As the tempests in teapots continue to boil in Washington, be they Joe Biden’s ad libs, the definition of infrastructure, who wants to spend what money where, the January 6th hearings, or myriad others, I thought it might be a nice change to talk about something near and dear to Americans (and definitely Southerners) across the fruited plain: Football.
By the time this column is published, the powers-that-be ruling the Southeastern Football Conference (SEC) might have decided to add two new members. The Universities of Texas and Oklahoma, two schools that have always seemed to enjoy football on Saturday afternoons in any given Fall, apparently are tired of their current long-standing association with the Big 12 conference and are looking to greener pastures. And I don’t mean the color of stadium grass.
The SEC generates a rather large amount of cash for member schools. So, even though there’s no doubt the Longhorns and Sooners want the gridiron competition afforded them by the likes of Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, et al, the real driving force behind seeking admission to the SEC is likely to be greenback based.
As currently constructed, the Big 12 is actually made up of ten teams (and they should never be confused with the Big Ten, believe me – more on that Conference later). Besides Texas and Oklahoma, there’s Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Baylor, Texas Christian, Texas Tech, and West Virginia. Not to take a thing away from any of those fine institutions of higher learning and pigskin prowess, but the Big 12 has been described on occasion as the Big Two and the Little Eight.
Obviously, Texas and Oklahoma are big draws in their current Conference, and their presence in places such as Waco, Ames, Morgantown, for example, boost the bucks realized by other member institutions. Which is why the “Little Eight” are none too happy about their possible secession.
As is usual, given the complexities of a change, attorneys would probably be the biggest beneficiaries of the switch. There’s nothing clear as to when and how the Longhorns and Sooners would start competing in the SEC. Apparently, under the Big 12 bylaws, both schools would have to give the Conference 18 months notice that they’re leaving. And since there are TV deals already in place that last through the middle of 2025, breaching that contract might cost the schools umpteen millions in penalties (plus the aforementioned associated attorneys’ fees).
What hasn’t been brought to the forefront yet is how the current SEC members might react to the added competition. Some teams, already feeling far superior to everyone else in the country, may not care a whit. Others, however, who usually end up as sacrificial lambs (for lack of a better term) for the powerhouse teams, might not look forward to yet another beatdown at the hands of the newcomers.
Not that this would ever happen, but perhaps part of the upcoming discussion should include the possibility of a trade or two. I’m not going to mention any names, but isn’t it somewhat feasible that a couple of the current SEC teams would be more competitive in the Big 12? Just asking.
Another question the possible change brings up is what effect an even more powerful SEC might have on a conference such as the Big Ten (which is now the Big Ten plus two – Rutgers and Maryland were added to the roster in 2014). If the SEC can stretch from Texas to Florida and Missouri to South Carolina, is it within the realm of possibility that maybe the University of Southern California or the Oregon Ducks could become part of the formerly all Midwest Big Ten?
A 16-team SEC would undoubtedly be a financial powerhouse. Just that Conference alone may even rival the entire NCAA “take” in terms of media rights and ticket revenues. And that brings up the new opportunities soon to be afforded college athletes to make a buck or two while matriculating at their chosen schools.
The whole concept seems, once again, to move money to the forefront of importance and edges the actual playing of a football game to the back burner. In terms of pure sport, I think maybe the Division III schools might have an advantage over any new super-conference. At my alma mater, 3,000 was a huge crowd on Saturdays at the stadium. Dogs were frequently running around in the end zones. And it was not unheard of for the coach to ask the crowd if the team should go for two after a touchdown. We may not have had national TV coverage, but the tailgating and cheering were just as fun.
©MMXXI. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer