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Some Cold Water on Conference Expansion

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We're not going to cover each and every turn of the conference expansion melodrama like we did a year ago, mainly because (1) we're not going to pretend that all these people you just heard of for the first time five minutes ago actually know anything and (2) real football is underway and that ought to get the bulk of the attention. Nevertheless, a quick splash of cold water on the reports from the self-proclaimed worldwide leader that a 16-team SEC is imminent. Per the New York Times:

Eleven of the 12 Southeastern Conference presidents will meet Sunday at a secret location to discuss the admission of Texas A&M to the league, according to a high-ranking SEC official with first-hand knowledge of the talks.

The official said there was a 30 to 40 percent chance that the presidents could vote against Texas A&M’s membership. He also said there was the issue of which university would become the 14th team, something many in college sports will monitor.

"We realize if we do this, we have to have the 14th," the SEC official said. "No name has been thrown out. This thing is much slower out of the chute than the media and blogs have made it."

The point to be had here is that notwithstanding any legislative and testicular fortitude issues that could keep A&M from once again getting cold feet over bolting Texas and the Big XII, there still figures to be a decent amount of resistance to A&M joining the SEC, as the Gray Lady details. No they probably aren't a major threat to anyone -- A&M is basically another Arkansas (and I don't mean Bobby Petrino Arkansas, either) -- but LSU or Arkansas would oppose the move, and it's feasible that Ole Miss, Alabama, and Auburn would oppose it as well. And while A&M would probably bring in significant money in their own right, whoever else comes with them may not, in which case there may not be a substantial increase in the economic pie such that expansion would be worthwhile.

The other issue here is finding a specific additional team, outside of Texas A&M, because adding A&M would necessitate the addition of a fourteenth team to maintain a balanced divisional format. The fourteenth team becomes an even bigger issue than A&M because the fourteenth team would (1) bring in less revenue and (2) step on the toes of existing members. Either the SEC would have to add someone from the East and thereby generate intense opposition from existing members and arguably violate the tacit agreement between SEC presidents not to do such a thing. Along those lines, more from Pete Thamel:

Struggled to get clarity how definitive the gentlemen's agreement is among SEC Presidents on not taking a team from same state.

That notion is not written down anywhere, and could be pressed when/if team 14 comes into play. Will be big part of Sunday meeting.

That only substantially increases the difficulty of adding Florida State or Clemson, and most likely even North Carolina or Virginia Tech given how heavily SEC teams recruit those states. And on the other end of the spectrum, if you add another team from the West you'll destroy the current divisional balance and that will require two current members of the SEC West to move over to the SEC East. That will likely require the transfer of at least one current SEC West power to the East to maintain competitive balance, which will almost undoubtedly cause significant opposition once either Alabama or Auburn (or both) get marching orders to head East, dump traditional rivalries, and make Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and South Carolina annual fixtures of the schedule.

In other words, despite all of the high talk continuing for a second consecutive year that SEC expansion is an inevitability, in reality expansion remains a very tricky subject to negotiate and one that has pitfills everywhere and significant opposition all but certain to arise. Maybe expansion comes to fruition at some point, but there is a very good chance that it doesn't and all of the hot air arising between now and then should be taken with a massive grain of salt until we definitively find out otherwise.

In the meantime, we'll be back to real football later tonight with coverage of the UA scrimmage this afternoon in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Addendum: More from Thamel:

A DIFFERENT high ranking SEC official just called to say (angrily) that any report involving Clemson, FSU and Missouri is totally wrong.

So, let's see, we have conflicting reports from the Times and Doug Gottlieb. One I'm inclined to believe, the other makes the Hemingway patented durable, shockproof bullshit detector nearly explode. Want to bet on which does what?