SEC Football: Is it possible for the SEC to become too big?

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

In 2021, when it became obvious SEC football would grow to 16 teams, other conferences panicked. The Big Ten, Pac 12 and the ACC created a vague entity named an Alliance as a buffer against the power of the SEC.

The Alliance accomplished one thing that not only was bad for college football, but it also was not very good for the three conferences. The Alliance killed the expansion of the CFB Playoff to 12 teams.

The Pac 12 and the ACC may come to rue the day the Alliance was born. Why not the same future for the Big Ten? Simply the B1G, like the SEC has the opportunity to benefit from its footprint and product through huge media deals.

In 2021, few ADs and conference commissioners were willing to publically discuss breaking away from the NCAA. It now appears some kind of split is inevitable. Whatever happens, it will likely be driven by the goals of the Big Ten and the SEC. The other three Power Fives will either capitulate or be left out.

SI’s Pat Forde recently explained the perspective of Notre Dame AD, Jack Swarbrick.

"We’re going to have these 2 conf that have distanced themselves from anyone else financially, that’s where I see it starting to break down."

Swarbrick is astute and when he talks, others need to listen. To elaborate, Swarbrick said,

"We’re getting to a two solar system model here. You have two suns with all the gravitational pull — the Big Ten and the SEC. People are going to have to figure out how to align with one or the other."

If he is correct, SEC football fans might want to consider how big is too big. A good starting point is what Blake Toppmeyer wrote 10 months ago.

"A 20- to 24-team SEC housing the top programs and brands would make any other playoff seem like small potatoes.A super-sized SEC could house a six-team playoff. Three rounds. Five playoff games. Top two teams get first-round byes, preserving regular-season value."

Such a move would so displace the current CFB Playoff, the winner of any expanded format would face not being considered the National Champion.

The Big Ten could do the same thing and perhaps the SEC and Big Ten Playoff winners might meet in a National Championship game. In that scenario, both conferences would likely surpass what one league’s financial payoff would become under the current Playoff structure, expanded to 12 teams.

The result could be 40-48 teams controlling the big money side of college football. It might take five to seven years to evolve but anyone’s college football crystal ball that does not see the possibility is blind.

What is a max number for SEC Football?

Would SEC fans prefer bold action allowing growth to 20 or more teams?  Or is 16 teams the maximum for the most fan satisfaction? Given the increasing disparity in conference payouts to teams, there is little doubt more schools will be interested in joining the SEC.

How many ‘have nots’ might be discarded along the way? In the SEC, it could be Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, maybe even South Carolina and Kentucky. What would such realignment mean for men’s basketball?

Next. Greg Sankey is serious about possible SEC Playoff. dark

Change comes with a price. None of us can yet know if the payoff will overshadow the price. We can be confident big changes are coming.