Expansion: Would Mean for the SEC & Beyond
Texas A&M
Publisher
Posted Aug 14, 2011


If all goes as planned (or rumored) the seismic shift in college football will have sweeping ramifications for the SEC and beyond.

A slew of media outlets are reporting Texas A&M’s immanent departure from the Big 12 to the SEC as soon as Monday (although that process would almost certainly drag out – if it happens at all). That action alone would send shockwaves through college football, which could end up reshaping the landscape of college football forever.

Dean Legge takes a quick look at what would happen in the SEC and beyond in the conference added two, four or no teams in the coming days, weeks and months.

Scenario: Texas A&M leaves the Big 12 and brings another Big 12 school with them – leaving the SEC with 14 teams

Ramifications: It would depend on which Big 12 school the Aggies would take with them to the SEC. Fans, and the SEC itself, may want to have the marquee name that is Oklahoma, but that seems unlikely for a few different reasons – mainly that the Sooners are seem to be politically tied to Oklahoma State. A deal which involves Oklahoma would probably have to bring the Cowboys along as well. Also, you have to wonder how many administrators and coaches would really want to bring the Sooners into the SEC West. The division has one four national titles since 2004 – adding Oklahoma would make surviving the division nearly impossible from season to season.

Still, if A&M brings at least one other school from the Big 12 with them, say Missouri, that would mean a 14-team SEC with two seven-team divisions.

The SEC would be forced to balance the divisions by sending one team – Auburn – from the East to the West. That would cause scheduling chaos from the standpoint of tradition.

If Auburn were moved to the East logic seems to dictate that the Tigers would still want to play Alabama each year. That would mean that Alabama and Auburn would be one another’s yearly “crossover” game. That, in turn, would mean (in an eight-game conference schedule with only one rotating East vs. West game) the end to the classic Alabama-Tennessee game.

It seems hard to imagine that one of the conference’s biggest yearly games – Tennessee vs. Alabama – would go the way of the Southwestern Conference. The two have played one another 93 times – and have lined up against one another ever year since 1928. CBS broadcasts this game nearly every year as its game of the week in the traditional “Third Weekend of October.”

But for the love of money it very well could happen. This sort of thing has precedence – just not in the SEC.

Oklahoma used to play Nebraska every year… they gave that up when they entered the Big 12. Now that Nebraska is in the Big Ten the two old rivals are never scheduled to play one another ever again, which is really, really sad.

In the scenario where two schools from the Big 12 com to the SEC, an SEC East school – Georgia for example – would play their regular eight-game schedule. In that schedule they would play six games in the East and two games in the West. The SEC has always had “crossover” rivalry games (Auburn-Georgia; Alabama-Tennessee; Vanderbilt-Ole Miss; LSU-Florida; Arkansas-South Carolina; Mississippi State-Kentucky), and working under the assumption that will still continue, a team like Georgia would play their crossover game and their rotating game every single year.

The rotating game with the West for Georgia would mean the Bulldogs would only play their non-“crossover” foes home and away once every 12 years – instead of playing home and away against every SEC West school every five years, which happens now. For instance – from 2007 until 2013 – Georgia will play Alabama four times. If the SEC expands and doesn’t add conference games (stays at eight games a season) and sticks with a “crossover” game – Georgia would play the Tide in 2012 and 2013 and not play them again until 2024.

For instance Georgia would play the six East foes, plus their “crossover” game (let’s call Georgia’s “crossover” foe Missouri now because Auburn is now in the East) and then play: at Alabama in 2012; vs. Alabama in 2013; at Texas A&M in 2014; vs. Texas A&M in 2015; at Ole Miss in 2016; vs. Ole Miss in 2017; at Mississippi State in 2018; vs. Mississippi State in 2019; at LSU in 2020; vs. LSU in 2021; at Arkansas in 2022; vs. Arkansas in 2023; at Alabama in 2024.

Even stranger than Georgia playing Alabama only twice every 12 years – who would be Georgia’s “crossover” game if Auburn played in the East? It would likely be one of the new Big 12 teams added to the SEC West. Both Tennessee and Georgia would be left without a “crossover” partner if Auburn went to the East.

Georgia-Missouri or Tennessee-Texas A&M may sound a lot more bizarre than Georgia-Auburn and Alabama-Tennessee, but in the scenario where only two schools are added, and they are both in the West all things get jumbled up.

The simple solution to keeping the SEC schedule as close to it is now with the addition of two teams (making the SEC a 14-team conference) is to add another game in the conference schedule – going from eight games in the SEC season to nine.

But that would take away a home game every other season for SEC schools – who have very little problem selling out games. The loss of revenue five times in a decade would be something the SEC schools would have to deal with. It would likely mean fewer home dates against directional schools, or it could convince the conference to push for a 13-game regular season in football – something that would be new in the NCAA.

Scenario: Texas A&M leaves the Big 12 and the SEC adds an ACC school – leaving the SEC with 14 teams

Ramifications: Everything would remain the same as above with the exception of the "crossover" games. Auburn would remain in the SEC West. Than means the Georgia-Auburn contest would remain intact as would Alabama-Tennessee. The ACC school - say Clemson - could be matched in a yearly "crossover" game with Texas A&M.

This would be the most palatable solution for history's sake - and geography's sake, too. Many of Auburn's old traditional rivals - Tennessee, Florida and Georgia - are in the East, but their biggest rival, Alabama is in the West, and will continue to be in there unless the SEC were to add four teams to the West, which seems very unlikely at this time.

Adding only two schools - Texas A&M, and someone from the current SEC East footprint (or even NC State or Virginia Tech) would let the SEC continue specific traditions the league is known for. Adding one team to each division would seem to cause the least amount of drama for the league.

Scenario: Texas A&M leaves the Big 12 and brings another Big 12 school with them. The SEC also adds two schools from the ACC – making the league the first football “super” conference in the NCAA with 16 teams.

Ramifications: The ramifications would be far reaching, and could possibly lead to most college football programs moving to a 13-game schedule and the formation of several “super” conferences, which could end the BCS, and perhaps even the NCAA, as we know them today.

All of the above is rather dramatic, but its all possible considering how huge it would be for, as an example, Texas A&M, Missouri, Clemson and Florida State to all leave their conferences to play in the SEC.

That would set up a balanced, relatively natural SEC alignment that would set up with the two teams already in the SEC footprint playing in the East – Clemson and Florida State – and the two teams out of the footprint playing in the West – Missouri and Texas A&M.

The addition of two on each side would balance the conference, but would allow only one other East vs. West game as the eight-game schedule currently stands. The SEC would have to decide in that scenario if it would a) want to stick with an eight-game schedule (which seems unlikely), b) provided the eight-game schedule remains, if the SEC wants to stick with “crossover” games, or just go with a rotational game each season.

In the eight-game, “crossover” scenario, Georgia-Auburn and Tennessee-Alabama is preserved. Also, Clemson would likely fight Missouri while Texas A&M and Florida State (or vice versa) would battle one another each year.

In an eight-game SEC schedule with a “crossover” involved eastern schools would only play eastern schools and their “crossover” – they would never play any other school from the other side. Georgia would never play Alabama unless it was in the SEC Championship. LSU would never travel to Knoxville to face the Vols. South Carolina would never visit the Grove in Oxford. Clemson would never visit Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge.

For instance Georgia would play its seven East foes and then play Auburn every single year from here on out. Alabama would play its seven West foes and Tennessee every single year from here on out.

If the conference didn’t keep the “crossover” games schools would have a rotation of playing teams in the other division about twice a decade in an eight-game schedule. A nine-game, non-“crossover” schedule allows for everyone in the SEC to complete a home and away set with the opposite division every eight years.

For instance Georgia would play the seven East foes and then play: at Alabama, vs. Auburn in 2012; vs. Alabama, at Auburn in 2013; at Ole Miss, vs. Mississippi State in 2014; vs. Ole Miss, at Mississippi State in 2015; at LSU, vs. Arkansas in 2016; vs. LSU at Arkansas in 2017; at Texas A&M, vs Missouri in 2018; vs Texas A&M, at Missouri 2019; at Alabama, vs. Auburn in 2020.

A nine-game schedule with a “crossover” would be as described above where teams would complete home-and-away sets once every 12 years.

The SEC would probably feel very segmented, and that’s very possibly the reason the SEC would move to a nine-game schedule – that and money. Expansion would likely lead to another conference game each year; another game would lead to more broadcasting opportunities; more broadcasting opportunities would lead to more money, which is the name of the game.

The SEC’s schools know that adding anther conference game takes away an extra home game every other year. Home games drive ticket revenue (money), and it seems unlikely the SEC schools would sit pat on a 12-game schedule for a long time if they were losing five home games a decade. If the SEC expands college football fans should plan on a 13-game schedule to be proposed in the next decade.

The departure of Texas A&M, Missouri, Clemson and Florida State would leave the rest of college football scrambling to fill the void. The Big 12 could address the loss of Texas A&M alone with the rumored addition of Houston. Texas almost certainly doesn’t want the Big 12 to die, but they could live being independent. That probably can’t be said for anyone else in the Big 12 – even Oklahoma. The addition of Houston – getting the Big 12 to nine teams – would probably keep the Big 12 in the good graces of the BCS.

But the loss of Missouri would hurt as there is no natural team to fill in from there. The addition of Rice or SMU would be a step backwards for the Big 12. Notre Dame – the big fish no one seems to be able to catch – doesn’t seem likely, either.

TCU just signed to be a part of the Big East (who would also be effected in a big way by all of this), and it seems unlikely the Horned Frogs would leave that conference after they just agreed to enter it. But possible SEC expansion could force TCU back to rearranged Big 12 in the future after the rest of college football implodes (more on that in a minute).

BYU is a candidate to go into a new Big 12, but they could be holding out hope that they would be invited into what would be a new Pac 16 that could (BYU hopes) include the Cougars, Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State – but that seems a long way down the road and politically dicey for Texas to do to fellow public institution Texas Tech.

The ACC would be all but shattered in terms of football if they lost both Clemson and Florida State – the two of the four “football” schools in the ACC. The Noles dominated the conference in the 1990s and have remained relevant (perhaps not for their standards) ever since. Replacing the Tigers and Noles would be a must for the ACC, which already sold its soul to the football devil when they invited Miami, Virginia Tech and, for some reason (which is still not clear) Boston College into the ACC.

If the ACC dropped to ten teams the conference would almost certainly raid the Big East for at least two more teams. But ACC commissioner John Swafford would have to decide if he was going to stand pat by adding two more teams – almost certainly thinking hard about either Central Florida or South Florida to replace the Noles – or adding six new teams and joining the SEC as a true “super” conference.

If the ACC did decided to move to 16 teams – by adding South Florida, Louisville, Connecticut, Pitt, West Virginia and Syracuse (they would hope to add Notre Dame, but that would be very, very unlikely) – the Big East would cease to exist as a football conference as the only football schools to remain would be Cincinnati, Rutgers and TCU (or whoever else would be swapped in or out). Its possible at that point that TCU would try to get involved in the new Texas A&M-less Big 12.

The point is that only three Big East football schools would remain – virtually assuring they would lose their automatic bid to the BCS – leaving a spot vacant in the series.

Also, ACC expansion could lead to a more sensible division split amongst conference schools. Raiding the Big East could lead to an ACC North and South, which would look something like an old ACC and new ACC. Miami, South Florida, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Duke, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech would all be in the South. Virginia, Maryland, Louisville, Connecticut, Pitt, West Virginia, Syracuse and Boston College would all be in the North.

ACC expansion would end the silly Atlantic and Coastal divisions of the conference – something more difficult to keep straight than is necessary.

The Big East’s dismantling by the ACC would leave the Big 12 as the most fragile conference in the land. If it fails and implodes as a result of Dan Beebe not being able to keep it together (either by Texas and the Oklahoma schools leaving for the Pac 16 or Big Ten or any other not-too-hard-to-imagine scenarios ending with the dismantling of the Big 12) the BCS would have to rethink a lot of things including how to juggle bowl games without two conferences to place teams.

Would the SEC get two automatic bids? Would the Pac 16? Why would the BCS need to exist if there were four “super” conferences (Big Ten, SEC, ACC and Pac 16)? Why would the NCAA need to exist at that point? These are very, very scary questions for the bureaucrats at the NCAA – very scary indeed.

Scenario: Nothing happens

Ramifications: There would be few ramifications other than some hurt feelings. We’ve going down this road once before – Texas A&M flirting with the SEC. But this time it feels real.

Still, until the ink is dry nothing is a done deal. Both the Aggies and the SEC would have to jump through some hoops just to get the deal done, so nothing happening is still a possibility to be sure.

But the clock is ticking, and it’s only a matter of time before the shift in college football, and therefore college sports, occurs.

Other interesting things that could happen in a future with 16 teams in the SEC:

The SEC Championship Game moves from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta to Cowboys Stadium in Dallas featuring Texas A&M vs. Florida State.

The SEC Basketball Tournament could be held in a slew of locations including: Kansas City, St. Louis, New Orleans, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Nashville, Orlando, Tampa, Miami or even in Birmingham (for old-time’s sake)

The SEC’s annual Media Day’s madness would almost certainly have over 1,000 members of the media in attendance – probably closer to 1,500 with the expansion of four teams.

Annual SEC distributions could total more than $300 million soon after adding new members (the conference spilt up $220 million in 2011). The SEC earned $113 million in revenue from football on TV alone in 2011. A new TV contract (the SEC has the right to renegotiate a contract if new members are added to the conference) could be worth millions more. For history’s sake, when the SEC added its two most-recent members – Arkansas and South Carolina in 1992 – revenue doubled in less than five years (from $27.7 million in 1993 to $58.9 million in 1997).


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