As has been mentioned on several occassions by SEC Commissioner Mike Slive, the SEC will not stand pat if the Big 10 Conference elects to expand beyond twelve member schools.
“I’m aware of all the interest and all that’s being written, but given the success that we have experienced over the past decade, we’re comfortable with the position in which we find ourselves,” Slive told FLORIDA TODAY on Wednesday. “Now having said that, if there’s going to be a significant shift in the conference paradigm, the SEC will be strategic and thoughtful in order to maintain its position as one of the nation’s premier conferences. We are watching carefully what’s going on and keeping our antenna up and our eyes open as to what’s going on around us.”
The Wiz, who’s antenna is always up, caught this piece that says Slive is doing more than just watching. It’s reported that the SEC has held talks with executives from CBS Sports and outlined the conferences plan to target six teams for conference expansion.
According to Hyams, Slive told CBS executives in a recent meeting that the league’s goal would be to keep pace with a 16-team Big Ten by pursuing Texas, Texas A&M, Florida State and Clemson.
If Texas and Texas A&M cannot be lured in, then Miami and Georgia Tech will join Florida State and Clemson on the SEC’s wish list.
The post is based upon the reporting of Jimmy Hyams of WNML-AM 990 in Knoxville. Hyams, who’s covered SEC sports for more than 30 years, cites anonymous sources close to CBS. Given Hyams’s stature in the broadcast community, I would tend to agree that this story has some legs to it.
In looking at the “plan”, the discussion around Texas and Texas A&M wouldn’t be shocking to anyone. Texas represents the premiere “get” in the country and the ‘Horns won’t be permitted to go anywhere by the Texas Legislature unless their take perennial rival with them. The Aggies may be the little brother in the mix, but they’re the lynchpin to the entire deal.
The move to bring in Texas would cement the SEC’s footprint into two of the country’s top ten television markets: Dallas (#5) and Houston (#10). It’s unclear to me if the conference would be able to go back to ESPN and ask for more television money right away, but the long-term benefit of adding the two schools would be substantial.
As far as adding Florida State and Clemson, I get the sense that the SEC is merely the SEC keeping up with the Joneses, so to speak. The Noles and Tigers add a little more color to the conference, but don’t necessarily represent a blockbuster addition in terms of potential revenue. If anything, it would be a move against the ACC to limit the conferences marketability and – in turn – keep more money on the table for the SEC. Ditto for what appears to be the backup plan of pursuing Georgia Tech and Miami.
On the flip side of the equation, I’m not convinced that the SEC would be able to land all four ACC teams, especially given the extra $7.5 million per year that the teams will now be earning from the new ACC television agreement. The ACC teams still earn less than the SEC teams, but it’s no longer such a wide margin.
For it’s part, the SEC is denying that any meeting has taken place; however, Hyams is standing by his reporting.