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Expansion By The Numbers 10: The Big Finish

From the beginning of our 10-part series on SEC expansion candidates, we’ve tried to make it clear that:

 

* The generic lessons of our “formula” are more important than the specific results.

* We chose a whopping 35 schools to examine solely because we wanted to prevent people from tossing out other schools that they believed should have been covered (to no avail).

* The categories we discuss have been provided and vetted by multiple sources from the television, media rights, and the sports industries.

* We don’t give a hoot who winds up on top of our list.

* Even when the list is complete and shown to you below, such unmeasurables as politics and league goals will still need to be factored in the equation.

 

In our opening explanation piece, I stated that if I had the power to expand the SEC to 16 schools, I personally would add Texas A&M, Notre Dame, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, just because I think those schools would be fun gets.  However, from a business sense, this site has stated that we believe Florida State is the best brand name in the South that the SEC could possibly grab (and the senior executive at one of the Big 3 networks with whom we spoke agreed).  At the same time, most of our sources have said Missouri is obviously the most likely candidate to join; West Virginia is a fallback choice only; and FSU remains nothing more than an interesting possibility.

So there’s what I want personally… there’s the site’s official position… and there’s what we’ve been told.  Clearly we aren’t just trying to make the facts fit our argument.  We have no desire to influence anyone from Mike Slive to you, the reader.  We at MrSEC.com know there’s not a fact or figure in the world that will convince a Louisiana Tech grad that his school isn’t the best possible athletic and academic fit for the Southeastern Conference.  Likewise, if we state that academics at West Virginia are a bit of a concern for some SEC presidents, we know we”ll be met with claims that we’re “bashing” and “insulting” WVU.  That goes with the territory.  So if you think we’re cooking the books to coax you into sharing our point of view, you’re wrong.  This site has a pretty good track record when it comes to discussing the SEC’s plans.  Other sites might have talked about Texas A&M, Missouri and a possible SEC Network in recent weeks, but we’ve been doing so for more than a year and the search bar at right will prove it.  So we don’t need our views validated.  You are free to agree or disagree with our conclusions.

We simply want you to understand what factors play a role in expansion.  That’s the whole goal.  By cooking these categories down to nice, neat formulas, we hope you’ve gotten a better understanding of the kinds of things presidents consider… while not spending too much time worrying about whether a school is 199 miles from a Top 40 TV market or 201 miles away.  If you did the latter, it’s likely you missed the point.

That said, we’ve finally come to the big finish.  In this piece we’ll hand out bonuses in three additional categories, tally up our scores, and then discuss the results.  We’ll also factor in such things as politics to tell you whether or not a school has a realistic chance of entering the SEC.  All of that’s below.  But first, here are the links to parts 1 through 9 of our series, in case you wonder how schools garnered their points:

 

1: Grading Potential SEC Partners

2: Television Markets

3: Total State Population

4: Proximity

5: Fertile Recruiting Ground

6: Athletic Budgets

7: Football Stadium Size

8: Athletic Success

9: Academic Fit

 

On with the show, this is it…

When tallying our numbers, we’re just going to assign the number that coincides with a school’s finish in a given category.  If a school finished third in athletic budgets, that school will get 3 points in that category.  If a school finished tied at 30th in proximity, that school will get 30 points in that category.  (That’s not the best way to do it because there’s a difference between being a close 35th and a dissssssstant 35th, but since we’re only talking ballpark-type figures anyway, we think it fits our mission.)

Since we only provided three grades for the academic fit category, we’ll assign each grade a point value in that category.  A “perfect” fit will get 1 point.  A school that’s close to fitting the SEC’s academic profile will get 10 points.  And a non-fit will be assigned 35 points.

By keeping the points equal to the rankings we’ve set up a situation where it’s actually better to have fewer points.  Our bonus points, therefore, will need to actually be deductions.  If our scale goes from 1 to 35, we’ll slap down a value right in the middle as a bonus.  So any school scoring in a bonus category will have 17.5 points deducted from its final score.

 

As we’ve stated from the outset, the rankings have been designed to more greatly reward schools that provide something new to the SEC — new recruiting grounds, new media markets, new population centers, etc, etc.

Just to put things over the top in that area — because it’s clearly important to everyone trying to expand at the moment — our first bonus points will go to schools providing New Land.  Any school outside the current nine-state SEC footprint will have 17.5 points deducted from its final score.  (Those schools are: Boston College, Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, NC State, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Rutgers, West Virginia, Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, East Carolina, Navy, Notre Dame, Penn State and TCU.)

Our next bonuses will be given to schools with prestigious AAU Memberships.  You might not care about that.  We might not care about that.  But the presidents of major universities most definitely do care about that.  All AAU schools will have 17.5 points deducted from their scores.  (Those schools are: Duke, Georgia Tech, Maryland, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Virginia, Rutgers, Iowa State, Kansas, Missouri, Texas, Texas A&M, and Penn State.)

Finally, we tried to come up with a way to reward schools with Powerhouse National Brands.  Obviously this category can be debated.  We chose to go with national championship winners.  We wanted to look back a quarter of a century in football and men’s basketball.  But in football, one-time flukish winners like Georgia Tech and Washington would have gotten credit for being powerhouse national brands when they really aren’t.  So we decided to give bonus credit only to those schools that have won multiple national championships in football and/or basketball since 1986.  Nationally, there are only 13 schools that have accomplished that feat and three of those schools — Michigan, Nebraska and Southern Cal — aren’t in our survey.  Four more of those schools are already in the SEC — Alabama, Florida, Kentucky and LSU.  That means only six of our 35 schools will have 17.5 points deducted for their national brand status.  (Those schools are: Connecticut, Duke, Florida State, Kansas, Miami and North Carolina.)

 

Now that that’s out of the way, here are our 35 schools — ranked in order — complete with point breakdowns and our observations on each.  And remember, the idea is to give a ballpark idea of what schools offer the most to and are the best fits with the SEC.  Warning: If you just look at the rankings and not the explanations above and below, it’s likely you’ll completely misunderstand the message of this post.

 

1.  Texas A&M

Total Score = 8.0

(TV Markets 7; Total State Population 1; Proximity 18; Fertile Recruiting Ground 1; Athletic Budgets 7; Football Stadium Size 3; Athletic Success 5; Academic Fit 1; New Land Bonus -17.5; AAU Member Bonus -17.5)

Realisitc Chances: Done

Last year, our rankings had Texas barely ahead of A&M.  But tweaking the categories this year — at the suggestion of a some of our sources — we find that A&M winds up on top.  That’s no big surprise.  A&M offers everything the SEC could desire: TV markets, huge population, big budget, big stadium, athletic success, academic/cultural fit, AAU membership, and even a new and deep recruiting zone.  When you add all that up, it’s no wonder why the SEC opened the door when A&M knocked.  And that’s the reason we’ve been saying for more than a year now that an A&M-SEC marriage was destined.  (A&M’s first-place finish also makes us feel pretty good about the general accuracy of this survey.)

 

2.  North Carolina

Total Score = 28.5

(TV Markets 16; Total State Population 10; Proximity 9; Fertile Recruiting Ground 11; Athletic Budgets 9; Football Stadium Size 13; Athletic Success 3; Academic Fit 10; New Land Bonus -17.5; AAU Member Bonus -17.5; National Brand Bonus -17.5)

Realistic Chances: Very Slim

Now you see why so many people believe the SEC’s commissioner secretly dreams of a day when the Tar Heels will reconnect with their old Southern Conference partners.  Is this a realistic dream?  Only if Missouri joins the SEC to the West and the ACC someday destabilizes.  At that point, Carolina might be able to run with partner Duke to a 16-team SEC.  (Though even then it’s doubtful that NC State could be left behind.)  Maybe if 20-school conferences become the new norm…

 

3.  Penn State

Total Score = 38.0

(TV Markets 5; Total State Population 7; Proximity 29; Fertile Recruiting Ground 9; Athletic Budgets 3; Football Stadium Size 1; Athletic Success 9; Academic Fit 10; New Land Bonus -17.5; AAU Member Bonus -17.5)

Realistic Chances: Nil

When Joe Paterno recently brought up in a press conference the idea of Penn State possibly leaving the Big Ten for something back East, our ears perked up.  Not because Penn State would ever leave the academically-revered Big Ten — a former PSU athletic department official recently told us that academics and research funding topped athletics as the main reasons State joined that league in 1991 — but because this would be the exact kind of move other conferences would try to pull off.  Think of the Pac-10 chasing Texas and Oklahoma last year, the Big Ten stalking Texas last year or the ACC pursuing Notre Dame this year.  The distance would more than be made up for by all of the other pluses involved.  But Slive doesn’t want to stray too far from the SEC’s current borders.  And that’s why he won’t be approaching PSU to remind them that if they want to continue to grow as a school, they should try to tap into the nation’s population push southward.  Bottom line: not a chance.

 

4.  Texas

Total Score = 40.0

(TV Markets 7; Total State Population 1; Proximity 27; Fertile Recruiting Ground 1; Athletic Budgets 1; Football Stadium Size 2; Athletic Success 1; Academic Fit 35; New Land Bonus -17.5; AAU Member Bonus -17.5)

Realistic Chances: Nil

If there were a category for being a pain in the rump, UT would have scored awfully high.  The Longhorns want three things out of life: to make huge money with the Longhorn Network, to be the biggest fish in their pond, and to convince the world that they are America’s other Yale.  The Horns just aren’t a fit with the all-for-one, one-for-all attitude found in the SEC.  The Big 12 would have to fall apart and even then it likely wouldn’t happen.  Texas has talked to the Pac-12, Big Ten and ACC in the past 18 months.  Those are the three top academic leagues in the country.  UT’s administration looks down its nose at the SEC and they’ve made no bones about that in the past.

 

5.  Virginia

Total Score = 52.0

(TV Markets 10; Total State Population 16; Proximity 14; Fertile Recruiting Ground 7; Athletic Budgets 6; Football Stadium Size 14; Athletic Success 10; Academic Fit 10; New Land Bonus -17.5; AAU Member Bonus -17.5)

Realistic Chances: Very Slim

Virginia is a founding member of the ACC.  It’s an AAU school paired with several other AAU schools in a league known for basketball and academics.  It would be a great pull if Slive could make this happen, but he can’t.  Not only would the ACC have to implode, but UVa would likely have to move as part of a duo with Virginia Tech.  (UPDATE — Technically, Virginia was not a “founding” member of the league, joining in December of 1953 rather than in June of 1953.)

 

6.  Oklahoma

Total Score = 69.5

(TV Markets 14; Total State Population 23; Proximity 20; Fertile Recruiting Ground 20; Athletic Budgets 2; Football Stadium Size 5; Athletic Success 2; Academic Fit 1; New Land Bonus -17.5)

Realistic Chances: Very Slim

Some reports had OU ticketed to the SEC last summer.  Eventually, a greater number of sources emerged to call those reports nonsense.  By all accounts, Oklahoma’s president wants to partner his school with A-list universities (like those in the Pac-12 or Big Ten), with Texas, or preferably both.  The SEC isn’t high-brow enough.  And now that the Big 12 is being saved and Texas is being reined in — to an extent — the Sooners can serve as the prince to the Longhorns’ king.

 

7.  Duke

Total Score = 77.5

(TV Markets 16; Total State Population 10; Proximity 10; Fertile Recruiting Ground 11; Athletic Budgets 8; Football Stadium Size 34; Athletic Success 6; Academic Fit 35; New Land Bonus -17.5; AAU Member Bonus -17.5; National Brand Bonus -17.5)

Realistic Chances: Very Slim

Duke would have to join the SEC as a combo play with North Carolina.  And while that would make the SEC a basketball behemoth, it’s not going to happen unless the ACC totally evaporates and there’s no sign of that happening.  Duke is another Vanderbilt which means it’s not an academic fit with regards to the league’s profile.  The SEC wouldn’t have a problem with such a partnership, but Duke’s administration likely would.

 

8.  Virginia Tech

Total Score = 82.5

(TV Markets 16; Total State Population 16; Proximity 7; Fertile Recruiting Ground 7; Athletic Budgets 23; Football Stadium Size 10; Athletic Success 20; Academic Fit 1; New Land Bonus -17.5)

Realistic Chances: Slim

No school has been as vocal in its SEC denials as Tech.  The Hokies’ AD went so far as to list reasons why the ACC is a better fit for Tech than the SEC.  Tech also fought for 40 years to land an ACC bid and they had to play some serious politics to finally earn a place at the table.  It looks like the school’s administration would have to reverse field in a lot of areas to jump leagues.  However, we list Tech as a slim possibility — rather than a very slim possibility — because the school would be a great fit with the SEC on so many levels — academics, football wackiness, location.  And it would expand the footprint into a new, large Southern state.  Let’s check back in a year or two to see how the ACC is doing.

 

9.  Pittsburgh

Total Score = 84.0

(TV Markets 11; Total State Population 7; Proximity 24; Fertile Recruiting Ground 9; Athletic Budgets 25; Football Stadium Size 12; Athletic Success 21; Academic Fit 10; New Land Bonus -17.5; AAU Member Bonus -17.5)

Realistic Chances: Nil

Surprised by Pitt’s placement?  Pittsburgh isn’t that far from West Virginia — a school many SEC fans are campaigning for.  It’s also an AAU institution which would please SEC presidents.  The Panthers have also received 17 NCAA Tournament and/or bowl bids out of a possible 20 in the last 10 years.  They aren’t winning national crows, but the Panthers are pretty solid in the two major sports.  But Pitt just joined the ACC, Slive won’t jump all the way to Pennsylvania, and the school doesn’t it the SEC’s one-horse-town mold.  The Panthers share Heinz Field with the Steelers for gosh sakes.  A cultural fit, Pitt would not be.

 

10.  Missouri

Total Score = 87.0

(TV Markets 22; Total State Population 20; Proximity 12; Fertile Recruiting Ground 23; Athletic Budgets 19; Football Stadium Size 9; Athletic Success 16; Academic Fit 1; New Land Bonus -17.5; AAU Member Bonus -17.5)

Realistic Chances: Good

You know the drill by now.  Six million people in the state.  Two Top 40 television markets.  An AAU school.  Good facilities.  Solid athletics.  Borders three SEC states and isn’t far from a fourth (Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi).  A recent study showed that Columbia — home of the Tigers — is one of the 10 most college-sports-obsessed cities in the country.  Heck, for those of you crazy enough to think it has something to do with 21st century football, Missouri was even a border state just like Kentucky during the Civil War.  As you can see, there are many reasons we suggested Mizzou might be a fit for the SEC  way back in May of 2010.  Interestingly, some SEC fans are now ripping the Tigers and suggesting they can’t play football with the big boys.  That’s an odd argument because just as many people were saying last year that Oklahoma would make the SEC too tough.  You can’t have it both ways.  Besides, Mizzou should be able to help the SEC in basketball if nothing else.

 

11.  Florida State

Total Score = 89.5

Realistic Chances: Slim, for now

First, we’ve been told by two sources inside the SEC that there is no gentleman’s agreement to blackball schools from within SEC states.  Second, Florida actually pushed for FSU to join the SEC during the league’s first wave of expansion 20 years ago.  So don’t automatically mark this one off.  FSU officials have been coy about their intentions offering non-denial denials one minute and then stating that they would listen if the SEC called.  The big question is: What matters most to FSU?  Money (SEC)?  Reputation of academic playmates (ACC)?  Football (SEC)?  Also, would the Southeastern Conference make a move on a stable league?  It’s believed the answer to that question is no, so FSU would likely have to make the first approach.  Our listing is weighted heavily toward schools that bring in new areas, new recruits, new TV markets, etc.  Yet still FSU ranks as a strong fit for the SEC.  Like the Seminoles or not, they have a national name and like Notre Dame or Penn State or Michigan they will continue to have a national name.  FSU is an SEC-caliber program and it’s a cultural fit.  But at this point we believe — no sources, just our belief — that FSU might be the SEC’s next move should expansion begin again and the league have to look for 16 schools at some point in the future.

 

This is a good breaking point to briefly discuss the idea of Markets Vs. Brand.  Missouri and Florida State wound up back-to-back on our rundown.  That’s a perfect comparison.  Missouri brings the new television markets of St. Louis and Kansas City to the SEC.  Florida State would bring no new markets.  So Missouri would be the wise choice, right?  If you’re simply looking for cable households in order to launch an SEC Network, sure.  But ask a network television executive — and we did — and you’ll find that the networks would likely be willing to pay more in their contracts for FSU.  Why?  Simple — Alabama versus Missouri would attract new viewers in the state of Missouri for the SEC.  Alabama versus Florida State would attract new viewers from all over America for the SEC.  That’s the difference between adding markets and adding a good brand.  Now, we tried to quantify brand but that’s an awfully hard thing to do.  In fact, we’re guessing brand would trump just about everything else if the SEC could simply pull any school it liked with no regard for other conferences or potential lawsuits.

Back to the countdown…

 

12.  Maryland

Total Score = 91.0

Realistic Chances: Very Slim

Maryland brings big television markets and a basketball program that won a national title in the last 10 years.  It also brings top shelf academics.  But Maryland — like Virginia and North Carolina and Duke — isn’t leaving the brainy ACC for a berth in a football-first conference.  Would the Terps leave for the Big Ten if the ACC gets shaky?  Maybe.  But an SEC-Maryland marriage is a long shot.

 

13.  Notre Dame

Total Score = 96.5

Realistic Chances: Nil

This would be a jaw-dropper.  The premier football league in the country landing the premier football program in the country.  (“But they haven’t won anything since…”  Just hush.  You may hate ‘em, but no one else has their own national network.  The Irish are the best college football brand in history.)  What fanbase wouldn’t want to travel to South Bend?  What school wouldn’t want Notre Dame coming to campus?  It’s a dream scenario.  But if the Irish won’t join the Big Ten, they certainly won’t join the SEC (where they wouldn’t be a cultural fit).  The SEC won’t go chasing an Indiana school, either… even though Notre Dame is closer to Birmingham than Virginia, East Carolina, West Virginia, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Miami and Maryland.

 

14.  Rutgers

Total Score = 104.0

Realistic Chances: Nil

No chance, no way.  Rutgers only made our list because we included every Big East school.  And because we wanted to show the power of television.  If in the Markets Vs. Brand battle you’re a markets guy, Rutgers is your top choice.  Some league will eventually be sold on the potential to convert a few million New Yorkers into college football fans.  Those television households are the reason the state university of New Jersey keeps popping up ACC and Big Ten potential-partner lists.

 

15.  NC State

Total Score = 104.5

Realistic Chances: Very Slim

North Carolina, NC State and Duke are joined at the hip culturally and geographically in the Research Triangle.  State is also a “constituent institution of the University of North Carolina system.”  Eight of NC State’s 13 board of trustees are elected by the UNC board of governors.  What does that mean?  It means NC State isn’t breaking away from Carolina to join the SEC anytime soon.  Or vice versa.

 

16.  Connecticut

Total Score = 113.0

Realistic Chances: Nil

Again, this shows the power of television.  And, surprisingly, UConn would be an academic fit with the schools comprising the SEC.  But it wouldn’t be a cultural fit.  Only on the list because they’re in the Big East.

 

17t.  Baylor

Total Score = 115.5

Realistic Chances: Nil

The only reason Baylor scores this high is because its located in Texas, with big TV markets and plenty of all-star recruits around.  It’s not a private, Baptist school and that doesn’t fit the league’s profile.  It’s also been terrible in football and basketball for biggest chunk of the past 20 years.  Besides, can you imagine the phone call from Kenneth Starr to Slive?

 

17t.  Kansas

Total Score = 115.5

Realistic Chances: Nil

If the sports landscape had flipped and the SEC needed a hoops-playing partner for Missouri, then we’d have said “very slim.  But with the Big 12 about to be saved, you can downgrade those chances all the way to nil.  Like most Big 12 schools, however, Kansas would be an academic fit with the SEC (and it would add another AAU institution for league presidents to tout).

 

17t.  Texas Tech

Total Score = 115.5

Realistic Chances: Nil

Like Kansas, if the SEC had been forced into a corner needing a partner for Texas A&M, then maybe.  But that’s not the case and Lubbock’s literally the last place any SEC fan would want to travel.  Wouldn’t be considered.

 

20.  Oklahoma State

Total Score = 118.5

Realistic Chances: Nil

Oklahoma State and Oklahoma are a package deal.  If you don’t get one, you don’t get the other… and the SEC isn’t going to get Oklahoma.

 

21.  Cincinnati

Total Score = 120.5

Realistic Chances: Very Slim

Cincinnati makes some sense in a couple of areas.  It’s not far from Lexington and Knoxville.  It would give the SEC another good TV market and a foothold in recruit-rich Ohio.  But the Bearcats’ athletic budget ranked 33rd of the 35 schools we looked at.  Nippert Stadium seats just 35,000.  And UC would be considered a commuter school by most, located in the middle of a pro sports town.  That’s just not what SEC schools look like.  Won’t happen.

 

22.  TCU

Total Score = 124.5

Realistic Chances: Nil

A few fans have pushed this one but TCU was not a fit with the SEC even before it received a Big 12 invitation.  A religiously-affiliated, private school in a large market surrounded by pro teams?  That’s about as far from the SEC’s current profile as you can get.

 

23.  Clemson

Total Score = 125.0

Realistic Chances: Very Slim

Aside from Florida State, this is the first inside-the-current-footprint school to make our list.  Expansion is about bringing in new land, new people, and new viewers.  Schools like Clemson, Georgia Tech and Louisville don’t offer much in those areas.  FSU has had more athletic success than Clemson (Director’s Cup standings, two national titles in the last 25 years) and it has a bigger athletic budget, which is why it has a better brand name and a reputation worthy of consideration.  Clemson — while an absolute perfect fit in terms of SEC culture and road “tripability” — just doesn’t make sense when it comes to the current reasons for expansion.  If this were 1992 and TV dollars weren’t the biggest factor, the Tigers would score much, much, much higher.

 

24.  West Virginia

Total Score = 133.5

Realistic Chances: Very Slim, for now

Like Clemson, WVU is a perfect fit for the SEC.  Passionate fans, good athletics, plenty of tradition.  But there just aren’t that many television sets in them thar hills.  And adding a school with a ranking of #164 in US News and World Report would not help the SEC’s academic reputation.  Sad but true.  The ACC looked elsewhere in the Big East for a reason.  The SEC didn’t jump when WVU knocked for a reason.  The Big 12 might not even toss the Mountaineers a life raft.  TVs and academics are working against the Mountaineers.  But we’re still not closing the door completely on WVU.  If the Missouri situation falls apart and the SEC is next summer stuck facing more years as a 13-school league, West Virginia will start to look more attractive.  Here’s another scenario: Let’s say Mizzou jumps on board this month and then Florida State or Virginia Tech knocks on the SEC’s door next summer.  WVU might be more appealing as a 16th school — if the SEC has to expand again — than as a 14th school.

 

25.  East Carolina

Total Score = 146.5

Realistic Chances: Nil

There’s quite a drop from WVU’s 133.5 to ECU’s 146.5.  And in reality, East Carolina’s academic rank would be a serious issue for most SEC presidents (ECU ranked #194 in US News and World Report).  Yes, the Pirates would offer new land in North Carolina, but there’s the Rutgers Factor to consider.  The Pirates don’t have the brand appeal of North Carolina, NC State or Duke.  Most Americans could probably name Wake Forest long before ECU, too.  That’s not to say the school isn’t on the rise with great potential.  But it’s a couple of decades too early for anyone to seriously consider ECU as being SEC-ready.  The Big East is hemorrhaging schools and they’ve yet to to give a thumbs up to ECU’s application.  That should tell you something.

 

26.  Wake Forest

Total Score = 152.5

Realistic Chances:  Nil

Too small.  Not strong enough athletically.  Not a fit.

 

27.  Iowa State

Total Score = 155.0

Realistic Chances:  Nil

An AAU school.  An academic fit for the SEC.  But no chance whatsoever.

 

28.  Syracuse

Total Score = 156.5

Realistic Chances:  Nil

The Orange just joined the ACC, but they weren’t a fit with the SEC anyway.  Too far away.

 

29.  Louisville

Total Score = 163.0

Realistic Chances:  Very, Very Slim

The Cardinals play good basketball and have a great new arena.  U of L’s football stadium is a fine facility, too.  But Louisville brings nothing to the SEC that Kentucky doesn’t already supply.  Louisville’s basketball brand isn’t as strong as Florida State’s football brand.

 

30.  Boston College

Total Score = 164.5

Realistic Chances:  Nil

About as much of a cultural fit as the University of the Moon.  Distance-wise, BC might as well be on the moon.  The SEC doesn’t have to spread itself out as far as the ACC and Pac-12 do.  Its base is strong enough without having to expand 1,500 miles from nose to stern.

 

31.  Miami

Total Score = 168.5

Realistic Chances: Nil

The SEC doesn’t appear to want to raid the ACC.  The Hurricanes are about to get bombed by the NCAA.  Coral Gables is farther from Birmingham than Lawrence, Norman, Stillwater or Waco.  And The U is also a private school with an off-campus football stadium in a major league city.  Commissioner Harvey Schiller once dreamed of adding the Canes, but it’s no longer the 1980s and Miami no longer fits the SEC’s profile.  At all.  Plus, imagine adding Miami’s penchant for cheating to a league that’s already viewed as a rule-breakers’ paradise.

 

32.  Georgia Tech

Total Score = 174.5

Realistic Chances: Very, Very Slim

SEC old-timers — like the writer of this piece — would like to see Tech return to its roots.  Atlanta is the major metro area of the conference.  But the SEC doesn’t do major metro areas.  And Tech is like Louisville and Clemson in that it adds no new televisions, no new recruiting grounds, and no powerhouse national brand.

 

33.  Kansas State

Total Score = 175.5

Realistic Chances:  Nil

Manhattan, Kansas would give Lubbock, Texas a run in a “least popular road trip” category.  Not even a consideration.

 

34.  Navy

Total Score = 184.5

Realistic Chances:  Nil

The red tape involved with partnering a US government training academy with the SEC would be endless.  It’s hard to believe this one got so much play on messageboards.  As former SEC and Navy hoops coach Don DeVoe told us last month, there’s “no chance in Hell” of Navy joining the SEC.

 

35.  South Florida

Total Score = 211.0

Realistic Chances:  Nil

Adds nothing new.  Small athletic budget.  A commuter school.  Like East Carolina, let’s check back in 20 years.  But for now… won’t happen.

 

And there you have it.  A detailed look at 35 different schools based upon a number of categories that matter to league commissioners, school presidents and network executives.  In reality, the SEC’s pickin’s are rather slim.  Texas A&M is the best fit and they’re already in the house.  Missouri scores well in most areas and makes good business sense.  It appears that they might be walking through the door next.

There have been enough rumblings about West Virginia and Florida State to keep them on the radar for future developments.  Other than that, most other schools aren’t realistic options, would need to partner up with tag-along sister institutions, or would need their current conferences to decompose before they would be interested in moving.

For 18 months now, Slive and the SEC’s presidents haven’t seemed interested in raiding other conferences as the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC have all done.  They believe they’re dealing from a position of strength and they’re likely right.  If the SEC adds Mizzou to A&M, it will be the big winner in recent realignment moves based upon television households, recruiting ground and academics (adding two AAU schools would thrill presidents).  Some fans might not consider that “winning,” but as we’ve tried to show in this series, winning in expansion these days is as much or more about business as it is about football games and weekend road trips.

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