The announcement of Rutgers and Maryland to the B1G has set off the next round of conference realignment. The ACC has moved to replace Maryland with Louisville, and the Big East has decided to add Tulane and East Carolina. There will certainly be more conference realignment, especially if Maryland is able to negotiate its exit fee down. What does it all mean for South Carolina, and what should Gamecocks be rooting for?
First, South Carolina isn't going anywhere. Everyone pretty much knows that. All of the SEC is staying together. The conference is so bound together that the exit fee for a member school leaving is $0.00. There are no hostages in Mike Slive's group.
So, if South Carolina isn't going anywhere, should I care about realignment? Yes, you should. Just because no one is leaving the SEC doesn't mean the SEC is staying the same. The conference could move to add teams if things get out of hand.
Conventional wisdom is the SEC would move to add teams to help its bottom line. More specifically the SEC is working to launch a SEC network and can make millions of dollars more for every state in its footprint. It's why N.C. State and Virginia Tech are coveted while Clemson and Florida State are not. Clay Travis at Outkickthecoverage has been writing about this angle for awhile.
If the SEC decides, or has decided, it wants schools in two new states, it can't just go get them. The conference could be sued for tortious interference with a contract which could negate some of the monetary gains. The SEC has to wait for the chosen schools to approach it, or at the very least maintain plausible deniability that it didn't approach a school first.
Before a school is going to approach the SEC it needs a reason to leave. In the case of the Big 12 instability was the reason to leave, and Texas A&M and Missouri ended up in the fold. For the ACC instability is being driven by money, or lack thereof. Some schools aren't happy falling behind the SEC, B1G and Pac 12 in terms of athletic revenue. The ACC can't make up that money, so those schools may look elsewhere.
All of this you probably know, so what's it matter to South Carolina? The potential SEC expansion would be very beneficial to the Gamecocks if it provides more money. Money builds facilities and hires good coaches. Good coaches then recruit with good facilities, and good recruits win games. The key though is more money. It's doubtful the league would expand for any reason other than more money, so the key is, do you trust Mike Slive to make good financial decisions? He has a good track record.
There's a second part of how it affects South Carolina, and that is how it affects Clemson. The Tigers are mired in the ACC, which is becoming more of a second class conference by the day. No one is leaving the SEC, Pac 12 or B1G for any other conference. Those conferences are making more money than the others, and they house the majority of college football brands. (Of course there are others, but the majority are in those three conferences.)
The ACC meanwhile just signed a television deal that is approximately $7 million less per school than the SEC is bringing in. That means if nothing changes, South Carolina will have $70,000,000.00 more athletic revenue to use in the next decade than Clemson will. And, don't forget, the SEC payout is poised to be much higher once the network comes on line.
If things stay the same, it certainly favors the Gamecocks long term. Of course, Clemson may not stay in the ACC long term, and they could make more money elsewhere. The Tigers are not going to get an invite from the SEC, B1G or Pac 12. It's not going to happen. Anyone who thinks it might be a possibility doesn't know what he is talking about. The Big 12 could be a landing spot though. If that happened the Tigers could make more money and would have a much brighter future.
What will happen? No one knows. The SEC could stay at 14 teams and remain one of the most stable and wealthy conferences in the country. The SEC could expand and become even wealthier. Our rivals in the ACC could remain there and watch their athletics programs fall further and further behind, which is fine by me. Or, they could eventually end up in a more stable conference, making their long term competitive viability more likely. In any scenario the dominoes that fall today will affect the Gamecocks to some extent tomorrow.
Get more great South Carolina sports analysis over at Leftover Hot Dog.