Posted August 25, 2011

A modest proposal: SEC growth goes national

Big 12, Conference Realignment, SEC

Cyrus Gray and Texas A&M may not be in big brother Texas' shadow for much longer. (US PRESSWIRE)

Great, Aggies. Just great. Texas fans will crow and point to the announcement of the Longhorn Network’s fresh deal with Verizon FIOS as the ultimate instigator to the Aggies’ sideways shuffle. This isn’t a done deal and there’s a learning curve and votes and a lot of money between paperwork and actual conference expansion, but it’s hard to imagine it not happening. In marriage terms, one party just moved out its stuff. The time for couples counseling is apparently past. Now everybody’s going to want to join a big-time conference; where are the Big Six supposed to put them all?

So I think I’ve finally pinned down why all this talk of a new school moving into my home conference bothers me so much, and bear with me for just a couple paragraphs while I work this out on the way to delineating my master plan. I was talking to a longtime reader and Florida fan a couple weeks ago, when this was all still conjecture and wild extrapolation (not that much wilder than it is now, but some) and he raised a nicely-turned point that’s stayed with me since. “The SEC is not a boarding house,” he said.

That’s not my argument, but it’s close. It’s not that any team views entry into the Southeastern Conference as a stepping stone (the WAC or Mountain West could carry that designation more easily) to loftier heights. The SEC, Pac-12 and Big Ten are the conference equivalents of what coaches like to call “the last job I’ll ever have.” They’re end games. So even if the arms race to 16-team superconferences is what all six BCS conferences are readying for, why should any of them feel the need to take in strays? Those three conferences in particular should be the ones doing the inviting. I’m old-fashioned like that. Mike Slive may have coyly crooked his finger in the general direction of College Station, but college football’s premier conference is aiming too low.

And considering the current membership of the conference … I realize I’m talking about an entire university like it’s a petulant child, but words exchanged between all schools involved in this rigamarole bear that metaphor out. Texas A&M wants more attention than it’s getting in the Big 12, where there are two modern flagship programs standing between the Aggies and superstardom. In the SEC there’s Alabama, Florida and LSU to compete with, to say nothing of defending national champ Auburn and a South Carolina squad that can no longer automatically be counted out of any game on its schedule. One division or the other devolves into a lobster pot of one-loss teams in just about any given season. There are rising tides, but then there are riptides and — ask Georgia how easy it is to contemplate firing a coach for a nine-win season — getting lost in the swells is easier than it looks.

To that end, if Texas and Texas A&M are prepared to engage in this kind of hair-pulling, why should they be the only institutions allowed to blow off pent-up rivalry hatred in such an unseemly and public fashion? Thirteen SEC teams will need to become at least 14 with a quickness to maintain even divisions. Based on a highly unscientific internet survey of invested fans, I present three troll-based solutions offered free to Slive and whatever poachers he can round up as a token of my undying esteem and hubris:

1. That the SEC refuse to accept a lesser Lone Star State-based institution into its ranks without first using it as bait for bigger game and welcome the Aggies as a full conference member — as long as Texas comes along too.

2. That as long as the SEC is apparently willing to do away entirely with the “East” portion of its title, it dispense with the “South” as well and spurn A&M in favor of inviting the far-flung high-profile teams of West Virginia and Boise State. Cultural fit matters!

3. That if the SEC decides it really, really wants its fingers in those Texas television market pies, it grudgingly takes in that basket of Aggies on its doorstep — the one with the note pinned to the handle reading FREE TO GOOD HOME — and then immediately sets about going after Ohio State, just to see what colors Jim Delany’s face might turn. With that last Sugar Bowl win vacated, the Buckeyes have to be itching to get some wins over SEC teams that will stick. Plus, Ohio State is a program in turmoil, but with a large enough recruiting base that it won’t be down for long. Good business is good business, and buying low doesn’t have to mean buying inferior.

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