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For the better part of a week, the internet has been thick with rumors that the SEC is zipping speedily toward expansion. At MrSEC.com we’ve remained a bit more cautious. We know how our own industry works — someone posts a rumor… someone else reads it as fact… that someone then uses the rumor in a story… and other someones see and quote that story as fact… etc, etc, etc.
Well, today Pete Thamel of The New York Times quotes “a high-ranking SEC official with first-hand knowledge” of the SEC’s expansion talks. That “high-ranking SEC official” has confirmed much of what we’ve reported over the last couple of days, proving that the more cautious approach is probably the best approach. (Take that Twitter.)
1. The New York Times’ source says 11 of the SEC’s 12 presidents and chancellors will meet Sunday to discuss the admission of Texas A&M into the league. Multiple internet reports have claimed for two days that such a meeting would take place today, but we posted word yesterday – via our own high-ranking SEC source — that the meeting would indeed be held on Sunday and that at least one president/chancellor would be unavailable to meet.
2. Thamel’s source said that “there was a 30 to 40 percent chance that the presidents could vote against Texas A&M’s membership.” Last evening, we shared our views that no official offer had been made and that this weekend’s SEC meeting might have been called to decide whether or not to even extend an invitation to the Aggies. That appears to be exactly the case. Looks like A&M has — as we speculated — done exactly what Missouri did last summer. The Tigers let word get out that they were all packed and waiting for a Big Ten invitation that never came. Now it appears that A&M has packed its bags even though an SEC invitation has yet to be extended.
3. “We realize if we do this, we have to have the 14th,” the SEC official told Thamel regarding further expansion. Shortly after midnight on Friday morning we shot down the idea that the SEC might be willing to sit at 13 schools in order to land A&M. That idea had gained some legs earlier in the week on multiple websites.
4. Thamel’s source said that no name “has been thrown out” regarding a possible 14th team. “This thing is much slower out of the chute than the media and blogs have made it.” We have stated on numerous occasions that this process is far from over and that these things take time. WE noted that no real noise was leaking from the SEC side of things until late in the week, a sign that much of the talk heating up the internet was simply rumor and innuendo. Again, it appears we were correct. Also, it does look like A&M’s actions are forcing the SEC’s hand, as we wrote yesterday.
In addition, we have stated that the SEC would likely have a 14th member lined up before it ever decided to announce a 13th school. We still believe that to be the case. If the SEC can’t get quick assurances from a 14th school today, we feel there’s a good chance the SEC presidents will vote “no” on A&M for now… and wait until a later date to bring them and another school onboard. And if the SEC does vote A&M into the fold tomorrow, we think that will be a clear signal that Mike Slive has had very positive conversations with some other school.
Try working out a schedule for a 7-team SEC West and a 6-team SEC East. It’s impossible. The SEC’s presidents probably won’t risk starting a football season with 13 teams. In fact, we think it’s more likely that they would tell A&M to suffer through two more seasons in the Big 12 and join the SEC in 2013 rather than risk a year of 13 teams.
5. This week, we have repeatedly stated our belief that the SEC would want to go to 14, not 16 as so many media members have suggested. Even today, ESPN’s Doug Gottlieb tweeted that the SEC was aiming for 16. But from the sounds of Thamel’s source — not to mention our own — 14 is indeed the SEC’s magic number.
6. We have also reminded our readers in recent days that Slive made it clear last summer that he did not want to be the man to bring about widespread realignment. Last year, he was willing to chase A&M and Oklahoma because it appeared the Big 12 was on the verge of destruction. Now, he’s having to deal with A&M — and because of A&M’s actions, other schools in stable leagues — and that cannot please him. According to Thamel’s source, A&M president R. Bowen Loftin called Slive three weeks ago and told him that he regretted not joining the league last summer. A week later, Slive asked A&M to look at the legal viability of breaking the Big 12 contract the school signed last summer.
Thamel’s source: “They have a contract now. We’re very sensitive about being part of breaking a contract. What we asked them to do was to go settle their issues and not have us be on the table as the agent of causing them to leave.”
What we wrote yesterday: “… if Slive and the SEC do extend and invitation to A&M, they’ll want to make it look as though the Aggies came to them.”
7. Thamel’s source also said that there is a possibility that one or more SEC presidents/chancellors might vote “no” to A&M unless they received assurances that no school in their own states would be added to the league — meaning Florida and Florida State, Georgia and Georgia Tech and South Carolina and Clemson. We still feel, however, that if the SEC gets a positive response from FSU (and some in the Sunshine State report they would), Slive will be able to sell such a “get” to the league’s other presidents as well as to UF president Bernie Machen. Money, power and branding are at stake… Florida State would help put more money in Florida’s pocket and they would aide the SEC’s brand and national drawing power.
The bottom line? We at MrSEC.com have been told by multiple BCS college administrators that our take on expansion and the issues involved with conference realignment are spot on. Though we have consistently gone out on our own in opposition of mainstream opinion, at least for now it appears that many of our views have indeed been correct.
That’s been the case through much of the expansion madness that began last May, too.
Going all the way back to June 6th of 2010 and the 24-hour period following the salvation of the Big 12, we wrote that that league would eventually blow up anyway and that “Texas A&M will one day be a member of the Southeastern Conference.” No maybe, no “it might happen.” We said it was going to happen. And even if the SEC’s presidents vote no to A&M tomorrow, eventually, the timing will be right and the school will join the league. As we’ve written for more than a year now, the fit between the two parties is too perfect.
For 15 months we’ve tried to bring you calm coverage of a topic that seems to bring nothing but frenzy from most. Perhaps that’s why we got such a nice plug from the fine folks at NBC Sports’ CollegeFootballTalk.com yesterday when they referred to MrSEC.com as “as rock-solid a source for football news in that conference (as) you’ll find anywhere.”
Oh sure, we make mistakes. And our opinions aren’t always going to be correct. We’re human. But our goal is to bring you accurate information… not to simply drive up pageviews. We hope that providing credible information and well-reasoned opinions will be enough to spike our readership.
So if you want timely SEC news delivered with rational, measured, objective opinion, this is the site to come to. And we thank you for coming to us so much yesterday that you crashed our site for about an hour. What a good problem to have.