Eyes are rolling.
Readers are scoffing.
And fingers are preparing to fill up our comment boxes with, “Don’t you remember when the SEC said it wasn’t going to expand… and then added Missouri and Texas A&M?”
Yes, we do. But this is different.
For months we’ve been telling you that our contacts at schools across the SEC have unanimously said that their institutions had zero interest in adding any more teams to the league’s roster before figuring out just what gains or losses had been made by inviting Mizzou and A&M into the family.
The ongoing battle over schedule issue has only made that feeling stronger. Oh, sure, if the ACC blows apart or North Carolina and Duke ring up Mike Slive tomorrow seeking an package invite, things could change. But for now, what’s being said on the record matches what’s being said off the record.
That was not the case last summer in the run-up to add the Aggies and Tigers. On the record, the league was happy at 12. Off the record, we reported week after week that deals were near-done and then really-done, in spite of public denials.
Marc Weiszer of The Athens Banner-Herald recently put together a string of quotes from last week’s SEC Meetings dealing with the topic of expansion. What these men told Weiszer on the record is exactly what we’ve been hearing off the record from people at school after school.
Florida president Bernie Machen:
“I don’t see any reason to expand right now. I think we’ve got some digestion issues going from 12 to 14… We’re negotiating with CBS to expand from 12 to 14. There just doesn’t seem to be any logistical reason to expand right now. We want to see how 14 works…
We’re coming up sort of a major fork in the road with BCS in 2014. How that plays out will either drive or cause a reaction to the realignment issue. I think it’s going to take another year or so before that gets sorted out…
“If the whole world turned upside down tomorrow, we’d probably get back in that mode, but we think it’s pretty calm right now as far as where we are.”
Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity:
“It’s been a topic at every meeting, whether it’s schedules or finances or travel. It’s just adding so much. We’re just hoping it settles for a few years, but who knows? Nobody really knows what the landscape is, but at least there’s some closure now to what’s happening.”
Add to that Slive’s most oft-quoted comment from last week — “I was comfortable at 12″ — and you get the feeling as a reader that the SEC’s decision-makers would very much enjoy a cooling off period.
And that’s exactly what people behind the scenes are saying, too.
Laugh if you like, but unless the ACC crumbles, any further expansion by the SEC would be stunning. Because adding two schools has already been more trouble than many in the league expected.