Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Why SEC Expansion is Not Necessary

I've been debating with a friend of the blog via Twitter about SEC expansion in light of the recent rumblings that Nebraska is headed to the Big 10 and the Big 12 South likely headed west to the PAC 10. Parenthetically, talk of the Big 12 dying seems premature. After all, if Nebraska leaves the Big 12 to goes to the Big 10, doesn't the Big 10 become the Big 12? (I get that the Big 10 probably won't stop at 12...I'm just saying). Perhaps I'm alone, something I'm sure I'll find out soon enough in the comments section, but I don't think the SEC should do anything in light of all the moving pieces in college football. Why? Because they don't need to.

Seriously, if Texas (and to a lesser extend Oklahoma) is not avaiable, the SEC would be well-advised to say as is. I can see the ad campaign now: "We are STILL the SEC." What happens is Nebraska, Missouri, Rutgers become the Big 14? Are they suddenly as good as the SEC in football? No. They aren't even better in basketball, in fact, they might actually be worse. And what if the Big 12 South relocates to the PAC 10? They might be as good a conference as the SEC in football, although I'm not sure.

To seriously take about SEC expansion, you have to ask, who would make the SEC a better conference? Florida State? Miami? Clemson? Forgive me, but I don't think these schools make the SEC that much better, especially when you consider that new schools mean dividing the money pot into even thinner slices. Granted, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive has done a fantastic job making sure the pie is plentiful with the contract the SEC signed with ESPN last year worth $2.25 Billion Dollars over 15 years. But that fact just underscores how unnecessary expansion is. For one thing, why would ESPN renegotiate a deal they signed a year ago? It's not like they are an employer or Rich Rodriquez or John Calapari (yet). Expansion doesn't mean the SEC will be able to make more money. As far as anyone is concerned (especially the Mothership brass), is the SEC any more valuable a conference with FSU and Miami? Not really.

Further, why the SEC want to renegotiate? They've already got a great deal, with constant attention from the Worldwide Leader, all without having any of their own skin in the game (i.e., without the risk of bankrolling their own network to feature men's swimming meets). The only reason the SEC (and their fans) would want to expand is ego. Which is not that good, and often a bad, reason to do anything. If the SEC doesn't have the most lucrative television deal, that's regrettable, but ultimately not important. It's not like the SEC is pedaling in the chump change that the conference soon to be known as the Big 12 when it comes to television revenue. The SEC is still on ESPN in featured spots, something that is unlikely to change, both in football, and basketball. even with this expansion. Does ESPN want to spend another 2 billion dollars? Do they have it? Where else is the PAC 16 going to do? Their own network? Fox? Fine by me. Most sports fans can barely find the Big Ten network as it is, and it's not like Fox Sports channels are really a destination on the dial. Maybe they could go to Versus, because that's not a stupid name for a television channel, and it's done amazing things for the NHL.

Am I glib and enough for you? I just don't see why the SEC should expand if it doesn't include Texas. As it currently stands, the SEC's got their magic number of 12 teams, ensuring a profitable Championship Game in perpetuity. They've got a fantastic television deal that fills the conferences' coffers every year. And, by not expanding, the SEC can maintain the conference integrity that everyone else seems to pay lip service to. Regardless of what decisions are made, emails leaked, or press releases sent , the SEC is the king of college football. Long live the King.


Hmtigert said...

I've seen two articles that make perfect sense to read with this one. The first was in the Orlando Sentinel, which i quoted in my post yesterday. Insert shameless plug here:

The second was on ESPN about how all this conference expansion talk only proves the point that college football is top dog in college athletics. Nobody is thinking basketball. Nobody is thinking baseball. Purely college football. Which means that this is all about the money.

If its the money that matters, then there's two options for the SEC that I see. 1) get Texas. and whatever other schools come under their coattails. 2) don't get texas, and still be the best conference in college football.

I agree with you, the SEC doesn't need to expand. the only reason they would do so is to keep up with other conferences, and to protect their own.

If the Big 12 splits, as the ESPN article said... there's this little school with a Jayhawk mascot that hasn't been mentioned yet. Could you imagine Kansas, Kentucky, Vandy, and Tennessee all in the same basketball conference? But it doesn't matter, it's all about football...

and all about money.

Diezba said...

I think this article from (which has proven to be a great site for SEC expansion-related analysis), sums up my reasons for being against the "maintain the status quo" option for the SEC:

AD said...

First, I agree with Bobby that the SEC shouldn't expand.

Second, I agree with Hmtigert that this is all about money. The rhetoric and posturing make it clear enough that I don't think I need to cite examples.

That said, a couple thoughts to churn the pot a little:
a. Is it enough to hold steady when others are (maybe) making big moves? Some have said that Notre Dame will be fine if they stay independent (in football-- remember that their other teams play in the Big East), but that they will regret the decision down the road. Money matters, and that NBC contract may be one of the longest running of its kind, but as the folks on Wall Street will tell you (because they got sued and lawyers make them), past performance is not indicative of future results. The contract could be broken or not renewed at any time, and ND would not be in as strong as a position, both financially and in terms of recruiting. The recruiting value of that contract already has dropped significantly (with the general spread of cable and satellite sports programming and things like the Big 10 Network and SEC/ESPN deal). So, argument by analogy. SEC is sitting pretty right now, but sometimes you have to run just to stay in place. Who knows what the future will hold in terms of TV, recruiting, postseason arrangements.

b. Is it correct that the pie won't expand with the addition of new teams. The chatter about the Big 10 expansion was that it would mean more money for all the schools (at least what I thought I heard). I don't know the specifics of the SEC/ESPN contract, but if it meant more $ for the network, presumably the conference could renegotiate so that returns would at least hold steady for existing schools.

My final, unrelated point is about the Big 10/11. In a rare flash of enterprising dynamicism, the conference of corn-fed cave-dwellers from the stone age (and that's just the women) broke this whole thing open and looked to make some major acquisitions. Pitt, Rutgers, Nebraska, Mizzou, Texas, and ND all were on the table, among unknown others. Now they've gotten mired in who knows what (cornmeal or cattle feed), and are going to lose the upper hand to the Pac 10. The West Coast folks may have been working on expansion anyway, but if they badly scoop the Big 10, Commissioner Delaney needs to be out. This then would be a case where holding steady and keeping the cat in the bag would have been a wise decision. The conference definitely has been down in recent years, but their bowl record against SEC and ACC teams continued to be strong.

As for who the SEC would add if they were going to, I think Miami and FSU are the obvious choices. Maybe play spoiler and split Texas with the Pac-10. They should at least be able to grab Tech and Rice.

Thanks for presenting your thoughts, Bobby.

A.J. said...

On the bright side, if the SEC adds FSU and Miami, UF loses their two hardest non-conference games, which means more chances for all of us to watch them play the Citadel and NW Carolina Tech at home on national TV.

Stanimal said...

I completely agree with AD's points. The Meek 11, in an attempt to boost its strength, instead gave the PAC-10 the best opportunity ever and has allowed them to corner the entire West Coast. Talk about a money making enterprise.

I don't know if the SEC has to expand RIGHT NOW. First off, the ONLY teams that are ripe for picking are Big 12 teams. The SEC would need to make a coup and snag only TWO teams, and frankly they shouldn't settle for the PAC-10s sloppy seconds. If they want to expand, they need to hit Miami and FSU hard and corner the Florida market. Either that, or steal FSU, Miami, Clemson, and one Texas team and take pretty much the entire southeast. Is it necessary to make that move now? Maybe, while everyone is freaking out it's the most likely time. However, they might be able to gauge things a little better in a couple of years. Maybe it doesn't pan out for the Pac-16 and we're fine just where we are. After all, when Miami and Virginia Tech left the Big East to join the ACC, everyone thought that would make the conference that much better in football. If anything, it's made them that much more mediocre. Why dilute the most competitive conference in the nation without some guarantee it would work?

Stanimal said...

But, GREAT point by Andy Staples. Adding ANY of the ACC teams we mentioned (Clemson, Miami, FSU) would not really strengthen TV revenue because the SEC already has a stranglehold on the Florida and South Carolina markets. Therefore, stealing Texas A&M makes more sense because you add a whole new market to the SEC (MANY viewers in Texas).