Friday, August 12, 2011

As the Conferences turn

The tetonics of the college sports planet have awaken during this August of Discontent, and it's as active as it was last June. This time, it involves the fates of three conferences not touched by last year's upheave. But it also includes one of the central characters of last year trying to survive.

A 14-school SEC...maybe
The most vexing question to the direction of these moves is the potential of the SEC to go from the 12-team structure it pioneered in University Division Football in 1992 to 14, or possibly 16, teams in the next few years. The most likely candidate to join is Texas A&M, whom, as you'll read about shortly, are thinking about bolting the Big 12-2. If the Aggies join, a 14th team will need to be in order. Reports out of Florida have ACC member Florida State as the 14th team(much to the potential disgust of UF AD, Jeremy Foley, who's made loud noises about having his Gators be the only Sunshine State school in the league). But the SEC might not stop there. Schools like Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Missouri, West Virginia, Clemson, Virginia Tech, North Carolina and NC State have been linked to possible expansion. If it's limited to the first 3 schools, the Big 12-2 is almost toast, if the choices come from the last 5, Jon Swofford may have to merge the rump of the ACC with the football playing "Big East" schools. So it's likely the SEC will split the difference, which may bring in the Big Ten to pick off schools like Kansas, Missouri(if the SEC doesn't move first), Syracuse, Rutgers, Maryland, and possibly Virginia. Now why is such a move possible?

Big Brother-Little Brother Syndrome
Despite being enriched by television deals with ESPN and the Fox Sports Media Group, Texas A&M officials have been very frank about their unhappiness with their situation in the Big 12-2. It's only increased with Texas' new Longhorn Network, which will launch in 2 weeks. One beef with the new ESPN-owned service is that the Horns are seeking to have at least one Big 12-2 game on in order to increase it's worthiness to Cable and Satellite systems. The other beef was the fact that LHN sought to air High School games, but the NCAA shot that idea down. Nonetheless, the Aggies are trying to get out, even Govenor Rick Perry admits to the notion of escaping(despite previous attempts by him to keep UT and TAMU tied to each other during last year's tetonics).

Action, Reaction
It seems inevitable that TAMU and the SEC are going to elope and join forces. Then what? Will the remainder of the SEC go over Jeremy Foley's head and invite Florida State? Will they go to 16 and go after Oklahoma? Oklahoma State? In the east, how bout Clemson? UNC? NC State? Virginia Tech? Can Dan Branch, chair of the influential Texas House Higher Education Committee try to trim funding for TAMU?

The answers are coming soon, and if you ask me, I think the SEC goes to 14. With Florida State joining in as well.

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