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Tag:SEC Expansion
Posted on: August 31, 2011 4:48 pm
Edited on: August 31, 2011 4:48 pm
 

Hokie spokesman: SEC interest 'total poppycock'

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

With Texas A&M now all-but-officially the SEC's lucky 13th team, it hasn't taken long for speculation regarding the league's all-but-inevitable 14th team to heat up. And according to some, that speculation should be focused on Virginia Tech.

It's easy to see why: the Hokies are an established program with a strong following on the East Coast that aren't too far-flung from the SEC's current geographical footprint. But don't tell that to the Hokies themselves, who have already repeatedly tried to squash that speculation and affirm their commitment to the ACC.

Since those previous efforts haven't been enough, though, Hokie presidential spokesman Larry Hincker gave it the ol' college try again Wednesday in an e-mail to the Daily Press's David Teel, one in which he calls the reports of a potential SEC move "total poppycock."

He continues:
How many times do we have to say it? If one of these rumor mongers, would be willing to cite their ‘multiple sources,’ it might lend some credence. Frankly, we’re tired of other people telling us what our future is.

"We are not interested. Nothing has changed. My president will not dignify wild speculation. Our last statement [from Aug. 12] still stands. Bottom line: this is not on our radar screen."
Part of that August 12 statement is that Tech " has no interest in any discussion concerning affiliation with any conference other than the ACC." Hincker told a second reporter that "our athletic director and our president are on record as saying we have absolutely no interest in this whatsoever. And yet the speculation still continues. And it’s a little frustrating, to be honest with you."

Unfortunately for the Hokies, the traditional song-and-dance of conference reshuffling always begins with breathless assurances that everybody in Conference X is committed to Conference X forever-and-ever and would never dream of entertaining the preposterous notion that they might consider stooping to leaving their precious Conference X ... right up until the moment Conference Y actually has an opening.

In short: we believe the Hokies when they say they are fully committed today. But until the SEC has filled that No. 14 slot, we simply can't take it as a solemn guarantee they'll be so committed tomorrow.


Posted on: August 31, 2011 3:00 pm
Edited on: August 31, 2011 3:44 pm
 

Even post-A&M, 16-team conferences are no lock

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



Texas A&M
announced Wednesday it would apply to join "another conference," a conference that even the tubeworms living without sunlight at the bottom of the Pacific could tell you* is the SEC. The Aggies will certainly-as-certainly-gets make 13 for Mike Slive's league, and since a 13-team conference with one 6-team division and one 7-team division is the college football equivalent of a table with one leg an inch too short, expect the SEC to find a 14th team sooner rather than later.

The question begged by A&M's arrival is this: why now? During Expansionpalooza 2010, Slive and the SEC seemed more than happy to stand pat with the same 12 teams and two divisions that have made them the sport's proverbial 500-pound gorilla, the elephant no one has proven capable of shoving out of the room. But come 2011, when the Aggies called griping about the changes in their neighborhood, Slive was happy to ask them to move into his.

Ask many fans and pundits, and they'll tell you the A&M invite is Slive's preemptive strike against Larry Scott and the Pac-12 and Jim Delany and the Big Ten, the two commissioners and conferences that -- the argument goes -- are poised to usher in the era of 16-team "superconferences," wresting away control of the sport ... if Slive doesn't beat them to the punch.

But adding Texas A&M isn't about what Scott and Delany might have in the future. It's about what they have right now.

Namely, it's about the television networks that those conference have or will have, and that the SEC version that Slive shortsightedly passed on when he signed the league's current deals with CBS and (more to the point where the league network is concerned) ESPN. While the Big Ten Network's revenues skyrocket and the Pac-12's TV revenues are set outdo the SEC's even before the league's network starts airing, the SEC is scheduled to earn the exact same amount in TV money in 2023 they are today ... when the league's contract is already below market value.

Whether the SEC's expansion will give them enough re-negotiation leverage to either get an SEC network off the ground -- or just keep pace with the Pac-12 in base contract value -- remains a matter of conjecture. But if any expansion choice could do it, you'd think Texas A&M would. The Aggies expand the league's "footprint" into Texas, have close ties to the major-major Houston market, have a massive alumni base, and have traditionally been a highly competitive, nationally relevant football program.

But even the Aggies might make not that much of an impact on the SEC's bottom line. Former CBS Sports president Neal Pilson told CNBC this week that "there are smart people at both ESPN and CBS and I would anticipate that they foresaw this type of contingency ... if there's any adjustment to the TV deals, I would anticipate that it would be a very modest adjustment." Pilson wouldn't even guarantee that after A&M's addition, the SEC's per-school revenue distribution would match what it is now.

That may be selling the Aggies short. But it nonetheless speaks to why even after the A&M-SEC marriage, the age of the 16-team superconference is not yet upon us. Conference expansion isn't as simple as adding a team, sitting back, and watching the bottom line swell; that team has to add enough value to offset the significant division of league profits by 13 (and then, inevitably, 14) rather than 12. There's other substantial drawbacks, too: increased travel costs, fewer games for current members against their existing rivals**, stiffer competition for the league's limited number of national broadcasts (and, you know, championships).

Which is why "superconferences" likely remain firmly in the distant -- rather than the near -- future. If it takes adding Syracuse and Rutgers for the Big Ten to get up to 16 teams, why would they bother? If the new-look Pac-16 includes the likes of Fresno State or even Boise State -- still not exactly a major-market media powerhouse -- that's not exactly going to force Slive's hand. And assuming the SEC's "gentleman's agreement" not to expand into current SEC states is still intact, who would Slive pull for teams No. 15 and 16? The current whispers are that if Virginia Tech stands by its ACC man (as they say they will), the SEC could look at N.C. State--a member that would give the SEC the Raleigh TV market but (with all due respect) wouldn't have Scott and Delany crying into their respective beers.

The one scenario that could overturn the whole apple cart is Texas deciding to listen to Scott's overtures this go-round and dragging the likes of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State with them. But given the Longhorns' already-substantial investment in the Longhorn Network, here's a guess that neither they nor ESPN is going to like sharing their rare live content with the partially Fox-owned Pac-12 Network. And if the Longhorns either stay committed to the Big 12 or go independent, the Pac-12 could add some value by snapping up the Sooners and Cowboys ... but again, are there enough schools out there to justify going to 16?

When even adding A&M to go from 12 to 13 isn't a hands-down slam-dunk for the SEC -- and given that it's a backwards-looking desperation move motivated by the need to repair an earlier mistake, not a forward-looking "gotta do it" type of decision, how can it be? -- the guess here is that no, those schools are not.

14 may indeed be the new 12, but 16 remains what 14 was when the SEC first expanded in 1992--a number major college football will probably reach at some point in the future, but one that's not more than an intriguing hypothetical in the present.

*Trust me, I asked them. They added they were sick of hearing about expansion and scandal and just wanted the season to start.

**In the particular case of A&M and the SEC, this doesn't apply to LSU and Arkansas; the Tigers and Razorbacks have more history with A&M than they do many of their current SEC brethren.



Posted on: August 29, 2011 7:37 pm
 

Big 12 spells out "withdrawal procedures" for A&M

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

How close is the divorce between Texas A&M and the Big 12 to being finalized? Close enough that we're already two steps closer than we were this morning, and (as a great man once said) the day ain't over yet.

Earlier Monday we found out the two sides are already set to begin their negotiations over the Aggies' exit fee. Now A&M has announced that their soon-to-be former conference has sent them a letter spelling out the "withdrawal prodcedures" for their exit.

Chief among those procedures are the "mutual waivers of legal claims," the agreement of which has long been thought to have been the "speed bump" on A&M's initial fast-track departure to their next conference destination--one that might be, say, speaking purely from a hypothetical standpoint, the SEC. With the Big 12 already having taken a stance on what "waivers" it would agree to, whatever negotiations (if any) on that front can begin sooner rather than later--as well the "financial provisions" of the move, as an A&M spokeman put it.

The official departure date appears to be advancing quickly enough that even A&M president R. Bowen Loftin -- who has previously stressed that the move was a "100-year decision" that would be handled "methodically" -- released a statement that sounds as if he expects the changeover to be wrapped up quickly (emphasis added):
“I certainly appreciate the discussion among the Big 12 presidents/chancellors and the expression of their desire for Texas A&M to remain in the conference. We all agree that Texas A&M is an extremely valuable institution; thus, it is incumbent upon me, as the president of the university, to ensure that we are in a position to enhance our national visibility and future financial opportunity.

While this is a complex and long-term decision, it is not our intent to prolong our conference exploration for an extended period of time."
Maybe the divorce isn't final just yet. But if Loftin and Mike Slive are spotted at an Ikea this week picking out a coffee table they can both agree on, don't be surprised.

Posted on: August 26, 2011 2:27 am
Edited on: August 26, 2011 10:12 am
 

Dan Beebe responds to Texas A&M statement

Posted by Adam Jacobi

In the latest chapter in the ongoing flirtations between Texas A&M and the SEC, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe (pictured at right) has responded to Texas A&M's Thursday announcement that the Aggies were exploring a switch in conferences.

First, the statement in full, from the conference offices:

The letter received today from Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin will be addressed by the Big 12 Conference Board of Directors. It remains our strong desire for Texas A&M to continue as a member of the Big 12 and we are working toward that end. However, if it is decided otherwise, the Conference is poised to move aggressively with options.

Beebe should be careful here, as the only high-level unaffiliated football programs out there are Notre Dame and BYU (no offense, Army or Navy), and saying the conference is "poised to move aggressively" implies that there's a willing candidate already in Beebe's mind. Yes, that almost certainly could mean SMU, who's practically begging for a BCS invite, but if the Big 12 adds Houston (as has allegedly been mentioned by the conference as a possibility before), the Conference USA brass might have the grounds to suggest that the Big 12 was admitting to interfering with Conference USA business, and that could mean the threat of legal action.

That said, it could also mean something much less litigious, like adding BYU and/or Notre Dame in football only, and either gently phasing in the other sports (as both schools have full pre-existing conference affiliations outside of football) or leaving it a football-only arrangement entirely. 

Not only that, there are probably plenty of expansion candidates off the metaphorical radar with which the Big 12 has had some sort of contact, and maybe Beebe has the sense that they're privately amenable to a conference change. Again, we're talking about off the radar, so it would be reckless to speculate (see: flat-out guess) on possible schools, but Beebe would be derelict in his duty as a conference commissioner if he didn't have a contingency plan for any type of expansion -- especially one based on how willing the other schools would be to move to the Big 12.

We'll say this, though: Texas A&M is still not even an applicant (much less a member or invitee) of the SEC yet. That's likely to change, but it hasn't yet. So if Dan Beebe can wrangle four of his conference members away from a potential Pac-16 in 2010, then somehow brink Texas A&M back from the bring of "SECession," he's got to be the biggest miracle worker among conference commissioners. Alas for Beebe, miracles are miracles for a reason, and this one's probably not going to happen.


Posted on: August 12, 2011 3:09 pm
 

Hokies would 'politely decline' offer to join SEC

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

As the Texas A&M-to-the-SEC expansion rumors reach critical mass, the inevitabe follow-up question becomes: if the Aggies really are No. 13, who's No. 14?

According to Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver, it won't be the Hokies. Speaking to the Louisville Courier-Journal, Weaver said the school would "politely decline" any hypothetical offer to join the SEC. His reasoning:
"Virginia Tech has always wanted to be in the Atlantic Coast Conference and I would think that’s where we’re going to stay, because it’s the right thing and the best thing for our university" ...
"[W]hen you realize the travel involved and so on, we’re virtually in a ‘bus league’ right now. The SEC would cause other travel issues. Certainly there is (increased) revenue involved (with joining the SEC). But I just feel like, and this is me talking – I haven’t talked to the president or any of that – Virginia Tech would politely decline, because we’re very happy to be in the Atlantic Coast Conference.”
Of course, it's very easy to say that now when (as Weaver points out up front) any invite from Mike Slive is entirely hypothetical. With the SEC still not even having reached the point of extending the Aggies an invitation -- per both CBSSports.com's Tony Barnhart as well as other media sources -- it's fair to assume the league's decision on it's next expansion target is still a good ways off. If Slive ever did come calling, would Weaver still be so devoted to the ACC? 

Maybe. As Weaver points out, the ACC has its advantages for the Hokies. (If Florida State did wind up the SEC's 14th school, the Hokies might be poised to dominate the league in football the way, well, they've already dominated it.) So we'll take him at his word for now.

But if the SEC's interest in Tech does heat up, we have a feeling Weaver will have to repeat himself -- probably multiple times -- before we rule the Hokies out entirely.

HT: @Year2.

Posted on: August 12, 2011 11:35 am
Edited on: August 12, 2011 6:43 pm
 

Report: Florida State discussing jump to SEC

Posted by Chip Patterson

With the back and forth regarding Texas A&M's possible jump to the SEC, there is one more piece of the puzzle worth considering.

If the Aggies do make the leap, who would be the primary target for spot No. 14?

The popular belief is that SEC expansion would first involve an increase to 14 teams, then eventually finish at 16. Because the shrinking Big 12 and their displeasure with Texas and the Longhorn Network, Texas A&M leaving would not be a huge shock. But once you start to look at candidates for that fourteenth spot is where things get messy. According to a report in the Palm Beach Post, the rumors of Florida State making the jump as well are "real."

Tom D'Angelo cited a source close to FSU who confirmed that the discussions are getting more serious. D'Angelo also writes that the other candidates being mentioned for SEC expansion are Clemson, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State.

Some believe that Florida would try to block the Seminoles from joining the SEC, and South Carolina would do the same for in-state rival Clemson. Adding the nearby foe to the SEC presents all kinds of new recruiting challenges, after the Gators and Gamecocks have been able to use the "all-mighty SEC" card in years past.

The Florida State-SEC rumors have swirled before, and when the Seminoles were owning the ACC it seemed like the program was too big for the conference. But Florida State, seeking their first ACC title since 2005, sputtered for a big in the last half-decade. Still, with head coach Jimbo Fisher at the helm there is a buzz in Tallahassee again. Seminole fans believe that they have big-time college football right in their backyard. You know who else has big-time college football in their backyard? The SEC.

A Florida State exit would be a crippling blow to ACC football, as would Clemson or Virginia Tech. Clemson and Florida State hang their hat on success from the 1980's and 1990's, while the Hokies have dominated the conference since their arrival in 2004. From the national perspective, these are some of the teams that give the ACC clout. Losing any one of them to the SEC would send the conference into an unexpected scramble to keep their membership at 12 teams for the ACC Championship Game.

UPDATE: Florida State President Eric Barron talked to the Associated Press about the FSU-to-SEC rumors on Friday saying "I don't think there is anything to talk about right now. I don't speculate when there's no conversation." ACC President John Swofford also said that he has received "no indication from any of our 12 presidents that they have any intention of being affiliated with any conference other than the ACC."

For more conference drama, keep it here at the Eye on College Football
Posted on: August 10, 2011 11:45 pm
Edited on: August 10, 2011 11:49 pm
 

Report: Beebe taking Texas A&M rumors 'seriously'

Posted by Chip Patterson

The man who has worked so furiously to hold the Big 12 together says he's taking reports of Texas A&M to the SEC "very seriously." Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe spoke to the American-Statesman on Wednesday night about the issue. He said he has not been in contact with any Texas A&M administration members, Beebe has been preoccupied with Mark Emmert's presidential retreat in Indianapolis.

"I've been doing that and dealing with this firestorm at the same time," Beebe said. "I'll put it this way, I'm taking it very seriously. I've been talking to a number of people. Obviously, there are a significant number of Aggie supporters who are interested in going in that direction."

One reason Aggie supporters are reportedly so adamant about the move is in response to the conference's handling of Texas and the ESPN-supported Longhorn Network. Texas president William Powers was also at the NCAA summit, and reportedly also discussed the issue with Beebe.  What many dismissed as internet rumors took on new life when Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin released this statement on Wednesday:

President Loftin is committed to doing what is best for Texas A&M not only now, but also in the future. We continue to have wide-ranging conversations regarding all aspects of the university, including both academics and athletics.

The timing and wording of that message made it appear awfully cryptic considering the circumstances. All of the Big 12 athletic directors met a week ago to discuss the Longhorn Network, and they voted unanimously to postpone the broadcasting of high school games for one year. At the time, it seemed as though the weakened conference was once again on the same page.

"We had a tremendous meeting with the athletic directors," Beebe told the American-Statesman. "My view was everybody was comfortable with it."

It seems Texas A&M is either uncomfortable with the current conditions in the Big 12, or just exploring their options. Either way all signs point to these conversations with the SEC appear to be happening. But we can only wait to see if anything comes from them.

For more on this story as it develops, keep it here at the Eye on College Football and follow us on Twitter
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com