FanPost

The SEC Empire: Why the SEC should take the lead, not the backseat on Expansion

Bumped from the FanPosts. This is an interesting and rather thorough counterpoint to my and cocknfire's general point of view that the SEC is fine at 12 teams. -Year2

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Right now I should be studying for my 2 law school exams here at Alabama Law, which I have to take before next Wednesday (even though I graduate this weekend).  But you can’t help it when epiphany strikes.  It has struck me, and there isn’t anything I can do right now other than put this into words.  Here is why the SEC should expand and expand further than anyone has yet suggested.  The new SEC (which will probably be renamed the College Football Champions League) will dominate college football, the cash cow of college athletics, and no other conference will ever again be able to say that it is a better football conference than the SEC.  Ever. 

In 1992, the SEC changed the game by becoming a 12 team league.  Mike Slive should pull a Chancellor Palpatine and go one step further to create the SEC Empire this go around.  The new SEC will have 20 teams.  Yes, 20.  And before you start your "Wait a minutes" and your "Buts" read how the new set-up will work, and why for every team in the SEC, new and old, this could not be a better idea. Currently the projection is for the Big 10 to add 5 teams: Nebraska, Mizzou, Pitt, Syracuse and Rutgers/WV (Google it: some news sites are already reporting it).  The Pac-10 rumor right now is that Colorado and Utah will join to give them 12 teams.  This means that both the Big 12 and Big East would lose three teams without the SEC lifting a finger.  Should this happen, the SEC should already have in place its own plans for expansion. Read about what those plans should be after the jump:

 

There will 4 divisions within the new SEC, each with 5 teams.  The divisions are the North, South, East & West.  It is easiest to break the divisions down starting with West and moving east so I will do so following the table of Divisions.

West

South

North

East

Arkansas

Alabama

Kentucky

Florida

Oklahoma

Auburn

South Carolina

Georgia

Oklahoma State

LSU

Tennessee

FSU

Texas

Mississippi

Vanderbilt

Georgia Tech

Texas A&M

Mississippi State

Notre Dame/Clemson

Miami

Yes I am leaving Clemson out initially.  Adding Clemson only helps Clemson, no one else.  Notre Dame says no, Clemson can come along too.

Scheduling goes as follows.  You play every team in your division once (4 games).  You play a rival not in your division every year (1 game).  You play 1 team from every other division rotating through them (3 games), which equals your 8 conference games.  Instead of a conference championship game, you now have 2 playoff semi-final games to get to the conference championship game.  Every playoff fanatic now has a defacto playoff in the SEC between all but 2 previous BCS champions (Ohio St. and USC) and the bowl games stick around, b/c let’s be honest, every bowl game is going to want an SEC team playing in it (except the Rose, which wants USC v. Ohio St.). 

As for the playoff games, here is who they are between and which city hosts them

West v. South rotates between

North v. East Rotates between

Championship rotates between

New Orleans

Atlanta

Atlanta

Dallas

Nashville

Birmingham

Birmingham (new dome!)

Any FL city that wants it

New Orleans

 

Charlotte…probably not

Nashville…probably not

 

Think about this for a minute.  What games are actually lost by switching the conferences into this divisional format?  What team can say that they will truly lose a game that their fans care about winning or look forward to every year?  The only one is FL-TN, and let’s be honest here, the game is only a rivalry b/c of Spurrier and Fulmer; neither is the coach now, and it began less than 2 decades ago.  No one really cares anymore, it just happened to decide the east winner for more than a decade, and the fans did care about that.  All in all, more rivalries will be gained by this format than will be lost by it.

Bonus for the SEC:  If the divisions are broken down as such, there is a possibility, not a likely one, but a possibility for up to 8 SEC teams could finish the regular season with zero or one losses and in the national championship picture.  Each division winner and runner up could possibly have only lost to the division champion of another division and/or each other, making the SEC playoffs more thrilling than bowl season and March madness combined.  The SEC could make up more than 50% of the top ten at all times during the year. 

The West (The old Big 12 South + Arkansas)

1. Arkansas 2. Oklahoma 3. Oklahoma State 4. Texas 5. Texas A&M

This division is made up of what used to be the traditional best of the Big 12 South/Big 8/SWC.  Arkansas is absolutely thrilled to have an actual rival in SEC, and to be honest, Arkansas only cared about playing these teams before joining.  If you could ask these 5 teams individually, if I could be in a division in any conference with only the teams that I wanted to play/who were my rivals, who would be in it?  The consensus from all of them would be each other, save maybe throw Nebraska/Mizzou in there.  This division comes together for a few reasons. 

1.      The SEC growing its national footprint/TV market… more money for the conference

2.      The dissolution of the Big 12: The rumor is that Mizzou and Nebraska are going North to the Big 10 and Colorado is going West to the Pac 10.  Sure this leaves Texas Tech, Kansas and Kansas St. without a home, but they aren’t exactly football powerhouses either, and the schools joining don’t really care about whom gets left behind.  Sorry Tubbs.

3.      Every team coming from the Big 12 would get more money in this division, even with the uneven revenue pools in the Big 12.  So financially, this makes sense for all schools involved.

4.      The Bowl scenario… which will be explained in full later, but the winner of this division is guaranteed a BCS bid in the Fiesta Bowl, if not the National Championship game. (These teams take the Big 12’s Auto-Bid with them)

There is a possibility that this division could include LSU and Missouri if the Oklahoma schools decide not to come, but I don’t see why they wouldn’t.  Also if the Texas schools also decide against coming, then Mississippi and Mississippi State would also be in the West.  Worst case scenario is adding TCU/SMU or moving Vandy instead of adding Mizzou while none of the Texas/Oklahoma schools come.  This division will always have at least 2 previous BCS Champions in it (unless worst case scenario), which makes the champion of this division worthy of a trip to Tempe for the Fiesta Bowl.

The South (the old SEC West)

1. Alabama 2. Auburn 3. LSU 4. Mississippi 5. Mississippi State

This is the SEC West minus Arkansas.  All teams involved will be very happy with this because.

1.      The SEC growing its footprint equals dolla dolla bills.  I’m not sure what the negotiations would be, but my guess is that it would be at least 20 mil per school, possibly 25.

2.      It just became easier to win the division, subtracting Arkansas from the equation.  True, it became much more difficult to win the league, but I think these teams will be OK with all of the expansion for the following reason

3.      The winner of this division goes to the Sugar Bowl, if not the National Championship game.  Ok, yeah, Bama might not be thrilled with this, but every other team sure as hell is.  A guaranteed BCS birth for beating your most hated rivals in the SEC.  A BCS birth for being better than 4 other teams…yeah they’ll take that deal.

4.      Auburn and Alabama are still stuck without their "other" main rivals in Georgia and Tennessee, but in the current system they are stuck without them, so it really isn’t changing much, other that they won’t have to play Florida but twice every 8/10 years in the regular season.  Of course they will have to play Ga. Tech, FSU, (GA for AL) and Miami.  They both are appeased by getting to keep Georgia and Tennessee as their rivals they play every year from another division.

There is a possibility that this division could shift somewhat, being called the Central division instead of South, if the Big 12 stays put in part or in whole.  LSU could go West, which would invite Tennessee or more likely Vanderbilt to the central.  If the both the Mississippi schools go West as well (if the Big 12 saying no), then the division looks like this:  1. Auburn 2. Alabama 3. Tennessee 4. Kentucky 5. Vanderbilt.  Either way, this division will always have 2 previous BCS champions in it, making it worthy of a trip to New Orleans for winning it.

The North (The basketball division)

1. Kentucky 2. South Carolina 3.  Tennessee 4. Vanderbilt 5. Notre Dame/Clemson

If there is a flaw with this expansion, this division is it.  This division will more than likely end up with the weakest of the SEC East schools.  The reason that it will work though is because it does have a previous BCS champion (Tennessee) and its weakness is what will entice Notre Dame to join the SEC.  The reasons this will work are:

1.      DOLLA, DOLLA, DOLLA BILLS.  Notre Dame is the key here for this division to work.  The only school eligible to pull off a national TV deal on its own will mean multiple G5 airplanes for all schools involved if this goes down.

2.      If Notre Dame comes, it will want some kind of perceived preferential treatment.  Getting the 2 SEC cupcakes in its division is precisely that.  If they don't, then Clemson comes, which gives this division all rivals... which I guess makes up for it being so weak.

3.      The winner of this division gets an automatic birth into the newest BCS game (which is either the Citrus or Cotton Bowl) if not the National Championship game.  Both of these bowls have as much if not more history and tradition than the Fiesta, it is time that they were afforded the same lofty status of BCS.  As the newest BCS game, you get relegated the weakest SEC division.

4.      The only reason this works this way is b/c Kentucky and Vanderbilt are already a part of the SEC.  Like it or not, their opinion matters.  As a result it is hard to imagine them not in a division with Tennessee, seeing as Tennessee is the only team that either of them care about playing.  Tennessee has no problem being in the easy division, b/c that just makes it easier to win for them.  They will still have to play Alabama every year, as well as a team from the East and West, which aren’t exactly cake walks like their own division.

Another problem with this division is what happens to it if part or all of the Big 12 decides to stay situated.  Tennessee, followed by Kentucky and Vanderbilt would be moved to the South (renamed the Central).  Notre Dame isn’t a guarantee to come either without the other prestigious schools from the Big 12.  The only constant for this division seems to be that South Carolina will probably always be in it.  Let’s start with likelihoods first.

1.      IF Notre Dame doesn’t come, Clemson joins this division.  Simple

2.      IF LSU goes West (½ of Big 12 South says no), Vanderbilt goes South, Clemson joins this division.  Simple

3.      IF both of the above happen (Vanderbilt and Notre Dame aren’t in this division)

            a. Virginia and Virginia Tech join this division OR

            b. Clemson and West Virginia/Louisville join this division

4.      IF All of the Big 12 South says no (This division goes back to scratch)

            a. This division will become part of the ACC absorption that is discussed below, b/c Notre Dame more than likely isn’t coming without Texas and Oklahoma to add to the prestige.

The East (whoever Florida and Georgia want)

1. Florida 2. Georgia 3. Florida State 4. Georgia Tech 5. Miami

This division is far more cutthroat than what the SEC North is shaping up to be at first glance.  I think this will work because of the amount of prestige that will go along with just being in this division.  Every team in this division despises the rest of the teams, without exception.  The only problem will be getting Georgia and Florida to give their rivals the pay increase and prestige increase that comes along with joining a division with them, which in turn will help their enemies’ recruiting as well.  The reasons why this would work though:

1.      This division would be the only division in college football with THREE previous BCS CHAMPIONS.  Let that sink in for a minute.  A 5 team division with 3 BCS champions in it.  Unfortunately, that’s also the biggest problem as well.  But these teams already all play each other, just not every team against each other like it will be.  GA always plays GT and FL.  FL always plays GA and FSU and sometimes UM.  GT always plays FSU, UM and GA.  FSU always plays UM, FLA and GT.  UM always plays FSU and GT and sometimes FL.  Heck, it is easier to say GT doesn’t play FL and GA doesn’t play Miami or FSU.  That’s it.  It just makes sense for these teams to quit bickering and join the same division already and make the games means a little more.  

2.      The winner of this division is guaranteed the Orange Bowl at the least… AND if the division winner plays in the National Championship game, the runner-up then automatically gets to play in the Orange Bowl.  That’s how you settle the bickering.  You give the teams a reason to join this insanely competitive division.  Automatic BCS game for 2nd place if the champ goes onto play for it all…yeah that’s a pretty good incentive.  Out of these 5 schools, granted some have had their down years, but there hasn’t been a year in my BCS memory where at least 2 of these schools weren’t deserving of a BCS game.

3.      All of the other Florida schools will never match the prestige of the Big 3.  South Florida will no longer be on any players map for where they want to play football, if they receive an offer from one of these schools.  I don’t know why South Florida thinks that they should be in this discussion anyways.  They have been playing football for maybe a decade.  Maybe.

4.      Oh yeah, money, that’s the real reason for all of this. 

There are obviously some serious problems here. 

1.      The first and foremost being that Georgia Tech left the SEC b/c it didn’t like Alabama cheating.  So there is that question of if they will return, because Alabama, along with every other school in the country, still cheats.  My bet is they will for the paycheck and prestige.  Bobby Dodd would roll over in his grave, but I can see GT returning to the SEC.

2.      Will Florida allow FSU and Miami to join?  Again my guess would be yes, because of the money that Florida will receive by allowing them to join.  As much as the administration can see problems with letting them join, the fans want it as well.  One thing I could see is FL allowing FSU and not allowing Miami.  That would lead to South Carolina or Clemson joining the division (maybe Tennessee as well) with more ACC schools joining the North division, as discussed below. 

ACC take-over (if the Big 12 South says thanks, but no thanks)

This would mean that 4 teams in the Big 12 South didn’t want to abandon their old SWC/Big 8 friends and leave them high and dry.  Why they wouldn’t want to join the empire is beyond be, but here is the scenario if that happens and the SEC decides to not go West.  That leaves 8 spots from the Big East/ACC that need to be filled.  If the SEC doesn’t go West, I don’t see Notre Dame joining the conference.

West

Central

North

South

Arkansas

Alabama

Virginia

Florida

Mississippi

Auburn

Virginia Tech

FSU

Mississippi State

Kentucky

South Carolina/North Carolina

Miami/South Carolina

LSU

Tennessee

Clemson/Duke

Georgia

Vanderbilt

ND/Louisville

West Virginia/NC State

Georgia Tech/Clemson

 

If Florida and Georgia block their instate schools, the only way to go is to Tobacco road at that point. But once we are considering basketball schools for a football takeover, we aren’t really getting our money’s worth on expansion.  If that happened though, Clemson and South Carolina move to the South.  Duke and North Carolina as well as NC State move into the North.  Notre Dame isn’t coming at this point and West Virginia possibly replaces Louisville in the central, or is left out all together.

The Bowl Scenario.

               If this happens the bowls will all have to rewrite their contracts and the BCS will have to start over as well.  If we look at all of the bowls currently entwined to the conferences that these teams make-up, we have the following tie-ins to the SEC/ the new teams already.

West

South

North

East

Fiesta Bowl

(Big 12 Champ)

Sugar Bowl

(SEC Champ)

BCS At-Large

(ND Tie-in)

Orange Bowl

(ACC Champ)

Cotton Bowl

(Big 12 #2)

Cotton Bowl

(SEC #3)

Citrus Bowl

(SEC #2)

Outback Bowl

(SEC #3)

Holiday Bowl

(Big 12 #3)

Music City Bowl

(SEC#6 & ACC #4)

Outback Bowl

(SEC #4)

Peach Bowl

(SEC #5 & ACC #2)

Alamo Bowl

(Big 12 #4)

Liberty Bowl

(SEC #7)

Gator Bowl

(ND Tie-in & Big 12)

Gator Bowl

(SEC & ACC)

Independence Bowl

(Big 12 and SEC)

Papa John’s Bowl

(SEC Tie-in)

 

Champ Sports

(ACC Tie-in)

I probably missed a few more as well

Look at it this way.  The bowls are going to stay where there is money to be made.  The money in the Big 12 is with the new SEC teams plus Mizzou and Nebraska, who are headed to the Big 10.   The money in the ACC is with the new SEC teams & Virginia Tech (maybe UNC, NCST and VA as well).  The bowls will be happy to drop ties with Boston College, Wake Forrest, Kansas, Baylor and every other team that doesn’t travel well.  That is just a fact.  That means that the bowls will stick with the SEC, and every bowl will want a piece of the pie.

The SEC will now have four Tie-ins/Automatic Bids into the BCS games.  The remnants of the ACC and Big East will come together to form whatever conference and they may or may not have an automatic bid with those teams.  The new Big 10 will want 2 automatic bids, which I would have no problem with if they went to the 16 teams that have been rumored.  If the Pac-10 expands, they too would want 2 automatic bids, which again, I would have no problem with.  This leaves SEC wanting 4, Big 10 wanting 2, Pac 10 wanting 2, New Mid-West leftovers wanting 1 and New East Coast leftovers wanting 1.  That is 12 auto BCS spots.  This more than likely wouldn’t happen, even if the Citrus or Cotton Bowl became a BCS bowl, which my guess is that the Cotton probably will with the new stadium.

Odds are the SEC would only get 2 auto bids for its 1st round playoff winners (each division champ would still go to a BCS game, it just wouldn’t be tied to where they end up) and the Pac-10 and Big 10 would get the RoseBowl, with every other slot being an at large bid. But the kicker would be that any number of teams from a conference could go to a BCS game.  Yeah, let that sink in.  The SEC could get 8 teams into BCS games.  SEC teams could play each other in BCS games.  Since you only play a team twice every 10 years that isn’t in your division, it isn’t really a bad thing to see 2 SEC teams squaring off in a BCS bowl game.  The rest of the bowls will have their traditional tie-ins.  It will probably still work out where the western schools will be paired up with the Pac-10 for bowl games, while the eastern schools will be paired with the Big 10 for bowl games.  It is the nature of the bowls now, no reason for that to change.

Summary

Mike Slive and Company need to change the climate in college football, not let the weather change them.  In 1992, the SEC did just that, and in doing so, established the best conference in America for the past two decades.  Now, the Big 10 seems to be pushing to do the exact same thing.  Creating a wider and more talented conference, the Big 10 is trying to change the dynamics of college football.  The SEC shouldn’t let another conference take the initiative on this.  It shouldn’t play catch up or just try to match what other conferences do.  By becoming a 20 team conference, there is no feasible way for any other conference to ever be able to match the SEC, because there won’t be enough quality teams left to do it.  By doing so the SEC would have every BCS champion other than Ohio State and USC.  They would have every team that has played in the championship game minus those 2, Nebraska and Virginia Tech.  We would live in a college football reality where it would be easier to win the national championship than it would be to win the SEC.  Every kid would want to play in the SEC, from all over the country.  Everyone would want to watch SEC games, from all over the country.  Road trips would be amazing in SEC country.  One year you are in Austin, Texas, the next year a trip to Baton Rouge, the next trip to South Bend, and then next year brings Miami.  It really can’t get any better than this proposal.  In short, the SEC needs to be the college football empire that we have established ourselves to be.  Make it happen Slive; if you build it, the money will come and won't stop flowing.  

A FanPost gives the opinion of the fan who writes it and that fan only. That doesn't give the opinion more or less weight than any other opinion on this blog, but the post does not necessarily reflect the view of TSK's writers.

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