SEC Football: UNC and UVA not expansion priorities but FSU and Clemson are

(Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)
(Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) /

The conventional wisdom is SEC Football will not expand in the near future. There are a couple of reasons why the conventional wisdom is credible. One is the SEC is currently happy with its return from media deals. No SEC expansion makes sense until ESPN is ready to ante up once again.

Given how much cord-cutting is believed to have cut into ESPN revenues, ESPN may not be close to throwing more money at college football product.

It was recently written that both the Big Ten and the SEC are interested in adding North Carolina and Virginia. No link is provided in this post because the suggestion, at least in terms of the SEC is nonsense.

The University of Virginia and the University of North Carolina are outstanding schools. Both would bring academic prestige to any conference. Both would also bring top-tier basketball programs, and in the case of the Tar Heels legit elite status.

SEC Football Drives SEC Expansion

What they don’t do, is offer much clout from their football programs. Conference realignment is driven almost solely by football. While that might be a bit less true for the Big Ten, it is absolutely true for the SEC.

The measure of added value, to drive increases in media rights fees, has nothing to do with market size. That Charlottesville is a small market does not matter. What matters are eyeballs. Months ago ESPN admitted its interest is in college football brands rather than markets. Using top brands to build new rivalries means more games with more eyeballs for ESPN.

In a recent article, Jon Loesche discussed a college football TV bubble. In a traditional definition a ‘bubble’ indicates a dangerous situation for a market.

"A bubble is defined as a period when prices rise rapidly, outpacing the true worth, or intrinsic value, of an asset, market sector, or an entire industry"

Are massive media fees for college football approaching, or at a bubble stage? Such questions are rarely answered, “until a bubble bursts.”

At the least, ESPN and other large media companies must be more cautious than bold. Jon Loesche does a great job explaining the dilemma. My advice is to read his entire article.

For those who want a summary, the measure of the value of a college football brand should be measured by the viewing interest it creates. Loesche tracked ACC teams going back to 2012 and tabulated how many games drove 4M or more viewers. The number was 19 for Clemson and 16 for Florida State. The number for UNC was two and for UVA it was zero.

It is easy to see which brands ESPN wants and just as easy to see that SEC Football gets almost no value from adding UNC, UVA, and basically every other ACC team, except for Clemson and FSU.

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Even though FSU and Clemson may be plums, they are not easy pickings. The ACC’s Grant of Rights deal has its teams locked in for now. Even with the obstacles, at some point, FSU and Clemson becoming SEC football teams is a good bet.