SEC presidents will huddle at a secret location to discuss SEC expansion, Pete Thamel of the New York Times reported. The Sunday meeting will consider admission of Texas A&M to the SEC. Thamel’s report details how the renewed flirtation with the Aggies began. (So check out the story.) But there was one important point to the story: who could become the fourteenth member of the SEC.
“The SEC official said he wondered if the SEC presidents would vote for A&M only if they were assured that a team from within one of their states — Florida State, Clemson or Georgia Tech, for example — would not be added,” Thamel reported.
This is a clear statement that other SEC schools see a threat in allowing an instate rivalry to develop within the conference. Georgia Tech seems an absurd name to mention at this point; the Yellowjackets ran from the SEC and it is doubtful anyone in the conference would welcome them back. However, Clemson and Florida State continue to surface in expansion chatter.
Florida and South Carolina are wise to consider the lesson from Alabama. The state is Balkanized. The state seethes in football antagonism 365 days. Talk radio is filled with Alabama and Auburn trash talk, hatred and accusations of cheating.
The situation in Mississippi is intense. Not as wacko as the present situation in Alabama—where a school under active and major NCAA investigation is trying to divert attention from the investigation by attempting to smear Alabama over the sartorial excellence of football players—but the Ole Miss and Mississippi State rivalry is gritty. It is far more intense than many rivalries because fans are in such close proximity. You can’t escape your rival. They are at the grocery store. They are even at church waiting to taunt instead of share the love of Christ.
Florida and South Carolina already battle Florida State and Clemson in recruiting. They have their share of tussles too.
But it isn’t the same.
Could these rivalries develop into even more intense versions if these teams were allowed to join the SEC?
It would certainly weaken the standing of Florida and South Carolina. One of the best selling points for these schools is the exclusive chance to play in the SEC and stay within the confines of their respective states. SEC expansion would end that exclusivity. It might not be a major hit, but that must be seen as a hit.
But the larger issue is how fans could respond. Would they ratchet up the intensity like in Alabama or Mississippi? Would fans begin collecting dossiers on rivals like Auburn fans did on Gadsden High School students complete with photographs of Dodge Chargers and Carfax reports?
Why take the chance?