In recent years, the SEC had done much to change its reputation as being a cheaters’ paradise. Just a couple of years ago the only SEC program in NCAA hot water was Arkansas’ track team and, let’s face it, ESPN doesn’t dedicate a whole lot of airtime to track scandals.
But in the past 12 months all the progress once made has been erased. The SEC is back to being the World of Outlaws. So knowing that their league is rightly or wrongly viewed as the dirtiest league in the country, would SEC presidents still eye Oklahoma if expansion push comes to shove in the near future?
Last summer, Mike Slive watched the Big 12 teeter on the verge of extinction and worked to provide a cushy landing spot for Texas A&M and Oklahoma. If that league were to implode today — and we think it’ll still take a while to cave in on itself — A&M would still be at the top of the SEC’s wish list.
The school would bring massive Texas television markets (which would please the SEC’s TV partners and drive up league revenue). It would provide an inroad to fertile Texas recruiting ground. And the Aggies have the facilities, budget and passionate fan support to fit right into the SEC family.
Oklahoma? Well, they’re a name. Tulsa and Oklahoma City aren’t big TV markets and Oklahoma isn’t a particularly rich recruiting zone. The school would not bring the academic clout of, say, a Virginia or Georgia Tech to the East, either.
Their athletics, however, are excellent. Oklahoma is a national brand. Bring in Oklahoma and you bring in one of the top programs in the United States. Except for one thing.
In case you missed it, the Sooners were back in the news yesterday falling on their swords before the NCAA. In the past few seasons both basketball and football have run afoul of the rulebook, but this time it was once again the hoops program. As The Tulsa World states:
“Because the latest infractions occurred within a five-year period of the Bomar/Big Red case, OU was subject to NCAA ‘repeat violator’ penalties. Those include a one- to two-year suspension of the institution’s offending sport, in which games, coaching activities and scholarships are basically frozen.”
Layman’s terms: OU could face the death penalty in basketball. While not likely to get hit with such a serious penalty, it should make Slive and the SEC presidents wonder just what kind of trouble the Sooners could get into if they break the rules yet again moving forward.
Not only would snarky columnists be able to write “Outlaw League Adds Another OUtlaw program,” but the Sooners could actually be weakened by NCAA sanctions. If they join the SEC in the next three or four years and break the rules again, they could conceivably be devastated by NCAA penalties.
If the top reason for grabbing Oklahoma is Sooner athletics and Sooner athletics could be damaged…
We’re looking 15 steps down the road, of course, as the Big 12 continues to put on a semi-happy face for the national media. But if things once again get froggy on the expansion front, one has to wonder if Oklahoma — with all its current baggage — would still be the SEC’s first choice to join Texas A&M on the league’s invitation list.