It is that time of the year for college football that is best described as “the silly season” because it’s when most of the arrests take place and it’s also that time when the E word is whispered in tight circles.
The E word? Expansion, baby. Although some folks were in a dither on Tuesday that talk about moving Auburn to the SEC East and Missouri to the SEC West had resurfaced, the big news in the past few days has been University of Oklahoma president David Boren, who added fuel to a fire started by Paul Finebaum. On his radio show a couple of weeks ago, Finebaum stated that Oklahoma isn’t happy with its membership in the Big 12 Conference and stated the Sooners “pretty desperately” want a new league to play in.
That got everybody talking about the possibility of Oklahoma to the SEC. A few days ago Boren, a former US Senator, fanned the Finebaum flames when he stated, “It’s very important to always have the possibility of making a move if we want to. The question is are you in a conference that’s going to have a chance to play for national championships and going to be in playoffs?”
We know the answer to those questions. The Big 12 has only had one representative in the College Football Playoff in its three years of existence and if the recent NFL Draft is any indicator (Big 12 only had 14 players drafted; the SEC had 53), this is a league destined to be a bottom feeder among the Power 5 Conferences. Oklahoma, as the only consistent football power in the league given the demise of Texas in recent years, would be far better served in the SEC or even the Pac-12.
Big 12 expansion has been contemplated and tabled recently, largely because all the big schools with big stadiums are already in the other four power conferences. This is a league where only Texas and Oklahoma play in stadiums that seat more than 60,000 and here was the Big 12 talking to Cincinnati (40,000), Houston (40,000), Boise State (33,000), BYU (68,000), UCF (46,000) and Memphis (60,000). None of those schools would really add to the television appeal nationwide. As a side note, the only SEC team with a stadium that seats less than the 61,337 at Mississippi State is Vanderbilt (40,000). Of course, the SEC also has the SEC Network which is a money making machine.
Now President Boren came out Tuesday and stated that Oklahoma is committed to the Big 12, but what happens if the SEC, Big Ten or Pac-12 come with a legitimate offer? You can bet the farm that Oklahoma would leave in a heartbeat.
The SEC has given no indication it plans to grow to more than the current 14 teams, but the league has always been a trendsetter when it comes to expansion. The SEC has expanded twice – Arkansas and South Carolina were added in 1992 and Texas A&M and Missouri were added in 2012 – and both times the new additions were somewhat of a surprise.
Go back to 1992 when then SEC commissioner Roy Kramer let it be known the league would expand and would be the first league with two divisions so it could have a conference championship game. The automatic assumption was Kramer would target Florida State and Miami. There was a legitimate offer on the table to FSU, but the Seminoles chose the Atlantic Coast Conference route instead. The SEC loved the idea of Miami football and the Miami television market, but it’s the rest of the athletic program at The U that made the Hurricanes a bad fit for the SEC.
When it became evident that neither FSU nor Miami was joining there was some speculation that Kramer would raid the Big Eight for Texas and Oklahoma but that move wasn’t feasible and never got to the serious talking stage. Folks in the Texas legislature made it clear they would sue to keep Texas in the Big Eight and the Oklahoma lawmakers were adamant that Oklahoma was going nowhere without Oklahoma State. What no one knew was that Kramer already had his first choice lined up for the SEC West in Arkansas, which was more than happy to leave the Big Eight for a league whose revenue projections were off the charts and one that offered a better landing spot for the non-football teams (both men and women) in its athletic department. In Arkansas Kramer got the SEC an instant national power in track and field and cross country and a basketball power other than Kentucky. Since joining the league, the Razorbacks have won 20 national championships in men’s indoor and outdoor track and field, five in men’s cross country and two track and field titles in women’s indoor and outdoor track. The Razorbacks also won the 1994 NCAA basketball title.
When FSU said no, Kramer went after South Carolina, which was an independent in football and really needed a conference affiliation. South Carolina has never won the SEC and only made it to Atlanta one time, but the athletic program has produced two NCAA baseball championships and national titles in women’s track and women’s basketball.
Fast forward to expansion in 2012 when the SEC raided the Big 12 for Missouri and Texas A&M. This expansion had as much to do with academics as it did with sports. Both Mizzou and A&M are members of the prestigious Association of American Universities and adding them to the SEC doubled the league’s membership (Vanderbilt and Florida are the only other members). Since arriving, the Aggies have won national championships in men’s indoor and outdoor track and field and women’s outdoor track.
The SEC has given no indication that it’s going to expand again but if the trend goes to four or possibly five super conferences, each with 16 teams, it would make a lot of sense for the league to strike first to get the schools that fit the best for the SEC footprint. The Big 12 would offer the prize additions but would the SEC be willing to stick the stiletto into the heart of another conference again? The SEC stole Arkansas away from the Southwest Conference and that was pretty much the beginning of the end of that conference. Taking Texas A&M and Missouri away from the Big 12 helped reduce that league significantly and forced expansion with TCU and West Virginia just to get back to 10 teams. Would the SEC stick the stiletto into the heart of the Big 12?
There is nothing to say the SEC would, but then again, nothing says it wouldn’t either.
LAIRD VEATCH NAMED EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE AD
Laird Veatch has been hired as Florida’s new executive associate athletic director for internal affairs. A former linebacker, Veatch played college football for Bill Snyder at Kansas State. He has been working as an associate AD at K-State since 2009 where among his duties have been fund-raising, ticket sales and multi-media rights. Veatch was the chief fund raiser for K-State’s $85 million football stadium expansion and $65 million football training facility.
Veatch succeeds Chip Howard, who is leaving UF to take a position as the Chief Operating Officer for Tailgate Guys.
GATORS MOVE INTO THIRD PLACE TIE IN NCAA GOLF REGIONAL
Behind a five birdie charge by Sam Horsfield, the UF men’s golf team shot a one-under par 287 Tuesday to move into a three-way tie for third place after two rounds in the West Lafayette Regional of the NCAA Tournament. Only the top five teams from each NCAA regional advance to the NCAA Championships.
Horsfield rebounded from a first round 75 with a two-under 70 on Tuesday as the Gators shaved five shots off their Monday score to trail leader New Mexico (570) by nine shots and second place UNLV by six. Gordon Neale (144) leads the Gators while Horsfield and Ryan Orr are tied at 145.
Florida is tied for third with host Purdue and Auburn at 579.
CELTICS WIN FIRST PICK IN THE NBA LOTTERY
The Boston Celtics, who are playing in the NBA Eastern Conference finals, won the first pick in the NBA Lottery Tuesday night. The draft is more than a month away and much could change between now and then, but the fact that Boston already has a point guard in Isaiah Thomas and a deep bench of guards makes you wonder if they’ll take Washington guard Markelle Fultz, considered by most experts to be the best player in the draft. CBSSports.com is already speculating that the Celtics will bypass Fultz for Duke’s Jayson Tatum. Of course, Utah’s Gordon Hayward becomes a free agent this summer and he played collegiately for Celtics coach Brad Stevens so that would negate choosing Tatum. There could be more intrigue with the #1 pick than we’ve seen in years.
The Los Angeles Lakes will have the second choice and you have to wonder if Magic Johnson will choose to draft UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, which would mean putting up with dad LaVar Ball, or go with Fultz? Fultz has far less baggage.
If the Celtics upset conventional thought by taking Tatum or another explosive and athletic forward that could drop Fultz or Ball to #3. Would they take a point guard when they are in serious need of a scoring guard like Malik Monk of Kentucky?
The Orlando Magic landed the #6 slot in the lottery. I have no doubt they will pick someone quite talented and it will be the beginning of the end of what could have been a fabulous NBA career.
Just when you think things can’t get any worse at ESPN, the network announces that Beth Mowins will be calling the second game of the first week doubleheader in the fall. The Minnesota Vikings-New Orleans Saints game will be the first followed by Mowins in the booth with Rex Ryan for the Los Angeles Chargers-Denver Broncos matchup. Mowins calls a fine softball game and I can tolerate her play-by-play for women’s basketball if Doris Burke is doing the analysis. I’ve listened to her attempts at play-by-play for college football. I think I would rather listen to fingernails scratching down a chalkboard.
Former Duke center Chase Jeter announced he’s transferring to Arizona.
Georgia basketball assistant Yasir Rosemond is leaving the program and heading to Tuscaloosa to work for Avery Johnson. Rosemond was thought to be Georgia’s best recruiter.
Quarterback Ben Bryant (6-3, 193, LaGrange, IL Lyons Township) was a Wisconsin commit and had been since December but that all changed when he tweeted that Georgia had offered. Bryant told ESPN that he told the coaches at Wisconsin that he was 100% committed to them, but the next morning Wisconsin dropped him. Bryant says, “ … the next morning I was told that I was no longer a good fit for Wisconsin and I was encouraged to continue looking for a fit.”
With center Jeremiah Tilmon (6-10, 240, East St. Louis, MO) signing with Missouri, it almost certainly means Jontay Porter (6-10, 240, Columbia, MO) will stay in high school rather than reclassifying to play with older brother Larry Porter Jr., who will be a freshman at Mizzou this year. Larry Porter, Tilmon and point guard Blake Harris all were signed after Cuonzo Martin left California to take the Missouri job.
A federal judge in San Francisco dismissed several claims by retired NFL players that they were given prescription painkillers “without proper prescriptions, in illegal doses, without medical supervision and with little or no explanation of risks and dangers.”
QUESTION OF THE DAY
If the SEC decided to expand to become the first 16-team super conference, which two teams would you like to see added?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
String Cheese Incident will be touring again starting in June with back-to-back shows at Chastain Park in Atlanta on July 7-8. You always get your money’s worth with this band, which typically plays two and three hour concerts. The band just came out with its 11th album, “Believe,” back on April 17. Today’s music is their 2016 St. Patrick’s Day concert.