SEC Does Not Need To Grab Teams

The Southeastern Conference says it is being "reactive" rather than "proactive" as the expansion/realignment of college football conferences appears to be erupting. The reaction to Colorado going to the Pac-whatever and Nebraska to the Big Ten (no reason to expect them to change the name just because they go from 11 to 12 or more teams) should be this:


Okay, it's interesting. Speculating on the possibilities, particularly as regards the SEC, and for our purposes as it affects Alabama, has an element of intrigue.

But get a grip. When the SEC went from 10 teams to 12 teams, the main thing it got was the ability to have a conference football championship game, which has been fantastic. But other than that, Arkansas and South Carolina bring little to the league.

The SEC is watching the landscape, but that doesn't mean the SEC needs to do anything. How many teams does a conference need? More important: how many is too many?

There is no one who has a better overall understanding of all the implications of expansion and realignment than does SEC Commissioner Mike Slive.

Getting out of the way the names that have been mentioned as potential additions to the SEC, from least to beast: North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Miami, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Texas A&M, Texas.

There is no one remotely interested in this issue who does not understand that results are driven by money. Who is worth $17.3 million, which is what SEC doled out to each league team in Destin a couple of weeks ago?

TV? Does anyone seriously believe there would be marginally more Atlanta sets watching SEC games with Georgia Tech than without? The exception would be adding Texas, which would add a large television market share for SEC officials to bargain with in future contracts.

This is all about football (witness Kansas being left out of any snatch talk), but other sports—most of them big money-losers for athletics departments—would have greater expenses, and possibly more lost school time. Once upon a time, SEC basketball teams played a true round robin league schedule, every team playing every other team both home and away. That has already been diluted, and more teams would likely do so further.

Expansion harms rivalries. For decades, Vanderbilt fans enjoyed coming to Tuscaloosa and Alabama fans loved going to Nashville. Now those games are rarities. With the exception of games against Tennessee, Alabama goes three years between home-and-home football games with other SEC Eastern Division foes (barring a meeting in post-season).

Some models have Auburn and perhaps even Alabama and Auburn moving to the Eastern Division. Does that rivalry become occasional, or does the Alabama-Tennessee rivalry end if Bama is in the West, Auburn in the East?

If a conference becomes a 16-team league, it will in reality be two eight-team conferences.

A case can be made that the best model would be for all conferences to have 10 teams, football teams play nine league games and two out-of-conference games, then go to a bowl game. But that would cost schools like Alabama millions of dollars.

The best thing about conference expansion would be eliminating one of the dog out-of-conference football games. There is no team mentioned for addition to the SEC that Crimson Tide fans would not prefer to see than Georgia State or Chattanooga or Florida International or any of the other games of that ilk that are a staple of Bama (and most other SEC) schedules.

But it might also cause pause in the offices of college football coaches when considering series like Alabama-Penn State.

If the Pac and Big reach 12 or more teams, as seems sure, the next realignment needs to be in the ACC and Big East, taking 12 good football programs to make a fourth strong conference. Then football fans will be closer to getting what they want. Four conference championship games would be the equivalent of the first round of a playoff. Put the four teams in BCS bowl games (Sugar, Rose, Orange, Fiesta) and then the two winners could be in the BCS Championship Game. It would mean two schools playing one more game and not missing any school...the excuse that has been used against a playoff for the top level of college football...the only NCAA sport in which there is not an NCAA-sponsored championship event.

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