Thoughts on Conference Expansion: The Texas Problem

It goes without saying that Texas and to a lesser extent Texas A&M are the crown jewels of conference expansion. As it becomes increasingly clear that the Big Ten will expand to sixteen teams and that the Pac-10 will also be looking to expand significantly -- really, I think the Pac-10 is just as hell-bent on expansion as is the Big Ten, they just haven't made as much public noise about it -- the SEC will naturally be pushed to expand in its own right.

Clearly, getting Texas and Texas A&M would be the perfect scenario for the SEC, and it likely the one the powers-that-be within the SEC will initially pursue. By significantly expanding the conference's geographic footprint, combined with adding two major football programs, Texas and Texas A&M would significantly increase the revenue of the conference as a whole and it would also allow the SEC an easy path into adding two teams from the east -- see Florida State, Georgia Tech, Clemson, etc. -- thereby allowing the conference to maintain geographic balance while at the same time expanding.

Perfect, right? Well, here is going to be the biggest problem:

A high-ranking member of the Texas legislature told Brown that he and some of his constituents are looking to have Baylor replace Colorado if the Pac-10's planned raid of the Big 12 ultimately becomes a reality.

"If you're going to have an exported commodity involved in this, do you think we're going to allow a school from outside the state of Texas to replace one of our schools in the Big 12 South? I don't think so. We're already at work on this," the unnamed legislator told Orangeblood.com's Brown.

And it's not just Texas politicians pushing for it either, mind you, it's the Baylor athletic department as well:

The e-mail contained a link to a story about how Texas politicians are pushing for Baylor — and not Colorado — to be one of the teams leaving the Big 12 and heading west.

The e-mail came from a Baylor official, who offered an immediate interview with the school’s athletic director.

Also, he provided the A.D.’s cell number.

And there is the problem.

Getting Texas and Texas A&M would be a great move in terms of revenue expansion and increased media visibility. Realistically, though, given the political forces within the state of Texas, there is probably little if any chance that Texas and Texas A&M can be added without bringing in both Baylor and Texas Tech.

Remember, in the mid-1990's then-governor Ann Richards stepped in and refused to allow the state schools to bolt the old Southwest Conference without letting Baylor join the Big XII with them. This time around will probably be no different. In and of themselves Baylor and Texas Tech are likely nothing particularly special, and wouldn't be schools that conferences seeking to expand would fervently pursue. Thus, given that reality, the political machinations of the state of Texas would probably require Texas and Texas A&M to carry Baylor and Texas Tech with them wherever they go so as not to allow those latter two schools to be left out in the cold in the wake of expansion.

And for the Pac-10, that is probably no issue. They could easily add all four Texas schools and still easily integrate them into an expanded conference featuring two seven or eight team divisions, with the four Texas schools forming the backbone of an eastern division. Besides, I don't think the Pac-10 could care less about letting Colorado slip away if it ultimately yielded them both Texas and Texas. Far from it being a problem with the Pac-10, it's a great opportunity.

For the SEC, though, that's probably just not a realistic possibility. Getting Texas and Texas A&M would be marvelous, but realistically there is probably little chance that the SEC could also successfully integrate both Texas Tech and Baylor. Adding those four would make the SEC a sixteen team league -- all the while adding two new members that the SEC would otherwise never even remotely consider -- and would require two current SEC West members to make the jump to the SEC East. To say that such a move would generate significant opposition would probably qualify as understatement of the year.

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