For a while, all the chatter about Texas A&M to the SECÂ was a lot of smoke and no fire. The talk of â€śdone dealsâ€ť between the Southeastern Conference and the Aggies was very premature.
At the beginning of August, Texas A&Mâ€™s Rivals site reported that a deal had been struck and that A&M was on their way to the SEC. But only now, close to a month later, it seems that Texas A&Mâ€™s move to the SEC is close to complete. A fire has finally, only now,Â emerged from all the smoke.
Texas A&M formally sent a letter to the Big XIIÂ last weekÂ stating their intent to leave the conference if they can land elsewhere, preferably the SEC. The SEC stated that they havenâ€™t received an application from the Aggies to join the conference, but that seems like a formality. To gain entrance into the SEC, Texas A&M would need nine of the current twelve presidents to vote yes on their admission, and that could be the tricky part if a 14th team hasnâ€™t been decided on.
Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne said this in a blog post on Wednesday:
â€śThere have also been other developments during the past several months that have caused a great deal of uncertainty within the Big XII. You all know the landscape of the Big XII conference was altered by the creation of the Longhorn Network.â€ť
Byrne also listed the departures of Nebraska and Colorado last summer as reasons that have caused uncertainty in the conference. Obviously, the Big XII will need to act quickly on adding a 10th team in an attempt to save a conference that looks to be a sinking ship at the moment. But, for this article, we will dive in and look at some of the possible suitors for the SEC as the conferenceâ€™s 14th team.
Itâ€™s possible that the league could go with a 13-team conference for the 2012 season, as it is Texas A&Mâ€™s hope to be a member of the SEC by next summer. But, ultimately the conference will add a 14th if they accept the Aggies, and it will be sooner rather than later. Down the road, itâ€™s quite possible that the SEC will add two more teams, but I think we are still a few years away from that happening and the entire college football landscape being thrown into a flux.
Now, the SECâ€™s 14th team almost certainly has to come from the East in order to not disrupt the current divisional alignment and affect longstanding rivalries. So, letâ€™s go down the list of possibilities for the SECâ€™s 14th team assuming Texas A&M is admitted into the conference.
The Seminoles are probably the highest on most SEC fansâ€™ wish list. After a few years of sputtering, Jimbo Fisher has put Tallahassee back on the map with his aggressive recruiting, and Florida State looks to be well on its way back to national prominence. The SEC is the top conference in college football, and adding a team of FSUâ€™s stature would only further cement that knowledge.
But, would Florida State ditch a conference like the ACC that they are undoubtedly the top dog in, to join a more powerful conference that would make it tougher for them to win a BCS National Championship? Also, how would Florida like the idea of adding their in-state rival to theÂ conference?
Itâ€™s been rumored that SEC teams donâ€™t want another university from their state joining the league. If thatâ€™s true, then the Seminoles wouldnâ€™t receive an invite. But, could you imagine the SEC with the Seminoles added? It would add another power team to rival the likes of Alabama, Florida, and LSU, along with other teams like Auburn, Arkansas, Georgia, and Tennessee that have also been competitive in Title races in recent years.
But, at the end of the day, I expect Florida State to remain in the ACC, and for the SEC to look elsewhere for #14.
The Tigers have been another team rumored to be on the SECâ€™s wish-list. It would make sense with their in-state rival South Carolina already a member of the conference. Clemson has recruited well in recent years, but has yet to seriously challenge on a National stage.
Geographically, Clemson makes a lot of sense for the SEC, and not to take anything away from them, but they wouldnâ€™t make a whole lot of teams in the conference nervous like Florida State would. But, like the Seminoles, Clemson may not be added due to being in the same state as the Gamecocks.
And really, would Clemson want to join a tougher conference? Itâ€™s not like theyâ€™re dominating the ACC and making waves across the conference. Theyâ€™ve been middle of the pack for a while in the Atlantic Coast, other than in 2009 when they made it to the ACC Championship Game on the shoulders of CJ Spiller.
It just doesnâ€™t seem likely that the Tigers would want to join the SEC, and they probably wonâ€™t be the first team who has their interest gauged by the conference.
Virginia Tech makes a ton of sense. The Hokies would add a new television market, and wouldnâ€™t step on the toes of another in-state school. Virginia Tech is a quality football program that has been on top of the ACC in recent years, including winning the conference last season.
They would add another competitive team that that seems to always be in the thick of BCS talk, but canâ€™t quite get over the top. Virginia Tech has the talent and attracts enough talented players that could make them feel like they could seriously compete in the Southeastern Conference. They
wouldnâ€™t be as big of a profile add as Florida State would, but they would be the next best thing.
The SEC reportedly hasnâ€™t even thought about adding a 14th team at the moment, but if and when they do, then you have to think that Florida State, Clemson, and Virginia Tech would be at the top of the list.
So, if the first three schools donâ€™t work out in joining Texas A&M in the expanded SEC, then who else would the SEC go after. Iâ€™ve heard teams like Maryland, North Carolina, and NC State as possibilities.
All those teams would make sense geographically, and they would all open up a new television market that brings in even more money to the SEC â€“ especially Maryland â€“ who would open up the Baltimore market.
A lot of this talk still feels pretty premature at the moment, but with Texas A&M to the SEC looking like more of a formality than anything else, then Mike Slive and the SEC powers-at-be would have to be seriously begin looking at adding a 14th, because the conference could only go on with 13 for so long.
Iâ€™m still not so sure that Iâ€™m happy about the expansion and the seemingly inevitable Super Conferences, but it continues to seem like it is something that Iâ€™m just going to have to get used to.