Strange: College landscape crossroads

Mike Strange

There is going to be an earthquake in college athletics. That much is certain.

We pretty much know the epicenter. It'll be in the upper Midwest, somewhere between Columbus, Ann Arbor and Chicago.

What we don't know is the magnitude.

It could be mild, localized around, say, South Bend, Ind.

It could extend farther, maybe to Missouri or Pittsburgh, but still not a major catastrophe.

Or, this could be The Big One.

It could reshape the East Coast. It could cause a tsunami in Miami.

If this is The Big One, expect aftershocks that alter the landscape from coast to coast.

Colorado or Utah could slide toward the Pacific. Oklahoma might wake up next to Alabama.

There's no telling which direction Texas might be pulled.

In plain speaking, every major conference commissioner and athletic director is waiting to see how far the Big Ten Conference goes with its proposed expansion.

I can't recall a time when speculation was more rampant about changing the face of major college sports as we know it.

If the Big Ten adds only one school to its current 11, then the status quo probably remains more or less intact - even if that school is Notre Dame (which it probably will not be).

Other prime Big Ten candidates would be Missouri, Nebraska or any of several Big East Conference candidates. The ones with sizeable TV markets, that is. You think they'd want Rutgers for its wrestling tradition?

"I don't think anyone can dismiss anything out of hand,'' Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman was quoted as saying recently.

Anything includes a Big Ten surge to 14 or even 16 teams. If that happens, stand back and get out of the way. Every BCS conference will be wheeling and dealing.

The grand prize in any realignment scheme is the University of Texas. The powers that be in Austin could choose to move west to the Pac-10, east to the SEC or north to the Big Ten.

Or, of course, stand pat in the Big 12, whose revenue-sharing formula favors marquee programs like the Longhorns.

So what does it all mean for the SEC, and by extension for Tennessee? The SEC has stood pat since South Carolina and Arkansas joined to make a 12-team league in 1991-92.

UT athletic director Mike Hamilton deferred comment until after he attends an upcoming AD meeting.

Only the Big Ten distributes more revenue among its schools than the SEC. Between the white lines of competition, the SEC has no equal. They may play a mean brand of water polo in the Pac-10, but football drives the expansion train.

Thus, there's no pressing need for the SEC to expand. Unless, that is, the Big Ten opens the "super conference" door by going to 14 or 16.

Commissioner Mike Slive is maintaining a posture of watchful waiting. But don't think for one minute he will let the SEC play second fiddle to any other league.

If the day comes for the SEC to grow, Texas and Oklahoma should get the first calls. Then give Miami a ring.

Failing that, it might be a case of expansion for expansion's sake. Here's a look at the other candidates likely to come up.

n Florida State: Makes sense but doesn't push the boundary.

n Georgia Tech: Convenient road trip for most SEC schools but no real gain in TV sets.

n Virginia Tech: Only if Arkansas bolts for the Big 12.

n Clemson: Only if Mississippi State leaves for the Pac-10.

n Texas A&M: Only as a package deal to get Texas.

n Oklahoma State: Only as a package deal to get Oklahoma.

n Memphis: Don't laugh. You'd gain great basketball and a sure "W" in football.

n Louisville: Good basketball, a casino across the river and maybe box seats at the Kentucky Derby.

n Virginia: Academic boost and new TV markets.

n Maryland: See Virginia.

n Connecticut: Sure, it's a reach, but you gain a big TV market and the Lady Vols would have to play Geno again.

n Southern Cal: The SEC already misses Lane Kiffin.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com or 865-342-6276.

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Comments » 26

imw8n4u writes:

was this article supposed to be funny? Miss St. to the PAC-10? UCONN for the SEC? I seriously hope they do not make any decisions based on women's basketball.

dvhill100 writes:

It will certainly be entertaining to watch it all unfold.

Catfish writes:

Way off base. You need two schools from the west and two from the east. You might add one major football program, but not more. We need teams that our top programs can beat. And you need major markets.

First Texas and Texas A&M. Texas is the one destination program. The Aggies are good but not great. We pick the entire state of Texas market. Plus there are natural rivalries with LSU, Arkansas and to some extent Ole Miss.

Secon Virginia and VA Tech. Tech is solid but not great. UVA is not tied to the ACC basketball concept and might even like playing BB in the SEC. The state of VA is large plus you get D.C. Natural rivalries with UT and UK and to some extent with UGA and USC.

I would had suggested UNC and Duke, but I don'tsee them pulling out of the ACC basketball league. If we could get them, that would be golden. Some easy Ws in football, ramp up BB and a large TV market statewide. Imagine BB SEC tournament with UNC, Duke, UK, UT, Vandy, TX and FL

Lostvolinhighweeds writes:

Speculation is just that.
Speculation.
Writers who have something to report, report.
Writers who don't, speculate.

AtLeastMyTeamHasPerfectSeasons writes:

Talk about recruiting wars if this happens!

orangecountyvols writes:

Strange must be looking over Hooker's shoulder when writing his reports or even worse predictions.

Neither are too credible at best. Actually, this was intended to be funny by Strange because none of it made any sense, such as Miss St to the Pac 10 or Virginia to anyplace.

77VolFS writes:

This follows Joe Biddle's article from yesterday's Tennessean, which followed an article from this week's Sports Illustrated. First of all, Texas is not going anywhere without A&M - Texas legislature has already seen to that. If the SEC went to 16, these two are the goal for the West. On the East side, FSU & Ga Tech would be the best fit. Miami is culturally a better fit for ACC or Big East. I'm sure Ga Tech misses the sure sellouts they always had with rivals such as UT & Auburn. Game days at the Varsity were always fun. The SEC could finally move their offices to a high profile city (Atlanta) where it needs to be. Again, all of it is speculation and Slive is good at this kind of stuff and terrible at fixing problems eating away at the foundation of conference support (officiating).

iowavol writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEAR:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Agree that football drives the locomotive, but BB has an engine in the train as well. It is interesting that the BIG 10 actually pays out it's members more than the SEC. Keeping the BIG 10 relative is obviously a chore for the networks as ratings help drive the viewership which helps drive the payouts. BB could bring us more viewers and that will drive the lucrative contracts even higher.

springtx_vol writes:

Why isn't Virginia Tech in this conversation? They are a SEC type school. If the SEC goes to 16, I like:

Virginia Tech
Clemson
Miami
Florida State

If one of these four say no, then go after Ga Tech.

I don't see any reason for Texas/Texas A&M or Oklahoma/Oklahoma State to join the SEC. They dominate the Big 12 and would push to add lower level schools to the Big 12 rather than leave.

VolsINFan writes:

All the speculation talk about expansion doesn't bother me one bit. What I am absolutely fed up with from KNS reporters is the repeated references to the previous coach that I refuse to say the name of ever again.

The guy is gone. Few people care about the guy. If you want to continue writing columns about the previous coach, then head to Los Angeles, Long Beach, or Anaheim--I am sure there are newspapers there that would love to have you.

Go Vols!

tennrich1 writes:

I'm sorry but i confess i did laugh when you said Memphis....Why in heavens name, would the SEC want Memphis? Yeah, I understand the basketball situation....but if there's one area the SEC has covered(fan base and TV market) in this country, it the MidSouth...its LOCKED UP!...Therefore, Memphis to the SEC makes NO sense!

Down_The_Field writes:

leave it alone. the sec is already the best conference. don't fix what aint broke.

Down_The_Field writes:

KNS....btw - the only people that miss lane kiffin are the media and the company that clean his pool.

VolunteerLifer writes:

Why wouldn't the SEC be interested in getting Notre Dame?

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Siwash has expressed no interest in joining the SEC along with ETSU.

brauhuff#295403 (Inactive) writes:

West Virginia and Clemson and Texas A&M and Texas. I wish Tennessee and Kentucky would join the BIG 10. It would be a nice change. The teams are closer geographically.

cumberlandVOL writes:

in response to brauhuff#295403:

West Virginia and Clemson and Texas A&M and Texas. I wish Tennessee and Kentucky would join the BIG 10. It would be a nice change. The teams are closer geographically.

UT closer to the Big Ten geographically? The state of tennessee shares a border with georgia, alabama, mississippi and arkansas! There is no contact with any Big Ten state! Though you're right, I think Kentucky would be a better fit in the Big Ten: sub-par football and good BBall tradition.

GerryOP writes:

Doldrums ... extreme doldrums.

125 -- Fear The Dooley Dude...

Hounddog writes:

in response to tennrich1:

I'm sorry but i confess i did laugh when you said Memphis....Why in heavens name, would the SEC want Memphis? Yeah, I understand the basketball situation....but if there's one area the SEC has covered(fan base and TV market) in this country, it the MidSouth...its LOCKED UP!...Therefore, Memphis to the SEC makes NO sense!

Agree, especially when you factor their fans are the most fair weathered of all. Check out the numbers at the Liberty Bowl. Two losses in BB and they are down 6-7 thousand next game.

Besides, three SEC members in Tennessee where HS football has low D-1 players...give me a break. This comes from a Hometown Hounddog.

Colliervol writes:

in response to tennrich1:

I'm sorry but i confess i did laugh when you said Memphis....Why in heavens name, would the SEC want Memphis? Yeah, I understand the basketball situation....but if there's one area the SEC has covered(fan base and TV market) in this country, it the MidSouth...its LOCKED UP!...Therefore, Memphis to the SEC makes NO sense!

No doubt about the "locked up" part with UT, Alabama, Ole Miss, Miss State and Arkansas surrounding the Memphis market. And basketball means absolutely nothing in the expansion argument. It's all about the football teams and what you can bring to the table in that area along with television.

VolunteerLifer writes:

in response to 77VolFS:

This follows Joe Biddle's article from yesterday's Tennessean, which followed an article from this week's Sports Illustrated. First of all, Texas is not going anywhere without A&M - Texas legislature has already seen to that. If the SEC went to 16, these two are the goal for the West. On the East side, FSU & Ga Tech would be the best fit. Miami is culturally a better fit for ACC or Big East. I'm sure Ga Tech misses the sure sellouts they always had with rivals such as UT & Auburn. Game days at the Varsity were always fun. The SEC could finally move their offices to a high profile city (Atlanta) where it needs to be. Again, all of it is speculation and Slive is good at this kind of stuff and terrible at fixing problems eating away at the foundation of conference support (officiating).

I don't see why the SEC can't move its offices to Atlanta any time it wants. Remember GaTech left the SEC, not the other way around. We already own the Atlanta market, GT makes no sense to me. same with Clemson. If we are going to expand, then go get new tv markets. You can get the Wash/Baltimore and Virginia TV markets with either Virginia Tech, Virginia, or West Virginia. Miami would lock up the South Florida market, though I'm sure UF gives SEC a prescence there already. The Texas markets would be the big prize. Notre Dame would be a huge prize as well with its national tv draw.

DannyVol writes:

If there is a change, I hope Arkansas goes to another league. Their fans simply don't get it and the school has never fit in.

give_him_6 writes:

Poor Mike...he must not have anything else of revelence to write about.

orangecountyvols writes:

Occasionally the name of Virginia surfaces. Why, I can't understand. Even though I live here, it's hard to understand the reasoning for adding them to the SEC. For years, they have been a team it's hard to get up for to play, and that's where you lose to them.
They added seats to Scott Stadium and with the 61,000
they now are back to having lots of empty seats at games. We played them in 1980 for homecoming, and since the Vols weren't interested in playing football on homecoming day.........actually lost to them. Almost gave the last game away to them in the Sugar Bowl before coming back to win.
Anyway, sorry for rambling about the 'Fighting Scissors'. Everyone has his/her ideas about expansion and when it comes not everyone will be pleased with the results.
We keep hearing a lot about the markets. To me, it's more about the teams and the attractive matchups. Somehow, those big games are going to be on t.v. regardless.
Texas is the apparent center of attention, then the likes of Notre Dame, Oklahoma etc. One thing though,
people like Texas and Okla leaving the Big 12 would really hurt that conference, same as if Va Tech, Ga Tech, Clemson etc would leave the ACC.

Raynoch writes:

in response to slaw_way:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Come on. Put half the SEC schools including Tennessee in a non-bcs conference and they would have more than their fair share of unbeaten seasons and BCS bowl appearances.

Ralph_Crampton writes:

Texas is the prize...millions of TV sets in football-crazy state....Slive has to be alert or the Longhorns will jump to BIG TEN...Also bring in Oklahoma and A&M...make it a BIG SOUTH CONFERENCE with possibly Missouri...Look at the TV sets we would have...a paradise for National TV. Notre Dame is only team to that has the means to stay independent.

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