Expansion isn’t an option — at least at the moment — in the Southeastern Conference.
Texas A&M appealed with the league to become its 13th member, but the 12 leaders in the SEC aren’t ready to join the ranks of the Big Ten and Pac-12 in the expansion business.
The top leaders at the 12-member schools met Sunday and “reaffirmed” their “satisfaction with the present 12 institutional alignment.”
In other words, the league politely declined an overture from the Aggies, who have become unhappy in the Big 12 conference, which has dwindled down to 10 members after Nebraska bolted for the Big 10 and Colorado left to join the Pac-12, formally known as the Pac-10.
“The SEC presidents and chancellors met today and reaffirmed our satisfaction with the present 12 institutional alignment,” Florida President Dr. Bernie Machen, chairman of the Southeastern Conference Presidents and Chancellors, said in a release. “We recognize, however, that future conditions may make it advantageous to expand the number of institutions in the league. We discussed criteria and process associated with expansion. No action was taken with respect to any institution including Texas A&M.”
Arkansas Chancellor Dave Gearhart told the Associated Press that the Aggies made the initial contact.
“(Texas A&M) did approach the SEC, not the other way around,” Gearhart said. “I’m not really sure of all the reasons for that. I’m sure that there’s a lot of speculation on behalf of a lot of people that what caused them to do that. The bottom line is they did approach the SEC.”
If the league had decided to expand, starting with Texas A&M, it would have needed another member to complete the puzzle, at least in the short term, considering the Aggies would have been the 13th member of the conference.
Although expansion is off the table, that doesn’t mean the league won’t continue to look at expansion as another way to generate revenue and create a super conference as smaller leagues, such as the Big 12 and others, struggled to stay alive in this meltdown economy.
Following the departure of Nebraska and Colorado, the future of the Big 12 was in jeopardy, but Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and the Aggies were reportedly close to accepting invitations to join the Pac-10, meaning a compete dissolution of the Big 12.
Oklahoma and Texas A&M also were being courted by the SEC at the time, but all contact ceased between the two schools and the SEC after the league’s top five players chose to remain a part of the Big 12. Athletic directors across the nation also weren’t ready for 16-team conferences, which would drastically alter the landscape of athletic conference across the nation.
As Machen indicated in the release, the decision Sunday doesn’t end the discussion of expansion and groundwork for adding new members in the future were laid out discussed by the league’s top brass.
Although expansion hasn’t occurred in the league since South Carolina joined the conference in 1991, the landscape is ripe for adding new teams. Whether it’s the Aggies or another institution, the league will need to add at least two teams to balance the scales on both sides of the geographical ledger.
When the time is right, expansion is imminent in the SEC. It’s not a matter of if, but when.
Time is right for growth in the Southeastern Conference
Keith Taylor (Sports Editor/The Winchester Sun)