Alabama fans, SEC fans should brace for expansion

Alabama football fans should expect the SEC to expand. There is no other possibility but expansion when you have teams like Texas A&M and now Florida State in talks with the Southeastern Conference. It appears to be inevitable.

The latest reports confirm that Texas A&M wants to join the SEC. According to the Texas Rivals site Orangebloods.com, the Texas A&M board of regents will vote on moving to the SEC at a meeting scheduled for August 22. But reporter Chip Brown provides further information—that the SEC has expressed interest in teams beyond Texas A&M. Brown reported, “Sources said Thursday the SEC would be interested in adding Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and Virginia Tech in addition to Texas A&M to form a 16-team super conference. Florida State has also been mentioned as a possible target of the SEC, according to Big 12 sources.”

The Florida State portion of Brown’s report is now confirmed by a report on the Palm Beach Post’s website. The Palm Beach Post report cited a source that said Florida State is involved in talks about joining the SEC. The Post also provides a list of teams on the SEC’s list: “Other schools being mentioned as possible SEC candidates: Clemson, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Miami apparently is not on the SEC’s radar.”

Very good information for fans watching conference expansion in both reports. Orangebloods contains some information on Texas state politics that is worth reading. The Palm Beach Post report contains an interesting quote on Miami and the overall expansion situation.

Some SEC fans are unhappy with the change.

It is only natural to prefer the status quo. Everyone understands college football’s present BCS system. It isn’t perfect, but teams and fans know what to expect.

Conference expansion introduces a host of new issues. Will expansion end traditional rivalries? Will expansion kill interesting out of conference games? There are other concerns and questions voiced by fans.

A person familiar with coaching in the SEC told me most concerns are premature.

While the SEC has a plan with its media partners for expansion, there is no doubt a level of uncertainty about what will happen. I was cautioned that an expanded SEC does not necessarily mean additional conference games and an end to traditional rivalries. “Assumptions” like these may have no basis in reality since the SEC has done a good job of maintaining its silence during the last rounds of expansion talk. There is just too much uncertainty to predict what will happen.

Uncertainty goes beyond the shape of an expanded SEC. Just as in the last round of expansion, Texas A&M might abandon its desire to join the conference and use the pressure to win further concessions from Texas. Further complicating the matter is that it is unclear how far along the SEC is with other schools on its expansion list. The speed at which this happens is just a guess at this time.

One caveat on expansion talk is that demographics play a major role in expansion. Last year I was told the demographic issue was driving expansion and the Big Ten’s markets are in serious decline while the markets in the Pacific and South are growing—and thus more attractive in the long run. SEC expansion likely will seek to defend and build upon its position in these markets. The addition of Texas A&M expands the SEC into the massive markets of Texas. The interest in Florida State would appear to improve the penetration into Florida. On the surface these makes sense.

But there are questions. Unfortunately, fans can only speculate as to the answers. And that is fueling the concern. However, one thing seems certain, Alabama fans and SEC fans will see new members sooner rather than later.