Say what you will, these conference realignment talks couldn’t have come at a better time. If not for the actions of the Big Ten and PAC-10, the World Cup would still be front page news. I’m still groggy from America’s riveting 1-1 tie with England on Saturday. Wake me up when Brandi Chastain takes her shirt off again.
Like I’ve said before, I’ve never been one for change when it comes to college football. If I had my way, Tulane and Sewanee would still be in the SEC. That said, I admit to being totally captivated by all this realignment talk. I’m very much in favor of keeping the SEC status quo; but with that notion long gone, it’s now time to start thinking about what a new Southeastern Conference may look like two years from now.
As I write this, most of the so-called experts and talking heads say Texas A&M has already jumped ship to the SEC – only the formality of the actual invitation remains. If so, that’s a huge win for the conference. Arkansas, long the consummate SEC outsider, now has a regional rival. The same goes for LSU. Forget money and television, for fans this makes the conference more interesting.
Assuming the Aggies are on board, the SEC now must add at least one more school and possibly three more institutions. What direction would you take if you were SEC Commissioner Mike Slive? Reports over the weekend say the conference is not interested in raiding the ACC. Count me among those who are not so sure.
The most logical candidates remain Florida State, Georgia Tech and Clemson. From a pure football point of view, these choices are no-brainers. But we all know, everything comes back to money and television exposure. If you are Slive, you have to ask yourself do these schools make the most sense financially. If they don’t add significantly to the bottom line the answer is no. Going from a 12 slice pizza to a 16 slice pie means the pizza must be bigger or no one is happy.
Getting back to the fan point of view, imagine the possibilities of such an expansion. The Georgia-Georgia Tech game would again mean something beyond just bragging rights.The same goes for Florida-Florida State and South Carolina-Clemson. One of the great rivalries of the 20th century, Auburn-Georgia Tech would be renewed.
Auburn and Clemson, separated by only a few hours, would no longer be strangers to one another. In recent years (and days) we’ve seen what happens when these two tie up on the baseball diamond and football field. They’ve met 46 times in football, but only twice since 1971. And who can forget those great battles with FSU and Auburn back in the 1980′s?
Could it be that a new super conference may actually rekindle old rivalries?
Beyond these schools, who else are possibilities? Louisville is intriguing from a basketball point of view, but they offer little else when it comes to football tradition and television viewership. Virginia Tech and Virginia have also been floated. While neither program gets the juices flowing like the ones mentioned above, they do expand the footprint of the SEC and have respectable athletic programs.
Another name mentioned prominently is Miami. Outside of a big television market, this program offers little. A commuter school with a small fanbase, the Hurricanes appear to be misfits when compared to other SEC programs. Then again, having the three major programs in Florida all part of the SEC has to be appealing to the conference’s athletic directors and presidents.
If you thought last week was exciting, look for this week to be nirvana. The Texas schools should all make their decisions early in the week. That will likely lead to the SEC having to show its hand and formally invite Texas A&M. From there, it’s a likely free for all between the Big Ten and the SEC as both try to solidify the East Coast.
Let’s hope this year’s football can match-up with the excitement of the off-season. It will have to mighty good to top what we are witnessing this summer.