Anyone who includes UNC in SEC expansion talk loses all credibility. That's like saying Alabama would leave the SEC for the ACC.
SEC presidents and chancellors met Monday for their fall meeting (this meeting was actually planned in advance) and pro-expansion advocates were disappointed. No expansion action was taken at the meeting which will leave fans of the 14th team waiting until the rumor mill begins again from the result of a domino effect from the addition of a team to another conference.
The SEC office released a statement indicating “the presidents and chancellors of the Southeastern Conference met on Monday for its regularly-scheduled fall meeting and discussed a wide range of issues dealing with the changing landscape of intercollegiate athletics. SEC and conference officials decided to take no action with regards to expansion.” Now what does this mean.
No one has done a better job of explaining a very complicated, confusing and at times exhilarating subject than John Pennington of MrSEC.com. His number one goal from day one was to take out the emotion and lay out a logical, common sense business model for expansion. He has used many variables to examine potential candidates to join the SEC and not just what best fits the TV expansion footprint.
The action by the SEC and conference officials comes after even more speculation surrounding Missouri’s flirtation with the SEC. After Missouri curators gave chancellor Brady Deaton the authority to explore a move to another conference rather than immediately commit to the Big 12, expansion advocates were delighted to see a possible 14th team joining the league to begin the 2012 season. However, many expansion followers realize that Missouri was interested in the SEC only after Big Ten officials did not express an interest in returning Missouri’s phone call.
Big 10 officials have been for the most part quiet about expansion rumors. Sooner or later, Big 10 Commissioner Jim Delany will be up-to-his-neck in conference expansion rumors especially if he gets any interest from Notre Dame if Irish administrators feel the Big East conference will remain on shaky ground.
Last week Jon Solomon of the Birmingham News reported that a majority of SEC presidents and chancellors would support Missouri’s addition to the SEC. However, several SEC presidents and chancellors expressed a concern that Missouri did not have the “it” factor.
Missouri has an outstanding academic institution, but the Tigers basketball program probably has experienced more success than the football program in recent years. In other words, there are other “sexier” candidates than Missouri to be courted behind the scenes. Also, others feel if the SEC has already expanded West to accept Texas A&M, would it be logical to then look East to bring in the 14th team and simply place the 14th team in the SEC Eastern division. According to sources, Alabama wants to look East and not risk losing its annual game against Tennessee, while Auburn favors adding Missouri and moving to the Eastern Division.
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive is a smart man. He is an attorney with a sharp business mind. He realizes before a team comes into the SEC, patient and prudent thought is needed. Conference affiliation is not about short-term results, it is a 10-100 year process. Many SEC fans still wonder if Florida State would have joined the SEC in the mid-80′s how the Seminoles would have changed the SEC landscape. Slive and SEC officials will continue to look at other candidates such as Missouri, Florida State, Virginia Tech and others. One of the primary reasons for adding a 14th team is simply balancing the two conferences with seven teams each which makes scheduling much easier.
Fans, who seem to have been left out of the expansion equation, has expressed their concerns about the loss of conference rivalries. It would be a tremendous shame to see Alabama/Tennessee, Auburn/Georgia and other tremendous rivalries that are the sheer fabric of SEC football go by the wayside. Commissioner Slive is smart enough to realize that. It is also unlikely the SEC will raid other conferences such as the ACC or Big East. Slive does not want to be perceived as a “predator”. Besides TV contracts prohibit many conferences from extending invitations because of complex legal issues.
Conference expansion talk will not go away. Larry Scott, commissioner of the Pac-12, is a very smart, ambitious, marketing businessman who will continue to position the Pac-12 as on of the most pro-active conferences in college sports. His actions in the next six months will merit a reaction from other conferences, because he will not stand pat with 12 members. The Big 12 members have kissed-and-made-up for the time being, but there are too many ego’s involved in the Big 12 and Texas is still the 800-pound gorilla in the room that is not going away. Many expansion pundits still believe at some point, Scott will wrestle Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State away from the Big 12.
Missouri will continue to remain a viable candidate for the SEC because of the St. Louis and Kansas City TV markets. Again, if the SEC wants to expand East, Florida State is “the brand name” in college football and Virginia Tech and North Carolina will continue to be courted behind the scenes to seek their interest level.
Conference expansion will settle down for the remainder of the 2011 football season, but expansion enthusiasts will be excited in 2012 when the next round of rumors and reports begin anew.
Brett Beaird and Harold Bugg are co-hosts of the Boomo Bugg Show on WYTK 93.9 FM the Score weekdays from 12:00-2:00 pm and the Sportsbuzz on WZTV weekdays at 5:30 and 11:00 pm CT. Brett is also a contributing writer for the Huntsville Times.