Realignment has once again dominated the off-the-field talk in the college sports world. Maryland and Rutgers are headed to the Big Ten; the ACC continues to expand and the Big East grabs some not-so-obvious teams. As conferences look at plans to remain relevant with a playoff on the horizon, we may soon be asking: Will the nation’s top conference –the SEC, of course – look into adding a 15th or even 16th team? Let’s look at both sides of the case for further expansion:
The SEC needs to expand
It’s hilarious that everyone acts as though conference realignment has never happened before. If you look at decades of history in college sports, conferences have come and gone; teams have moved to other conferences; and conferences themselves have gotten bigger. Just look at what happened to the Southwest Conference in its final years. It’s no surprise that we see that teams are looking for better places to call home.
The SEC was a part of all this back in 1990. It aided the dissolution of the Southwest Conference by adding former member Arkansas and then adding partially independent South Carolina to create a 12-team superconference. That allowed them to field the inaugural SEC Championship Game in 1992; a game that Alabama won. You don’t think there was one bit of outcry from fans?
The SEC needs to look into adding at least two more teams in order to keep up as the nation’s premier conference. Expansion would boost television exposure, money and recruiting. Secondly, football scheduling would be easier with 16 teams in two 8-team divisions, as opposed to the current two 7-team divisions.
And who says the SEC has to pick up a football school? The SEC is seriously lacking in talent on other levels of sport and needs some powerhouses in order to be competitive with other conferences in the other non-football sports.
There will be the usual gripe: “I would rather have the best teams in the conference than have the most teams in the country.” This quality-versus-quantity argument misses the point. Any team that joins the conference will reap the benefits of money and recruiting, thereby creating a better athletic department and a happier campus in general.
Let’s stop letting stubbornness get in the way of progress.
The SEC is fine without expansion
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive has been a part of the best years in the SEC. Since his reign began in 2002, he’s seen seven football national championships, three men’s basketball championships and 67 other championships in the conference.
The expansion that added Texas A&M and Missouri, although necessary, was a sign of troubling times to come for the SEC. True, expansion has happened before, and the SEC was a part of one of the biggest of those. But just because you can expand doesn’t mean you should.
There are benefits to expansion, but there are also negatives. The competition and strength of schedule take a hit – at least in the short term – and it could take years for some schools to become competitive. Plus, teams inexperienced in the SEC style of play – Texas A&M to the contrary – are not able to adjust immediately to the system.
The SEC is full of tradition and has a long and continuing history of success. If it isn’t broke, why fix it? The SEC certainly isn’t broke and there isn’t much wrong with the conference. So why patch up an issue with new teams when there isn’t an issue?
And who says the SEC has to follow suit with the other conferences as they expand? They have the best teams in the conference and there isn’t much chance of their 14 member institutions moving away from the SEC. They will always have the best teams in the nation. Maybe expanding numbers isn’t the best way for conferences to get better.
If the SEC were to take on two additional teams, which would you like to see added?
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