The Southeastern Conference is growing and, in a way, getting even stronger.
Three other great conferences have formed an alliance, whatever that means.
And the Big 12 is a walking dead man.
After a period of relative stability, college football is entering a new season faltering with aftershocks from another major earthquake.
Even Nostradamus wouldn’t be willing to guess how it will all turn out.
But it’s clear: The SEC will become a 16-team giant with the addition of the 12 great powers of Oklahoma and Texas, a move that will happen no later than 2025 and likely sooner.
The Big Ten, the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Pac-12 have all fallen back on defense, hoping that a kind of vague partnership will somehow prevent the SEC from spreading its tentacles even further.
Which leaves the Big 12 as a strange man, seemingly destined to join the Southwestern Conference and others in the pantheon of the defunct leagues, which only those who pick up a history book can remember.
The SEC’s motivations are clear: to consolidate its stranglehold on college football and, by extension, on college athletics as a whole.
But the hastily assembled partnership announced this week between its three most viable Power Five challengers (plus Notre Dame, a quasi-ACC member) must offer a clearly defined vision if it is to keep the SEC in check.
Consider the heaviness of the Big Ten-ACC-Pac 12 alliance – 41 schools stretching from Boston to Los Angeles, Miami to Seattle, a mishmash of institutions that have little in common other than making sure that the SEC does not block all sunlight.
Considering how quickly it all had to fall into place, it is perhaps not surprising that few details were offered.
“There is no contract. There is no signed document,” said Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff. “There is an agreement between three gentlemen and a commitment from 41 presidents and chancellors and 41 athletic directors to do what we say we are going to do.”
Well, we all know how much gentlemen’s agreements and non-contractual commitments are worth in the cutthroat world of varsity athletics.
Frankly, we’ll bet a thousand bucks for the dollar that the 41 schools will continue to focus primarily on what benefits them individually, not the collective good.
Heck, they couldn’t even agree to agree on what position they would take on a proposal to expand the college football playoffs from four to 12 teams (a move that seemed certain to happen until then. everyone is pushing the reset button after the SEC has engulfed Oklahoma and Texas like some sort of unleashed Pac Man.).
“It’s not a voting block. We are not committed to voting together on anything, “Kliavkoff said, with every word less and less thought of a viable alliance.” We are committed to discussing all of these issues and trying to find solutions. solutions that are in the best interests of long-term varsity athletics.
For now, the only real focus of the alliance seems to be some kind of cowardly commitment not to go after each other’s members.
But suppose the SEC comes to sniff around Clemson – an ACC powerhouse that has been one of its few serious challengers? Or maybe the state of Florida, if the Seminoles can once again become relevant in college football?
As we know, the SEC usually gets what it wants.
The conference has been pretty much the sun that the rest of college football revolves around since its first major expansion three decades ago, which blew up the familiar conference model that had governed the sport throughout its modern existence.
When the SEC debauched Arkansas from the Southwest Conference (as part of an expansion that also included then-independent South Carolina), split into two divisions, and staged a conference championship game, it forever changed the appearance of sport.
The Southwestern Conference collapsed, the Big Eight Conference plunged to pick up the leftovers (becoming the Big 12), the Atlantic Coast Conference seized the state of Florida before the SEC could, and the Big Ten started rushing to get schools to join its 11th member, Penn. State.
The SEC took its next big step in 2011, sweeping Texas A&M and Missouri from the Big 12. The Big Ten and the ACC were also busy developing, becoming 14-team leagues, while the Pac-10 became the Pac 12.
The Big 12 shrank to 10 schools but managed to survive by keeping Texas and Oklahoma in the fold.
But it has always been a tenuous arrangement at best, and he ultimately feels aside this summer that the Longhorns and Sooners had secretly been in talks to join the SEC – pulling the trigger on a lucrative move that has been out pretty much on the radar since the start of that 30-year realignment scramble.
Now there is no hope for the Big 12 – especially after it was not included in the new alliance arranged by the other Power Five members.
There were only empty words.
“We want and need the Big 12 to succeed,” said ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips. “The Big 12 count in varsity athletics.”
Iowa State and Kansas could end up in the Big Ten. Oklahoma State and TCU are possible candidates for the Pac-12 (despite the league insists Thursday, he has no plans to expand). West Virginia geographically corresponds to ACC. Texas Tech, Baylor and Kansas State may have to fall back on a Group of Five conference like the American or Mountain West.
If nothing else, let’s hope that a viable challenger emerges at the SEC.
Conference has ruled college football for far too long, winning 11 of the last 15 national championships and showing no signs of slowing down, certainly not while Nick Saban is in Alabama.
When Oklahoma – ranked No.2 behind the Crimson Tide in the Associated Press preseason poll – and Texas come on board, the balance of power will tip even more in its favor.
This is great for the SEC.
It’s not so good for college football.
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