For many years people have asked the rhetorical question: what if the SEC needed to expand? Who would they add?
Many of the same names you've been hearing for the last couple of weeks have come up in the discussion along with some other options that don't fit into these current discussions.
The conferences are adding additional members to not only become the stronger conference on the field, but to pad their bank accounts. Everybody wants the big deal, similar to what the SEC signed with ESPN last year. The Pac-10's hope was by adding Texas and Oklahoma along with Texas A&M and Oklahoma State, they'd be able to entice a similar financial deal for their conference members, which already includes USC and Oregon as top quality programs.
Instead of following the lead of the Longhorns, Texas A&M is weighing their options and now they could be a big part of the SEC's expansion.
The SEC takes pride in being the best conference and by adding a school like Texas A&M, which possesses strong academics, strong football tradition, and a very good fanbase, the conference does nothing but increase its strength.
The SEC expanding into Texas is the most natural expansion that can be explored at this point. ESPN got one specific thing right – Texas is the first choice of the conference. But Texas seems sold on the new-look Pac-10. A&M is the next logical choice and also a very willing participant in these negotiations.
The Aggies could gain a new-found recruiting advantage over their Lone Star state brethren by becoming a part of the SEC. Recruits all over the nation, not just in the south east, have had it drilled into their psyche that the SEC is number one. Being able to play that card could help them gain recruits that they normally would have lost to Texas and even Oklahoma.
That would be the SEC's thirteenth member, should the Aggies come to the conference.
But now with an expansion into Texas, where does the conference go from there?
The names of Georgia Tech, Florida State, Clemson, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, North Carolina State and even Duke have been mentioned as possibilities. Also Big 12 holdovers Kansas and Missouri have also been brought up.
Of that group, you can quickly eliminate Duke, from consideration. As a fan base, they bring very little to the table, so there would be no new TV market. There's no advantage to adding Duke to the SEC, except for in basketball. But this is football driven. Basketball is about as important in this as my opinion on what should be done.
While North Carolina would be a great addition to the SEC academically and by bringing Charlotte into the fold, it's unlikely they'd be willing to leave the ACC as long as the conference is fairly stable.
North Carolina State's football program is normally lower tier to middle of the pack in the ACC and their football attendance isn't significant. Adding Raleigh-Durham to the SEC would be a nice addition, but it's unlikely that the Wolfpack would leave the ACC without their Tobacco Road cousins. Then again, many thought A&M wouldn't leave Texas.
Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech are all programs who'd fit well into the SEC and would help if the SEC didn't already occupy those markets heavily with Florida, South Carolina and Georgia. Miami is in a similar spot as they occupy the same state as Florida, but they aren't as likely to be opposed as the previous three. They do bring the Miami market to the SEC, but Miami isn't a big college sports town, even with the quality program the Hurricanes have had for years.
Kansas, while one of the best basketball programs of all-time, is still a struggling football program. They would bring the Kansas City TV market and they do have a decent following in football. The question is will they join the Pac-10 or even the Mountain West as they fit in culturally better with those conferences. Kansas is also rumored to be attached at the hip to Kansas State, which is a negative for them in the realignment scenarios.
Missouri is a similar situation as Kansas. They have a decent football program and an improving basketball program, but because round-ball isn't that big of a draw in this, that could diminish Missouri's value. The Tigers do bring St. Louis to the table, but St. Louis is a pro sports town, specifically baseball. The Tigers joining the SEC would help and their proximity to Kentucky and Arkansas would make them a little more likely to fit in that the Jayhawks.
That leaves Virginia Tech. While it's unknown how much interest there is between the Hokies and the SEC, they would be natural fit. Virginia borders Kentucky and Tennessee. They have one of the better football programs in the country and they have a great fan base all throughout Virginia and Washington DC. That would add a good program with a strong following in a new and large TV market.
So what's the plan? Nobody really knows. Mike Slive is one of the best in the business and he'll do whatever it takes to keep the SEC on top of the heap.
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