Would SEC Football be better for fans at 18 teams or 20? The knee-jerk reaction is bigger is better. But is it? Conference realignments have little to do with what is best for fans. Instead, they are business decisions about increasing financial return.
The realignment drama in the Pac-12 and recently in the ACC is almost completely about the money programs earn for conference media deals. Though in the Pac-12 it is also about status as a Power Five, even though nothing on the Pac’s 2024 horizon indicates ‘Power’ status.
Seven ACC programs might want to exit. The odds are low that will happen soon, if ever. The loudest voice about a potential ACC exit by seven teams has been Florida State’s, Michael Alford. After considerable attention was given to concerns the ‘Magnificent Seven’ were willing to build a new conference, reality seeped in. ESPN’s David Hale offered an update.
"Michael Alford says he’s confident the ACC is moving toward a revenue model that can keep FSU competitive and “we’re thrilled to be in this league and want to stay here.”"
FSU may not be thrilled, but apparently, the ACC’s still decade-plus Grant of Rights hold on current programs is not going away anytime soon. FSU, Clemson and Miami will likely settle for higher shares of the ACC pie; at least for now.
For discussion purposes, let’s assume FSU and Clemson are content to remain in the ACC for three or more seasons. The two programs are the most logical fits for the SEC. Their markets are small but in the important metric of ‘brand-building’ immediate rivalries and future rivalries coming from the Noles and the Tigers are considerable.
SEC Football and Good Fits
Most FSU and Clemson fans probably agree their programs are better fits with the SEC than the ACC. Kevin Arnold, writing for Rubbing the Rock discussed the potential value of Clemson joining the SEC.
"It comes as no surprise that Clemson fans do not like the SEC. Of course they don’t, not with the constant media praise they receive and belligerent fans barking “S-E-C, S-E-C!” Even the conference’s motto, “It Just Means More,” seems inexcusably ignorant of the national landscape.But, if Tiger fans were honest with themselves, football in the SEC would be much more exciting than in the ACC."
It is difficult to choose two other football programs that would bring similar value to the SEC. Miami, North Carolina and Virginia Tech are often mentioned. Perhaps Oklahoma State or another Texas team might be worthwhile.
What should the SEC do? SEC football is big business and the biggest competition for the conference and its teams are media money wars. The SEC could aggressively pursue FSU and Clemson. The SEC can also afford to be patient. No other conference, except the Big Ten, can.