Stop the Conference Expansion Insanity

It's an intriguing time in college athletics right now, with multiple conferences on record as considering the possibility of expanding. None of them have committed to making that move though, so as a result we're getting a perpetual stream of rumors and guesses as to what moves will be made and when. I can't tell you what's going to happen, although I've got my theories like anyone else.

What I can tell you is what's NOT going to happen, because common sense and basic math says it won't.

The SEC is not going to lose any teams to another league. Membership in the conference guarantees the 12 current schools big money for the next 14 years. Arkansas is not going to leave that behind to join a Big 12 that's set up to give Texas a much bigger share of the money than anyone else gets. The Razorbacks have been in the SEC since 1992. No one in Fayetteville still misses the Southwest Conference days so bad they want to lose money to try and recreate them, and most don't miss them at all.

Believe it or not, Arkansas isn't the only SEC school being suggested for another conference. Andy Katz of ESPN argues Vanderbilt is a Big Ten possibility because of their strong academics being desirable and Nashville being a few hours from several conference schools. A Lexington Herald-Leader columnist thinks Kentucky should call the Big Ten, with his reasoning based on the league being more basketball oriented than the SEC and the Wildcats having a better chance in football without being in the same division as Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. Neither of those things is going to happen either. When a school has a minimum of $17 million coming its way without doing a thing, it's not going to leave in the hope a little extra TV money from a share of the Big Ten network balances out diminished fan interest in attending games with Minnesota or Iowa as opposed to Florida and Tennessee.

The SEC is not going to expand just because someone else does. There's no reason to, because they've already got themselves set up for the next 14 years. If Clemson and Georgia Tech called out of the blue today and asked Mike Slive if they could join the SEC, the answer would be no. They're in media markets the SEC already has a sizable presence in with South Carolina and Georgia, so there's no real benefit to cutting them in on pieces of the revenue pie even though they'd fit well with the conference. Those facts don't change if the Big Ten suddenly adds three teams.

If there was no expansion talk of any kind right now and Texas called to ask if they could join the SEC, Mike Slive would be extremely interested in hearing more. That doesn't mean it would be a sure thing, but there would be legit interest on the SEC's part. Depending on what financial terms the Longhorns were looking for and who had to come with them - Texas A&M probably okay, Texas Tech and Baylor not - that would likely be beneficial for the conference.

If the SEC does expand in the coming years, it will be because of an opportunity that becomes available as the result of other moves. Texas is the only market that seems big enough to even prompt that interest (with Oklahoma also a possibility should the Big 12 collapse). The SEC wouldn't want Louisville, West Virginia or Virginia Tech today, and there's no reason for them to suddenly change their mind as a result of the Big Ten getting programs like Nebraska or Rutgers that would never be SEC targets.

One more thing that's not going to happen is that when there is legit news on a conference expanding it's not going to come from a local TV or radio station. Already this year we've had ridiculous reports from TV stations in Houston and South Bend, and then this week's "scoop" that wasn't from a sports radio station in Kansas City. Whether these outlets relied on sources who didn't know as much as they thought they did or just made up stuff out of the air, they've demonstrated how poor the reporting is on those levels on topics like coaching searches and conference expansion. When the time comes for something to happen, it will be reported by credible national outlets as opposed to WWTF television in Bugtussle.

Finding out how the pieces of the college puzzle eventually fit together should be fascinating. As an SEC fan, you have the luxury of not having to be anxious about anyone's actions causing upheaval in your conference. Remember and enjoy that the next time someone floats a preposterous rumor as "news".

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