Convention enlargement is inevitable, however the SEC needs to be aware of potential pitfalls


Slam dunk. No-brainer. Certain factor. Choose your analogy to explain what would be the subsequent main alteration to the faculty sports activities panorama.

And whereas all of these phrases would apply to the choice of Oklahoma and Texas to go away the Huge 12 for the Southeastern Convention and for the SEC to just accept two of the most important names in faculty soccer, everybody needs to be aware of historical past.

This may not be the primary time a 16-team convention has been tried. The Western Athletic Convention famously expanded by six groups in 1996. Three seasons later, the convention imploded.

The primary drawback was that this was a wedding of comfort for a lot of colleges. The WAC was at 10 groups and appeared in a wholesome place. However issues have been altering in faculty soccer.

The SEC had expanded to 12 groups and began the primary convention championship recreation. Penn State joined the Huge Ten in 1993. The Southwestern Convention was falling aside with 4 groups becoming a member of the Huge Eight to kind the Huge 12 for the 1996 season The WAC determined to swoop in and attempt to elevate its profile by including SMU, Rice and TCU together with Tulsa, UNLV and San Jose State. To attempt to cope with a league that stretched throughout 4 time zones and had colleges 1000’s of miles from one another, 4 pods of 4 groups have been created to create some geographic steadiness.

But it surely quickly fell aside, sparked by the appearance of the Bowl Championship Collection in 1998. Eight faculty cut up off to kind the Mountain West. The WAC finally dropped soccer in 2012 earlier than saying this 12 months its return as a Championship Subdivision league for the 2022 season.

This potential enlargement for the SEC is not an apples to apples comparability to the WAC. The SEC is not falling aside and can stay the preeminent convention in soccer. Nevertheless, there are some similarities that can guarantee bumps forward, even when everybody expects the street on the prime to be clean.

Cultural match

The Alabama Crimson Tide and Florida Gators battle in the 2020 SEC Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The Alabama Crimson Tide and Florida Gators battle within the 2020 SEC Championship Recreation at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The SEC has been working with 14 members for 10 years, so including two will not be a shock in the way it handles league issues. That stated, it might be including two members with very high-profile athletics applications and a excessive opinion of themselves. Texas ranks first in income generated and Oklahoma ranks eighth. They have been the 2 energy brokers within the Huge 12 with every faculty working its personal community that generated extra income. Given their outsized place of their present convention, how do they slot in with the SEC tradition that is stuffed with premier soccer colleges which have received 11 of the previous 15 nationwide titles?

Texas’ insistence on going ahead with its Longhorn Community and perceived affect with the league workplace have been main elements within the splintering of the Huge 12 a decade in the past with Missouri and Texas A&M becoming a member of the SEC, Colorado leaving for the Pac-12 and Nebraska exiting for the Huge Ten. Now that affect might be drastically diminished. The power for Texas to perform in an setting the place it’s one voice amongst many and, in some instances, nowhere close to the most-powerful voice is definitely going to be a large change.

Oklahoma would appear to be a greater match given its obsessive concentrate on soccer. Its educational profile and the dimensions of Norman matches comfortably with different league colleges. Austin – with practically 1 million residents – will simply grow to be the biggest metropolis within the convention.

Aggressive dissatisfaction

You place collectively 16 of the most important athletics departments with rabid fanbases and an insatiable want to achieve soccer and there is one certainty: A number of applications are going to be disillusioned with no main reframing of expectations.

The primary adjustment will come from the brand new groups. Oklahoma dominated the Huge 12 with six consecutive convention titles and 14 general within the league’s 25 seasons. There isn’t any probability that dominance will proceed with better competitors. The Sooners have made 4 playoffs appearances – tied for third all-time. Solely Alabama (six) has extra within the SEC. LSU and Georgia – with one every – are the one different convention colleges to be chosen. Sure, the playoff discipline will develop, however the path is not going to be straightforward. And the possibility of incomes a prime 4 seed is tougher within the SEC than the Huge 12.

Texas is trying to rebound to its standing as a nationwide energy, however that course of bought much more tough when the schedule not will embody Kansas State, TCU and Baylor – groups it struggled to beat – and has the added problem of Texas A&M and common video games towards the likes of Alabama, Auburn, LSU and presumably Georgia and Florida.

The reframing additionally means tougher video games for the incumbent groups. Merely put, which means extra losses which goes to be laborious for the higher crust to just accept. Going 9-3 and lacking the playoff might nonetheless be a significant achievement for Georgia, however too many seasons like that get coaches fired and create instability.

Groups close to the underside of the pecking order simply bought pushed down two spots, making an unlikely run to a convention title much more unlikely. Packages like Arkansas and Tennessee which have huge expectations will discover they will have to just accept lesser roles for the tradeoff of being within the greatest league. The cash might be good, however is that sufficient to be a minor participant on the stage? What is the level of taking part in in a convention you possibly can by no means win?

Scheduling and journey considerations

The historical past of the SEC is constructed on rivalries. Earlier enlargement has made soccer scheduling tough because it tries to include these sequence into an enlarged convention that also performs simply eight league video games. Shifting to 9 or 10 convention video games appears inevitable to create extra worth for the league and permit groups to play one another extra usually, however how does that get sorted out?

There’s discuss of four-team pods or two divisions of eight. Both manner, some rivalries, like LSU-Florida or Alabama-Tennessee, may very well be endangered. Auburn and Georgia – the second-most performed sequence within the Bowl Subdivision – is one other marquee recreation that may wish to be protected. There’s certain to be some colleges and fan bases which can be annoyed with the outcomes as they get used to the brand new regular.

Oklahoma and Texas additionally stretch the journey considerations for a lot of groups on the outer limits of the footprint. It is one factor to make one lengthy journey through the season. However now you could have a number of colleges greater than 1,000 miles from one another. They’re going to play in soccer and males’s and ladies’s basketball, baseball and different sports activities, including to journey prices and time away from faculty.

This does not embody the impression on the followers. Oklahoma supporters might simply drive to Oklahoma State or Kansas or TCU in a couple of hours or much less. Now its closest convention member is Arkansas – nearly 250 miles away. In addition to Texas A&M, the closest member might be LSU – greater than 400 miles away.

Cash

Ah, sure, the final word affect on faculty athletics and what’s driving this choice for all events. If the saying “extra money, extra issues” holds, then the SEC goes to be coping with quite a lot of issues.

As Steve Berkowitz of USA TODAY Sports activities reported, the expanded league might generate near $1.3 billion yearly in income, which might be in the identical neighborhood because the NCAA.

Now, funds are cut up equally among the many 14 colleges. And maybe that may proceed. However do not be stunned if there’s dissatisfaction among the many haves and have-nots. The worth of the smaller colleges is bound to be scrutinized sooner or later as faculty sports activities develop into tremendous conferences.

Florida State, Clemson and even Huge Ten colleges might usher in extra money sooner or later because the arms race amongst leagues continues. Would the SEC contemplate including two or extra to extend its profile however additional contribute to the problems it at present is going through?

Comply with faculties reporter Erick Smith on Twitter @ericksmith

This text initially appeared on USA TODAY: SEC ought to heed potential pitfalls of 16-team enlargement





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