will help stabilize other conferences and stall the expansion to mega conferences. As long as the ghost of the SEC needing another school is out there, it will force conferences to react.

Jamie Thornton
Jamie Thornton

oh, ok. sorry about that. well that stinks. I think it would've been more fun without divisions. and the two best teams playing for the title in atlanta or who knows, maybe the sec title moves to Dallas and Jerry's place for a year or two.

ShannyDeridan
ShannyDeridan

no way thats too far away from everyone except A&M (and the aggies sure wont be in the title game)

ShannyDeridan
ShannyDeridan

its all about trying to preserve some rivalries

If it were all just a rotation there would be years where Georgia & Florida didn't play, Where Alabama & Auburn didn't play, Where Auburn & LSU didn't play, Where Florida and Tennessee didn't play, etc etc etc

it would be madness... and horribly depressing at least for me rivalries are what make college football what it is

plus the NCAA says two divisions of 6 to be able to have a championship game

Jamie Thornton
Jamie Thornton

but can't the sec make it where each school plays 6 teams in the sec every year and rotate the others? Like Alabama. They play, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, LSU, and Arkansas every season. Just an idea.

ShannyDeridan
ShannyDeridan

ouch that is the roughest schedule i've ever seen

how about just AU and Tenn and you can rotate the rest of them

Ced Lover-Scott
Ced Lover-Scott

I disagree that the SEC is less attractive. I think the issue at hand is that every school wants to get to a BCS game. Playing in a BCS bowl has turned into great consolation prize. But I think the fact that each conference can only send a max of 2 schools into BCS games along with the fact that 6 teams typically are Top 15/Top 20, it's impossibly difficult to break through that. So THAT'S the issue for the trepidation to go the the SEC. Football is the driving force of college athletics and there cannot be anything against living in that neighborhood. But it you know that your route is easy to get to a BCS game NOW, why on Earth would you make it more difficult? Notice all the schools being considered are in conferences with easy routes to the BCS

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

Ced Lover-Scott...

So you're saying that because the SEC is so tough, it's NOT ATTRACTIVE to many schools. I think you just made our point.

John

ShannyDeridan
ShannyDeridan

aTm will NEVER get to a BCS game now

Micheal Cummings
Micheal Cummings

Never say, Never say. Did anybody think that Auburn would won the MNC last year. Plus TAMU bring more to the table like Basketball(Women won it all), Baseball and other sports.

I think we need to keep our eyes to BYU right now, because they might be the ones that hold the keys to everything, if they dont go to BEVO 9 than you might see OU, OSU, and Missouri looking for new homes.

ShannyDeridan
ShannyDeridan

yeah, we really needed to boost our Womens basketball

thats a big time deal in this part of the country

ShannyDeridan
ShannyDeridan

How is this going to work with conference games ?

Alabama already plays the 5 teams from the west (now 6) plust Tennessee every year, and the other two East teams rotate every other year

does this mean we are now going to 9 Conference games?

That is going to DESTROY out of conference games vs good competition

No more LSU/Oregons or UGA/Boise St... because with 9 SEC games on the schedule thats hard enough you might as well just play 3 cupcakes

Jamie Thornton
Jamie Thornton

Hey Mr.Sec. Has anyone talked about West Virginia? Or would the sec have no interest? They have a great and passionate fan base. THey travel well. Already play some sec teams out of conference. They bring a solid football and basketball team. Just wondering what, if anything you've heard on them?

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

There's been some blogging about WVU on various sites. I assume they would want into the SEC as the Big East is inferior in a lot of ways.

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

Jamie Thornton and AllTideUp...

We listed West Virginia as a possibility about 2 1/2 weeks ago. Since then we've seen others mention the Mountaineers. Of all the possibilities, we wrote that they are probably the most likely to pick up a phone and seek admission. They would love SEC money and the Big East, ACC and Big 12 are the leagues most likely to be raided at some point in the future.

That said, West Virginia is a small state. There's no guarantee that TV execs would credit the SEC the Pittsburgh market just for adding WVU. Also -- and this matters because presidents will make the final call -- WVU does not have a great academic reputation. Not a bad school by any means, but according to most rankings services, WVU would automatically enter the SEC as the lowest-rated academic school in the conference. League presidents are already tired of the perception that their league is about athletics first, academics second. See this spring's vote on oversigning for an example.

Aside from those negatives, WVU would probably make an excellent fit in terms of athletics -- good football and basketball tradition, rabid fanbase, good facilities, and close enough to develop some good rivalries with Kentucky and Tennessee.

I'd like to see it, but from a business perspective, it doesn't make much sense.

Thanks for reading the site,
John

Interested Observer
Interested Observer

Common sense only tells you that SEC Presidents would only approve expansion if it made their individual schools' Athletic Depts. more money.

Can you conclusively tell me one way or the other if this recent expansion will re-open negotiations for the SEC's tv contracts and in turn re-open the wallets of ESPN/CBS to give the SEC more money?

Thanks

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

Interested Observer...

As stated above, yes, there will be new negotiations. But again, we have no idea what CBS and ESPN -- especially ESPN with its hands in everybody's cookie jars -- will offer.

John

Interested Observer
Interested Observer

Mr. Pennington,

This has been a source of great debate on the national college football boards and maybe you can enlighten me. With expansion, can the SEC open back up the renegotiations with the TV contracts with ESPN/CBS?
No one has really said anything concrete one way or the other.

The evidence suggests yes...Slive and ESPN recently said in an al.com article that the first 5-year "look-in" to the contract was being pushed up 3 years early to this year.
Also, it's been said that Slive has been in consulation with ESPN and CBS this entire time during expansion talk and the Networks have been advising Slive on what would re-open the negatiations of the tv contracts and what would make the SEC more money.

Many people believe that the SEC Presidents voting to NOT expand within its current 9-state footprint was a direct result from ESPN/CBS telling Slive that the conference would make more money by expanding outside its footprint into other states rather than within current SEC states.

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

Interested Observer...

Mike Slive seems to think that he could re-open negotiations. I can't imagine the SEC's contracts don't call for automatic talks should the leaue expand or contract. So, yes, there will be conversations.

But the question is -- What would CBS and ESPN offer in new negotiations? If it's not an increase of about 9%, then each school will lose money in the deal.

The SEC wouldn't be bringing in A&M out of the kindness of its heart. The league knows there's money to be had, but how are they planning on getting it?

Thanks for reading,
John

Jamie Thornton
Jamie Thornton

a lot of people have been floating TCU around. I would think TCU would come very quickly. They're also making major improvements to their athletic facilities and are in Dallas. With A&M in Houston(or just outside of it) that would add two major markets. If the sec didn't want to wait for something better.

ShannyDeridan
ShannyDeridan

TCU offers absolutely nothing to the SEC

of course they would come... but we would NEVER allow it

the only reason they are getting into a BCS conference is b/c the Big Least is desperate and will take ANYBODY who will come right now

ShannyDeridan
ShannyDeridan

WELCOME TO THE SEC AGGIES

If you play your cards right and catch a few breaks, you might be lucky enough to earn yourself a trip to SHREVEPORT, LA

just FYI aggies, the rest of this conference thinks you are a bigger joke than the Longhorns do

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

Well you do know that we don't have a tie-in with the Independence Bowl anymore right? So no SEC team is going to Shreveport anymore.

Also, I really don't get the people saying A&M won't be competitive. Worse shot at making Atlanta than Vandy?

ShannyDeridan
ShannyDeridan

no more shreveport?

I did NOT know that... well, thank god I guess

yeah aTm will be more competitive than Vandy, and maybe Kentucky and sometimes the Mississippi Schools. But is being ranked between 9th-11th of a 13 team conference really something to be excited about?

My biggest annoyance with A&M is its far away, the campus is desolate and in the middle of NOWHERE, and their fans are arrogant and think they deserve special treatment and they'll be one of the SEC's premier schools going forward

Also they seem like babies running from big brother Texas b/c they couldn't keep up with the big boys. So given that history, after a few years of getting punked by the entire SEC what are they going to do? I mean they threw away years of traditional rivalries going back decades, maybe a century just to get away from the Longhorns so they could pretend they are equally as important

ShannyDeridan
ShannyDeridan

i'm just annoyed the aggies are screwing up our divisions, number of conference games etc

will probably lead to no more good OOC games b/c of 9 game SEC schedule

no more Oregon / LSU or Boise / UGA

and aside from the TV market, which doesn't make a bit of difference to me personally, I dont see what aTm adds to the SEC at all

that and I just listened to an Aggie on Finebaum compare Texas A&M to Florida and he said thats what the SEC is adding

UofA72
UofA72

No one is as arrogant as UT . They are the most obnoxious fans anywhere. If they can't bully someone. they don't want them. That's what got the Big Twelve in this mess to start with. Truth be known, most, if not all the other Big 12 teams feel the same way Colorado, Nebraska, and now A&M did, but have little to no choice about their situation.

By the way, you'd make a great UT fan, if you aren't already.

@shadgriffin
@shadgriffin

Why can't the conference go to the format it used with 10 teams for so many years? Each team plays 5 opponents every year and they play the other 8 on a rotating basis. At the end of the season, take the two top teams based on record and play for the conference title game. Why do you have to have divisions to make it work?

ShannyDeridan
ShannyDeridan

when there were 10 teams there was no conference championship game

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

@shadgriffin...

As I stated in the above piece, the NCAA requires two divisions of six or more teams before a league can hold a championship game.

John

ShannyDeridan
ShannyDeridan

What if sometime in the future TEXAS becomes the 14th team in the SEC?

meltdown from aTm would be just the most epic event in history

I know it wont happen, but its funny to think about

Steve
Steve

"All to add a school that business analysts and TV executives now say won’t add much very value to the league’s media contracts anyway ..."

I think you've been buying what THE NETWORKS want to say, prior to renegotations. The SEC adding a flagship school from America's #2 state, and adding increased interest in D/FW, Houston, and San Antonio, has to add value. Crazy to buy into a story stating otherwise.

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

Steve...

1. Business analysts don't care one way or the other. They're just reporting their take.

2. Ex-network executives don't have a dog in the fight.

We have said repeatedly that we don't buy that the SEC is adding A&M with nary an incentive. But we do think it's worth pointing out what people familiar with network-league contracts are saying. Especially since those people aren't being paid by a league or a network at the current time.

Also, that was one line in this story and it was certainly not the focus of the story.

Thanks for reading the site,
John

houstonvol
houstonvol

I have already suggested having TAMU play 4 eastern and 4 western teams for their league schedule. However they would be an "independent" for the season, and not eligible for the championship game. They would be eligible for any of the SEC bowls tie ins. This would avoid the issue of an unbalanced schedule and all of the games would be OOC games that the SEC could then sell off as additional inventory and make money on for all the schools.

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

houstonvol...

That would work -- as we have also commented -- for a year. But if the SEC's administrators are "comfortable" with 13 schools, would this really be an option for 2, 3 or 4 years to come? At some point, I think A&M would probably like a shot at reaching Atlanta, don't you?

The USA Today story suggests that SEC administrators might be okay with 13 schools for a while longer than one year. So one-year solutions don't change our view in the least... that being that the SEC may have to play with 13 next year, but it will not comfortably sit at 13 for years to come.

As always, thanks for reading the site,
John

ShannyDeridan
ShannyDeridan

come on John

we all know aTm has ZERO shot at ever getting to Atlanta

The Commodores will make it to Atlanta before the Aggies



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