Mike Strange: SEC expansion all about TV

Full disclosure: Yes, I've been heard to gripe and moan about traveling to Starkville and Auburn and Oxford.

But they're family. You might not want to spend Thanksgiving at Uncle Rudy's, but you go. He's family. You have a history.

History doesn't count for much any more. Not in the fast-changing, big-bucks world of college football.

The SEC is on the verge of moving into Texas and it's not going to stop there.

Twenty years ago, the SEC was doing just fine as a 10-team league. But adding Arkansas and South Carolina got us a championship football game and, as an aside, made geographic sense.

Arkansas also brought a rabid basketball fan base, which was a needed counterweight to Kentucky. South Carolina was at least a scenic drive for Tennessee fans.

I don't think TV sets were the driving force then. The Columbia and Little Rock markets aren't game-changers.

For some SEC schools, it's a good thing there wasn't a TV much less a TV market when the league was spawned in the 1930s.

Think Auburn would have gotten in? Hey, you already get Birmingham and Mobile with Alabama.

Mississippi State and Ole Miss? The Jackson market ranks No. 90. They're all yours Conference USA.

Nashville tunes in for the Vols. Who needs Vanderbilt?

But in the absence of ESPN the SEC somehow formed and bonded and thrived. Now Toomer's Corner, The Swamp, The Grove and cowbells are a part of us, too.

We have a history with Archie Manning and Steve Spurrier and Pistol Pete and Kyle Macy. Dwayne Schintzius may have been a goofball but he was our goofball.

By now, Razorbacks and Gamecocks are part of our history too.

Unless a legal threat by one or more frightened Big 12 schools intervenes, Texas A&M is about to stretch the SEC to the southwest.

There's no telling which direction a 14th member — and possibly 15th and 16th — will stretch it.

What we know is that it won't be anybody logical in the Southeast. Those TV markets are already on board.

The ACC folks, especially those with the untapped markets in North Carolina and Virginia don't seem interested. So it might be Missouri or West Virginia. If only New York University had a football program.

But the bigger the SEC gets, the more the family concept suffers.

In a 14-team league, how often would Tennessee play anybody in the West? As it stands now, the Vols go four years without seeing old rivals Ole Miss, LSU or Auburn. If it gets to 16, we might hear a stadium calling the Hogs just once a decade.

Even at 14, the SEC should expand the conference schedule from eight to nine games. The downside would be Tennessee fans can forget about marquee series with teams like Notre Dame or UCLA.

Nothing against Texas A&M. The Aggies can match just about anyone when it comes to tradition.

I've been there and let me tell you it's not an easy trip from Knoxville or Lexington. In comparison, Starkville is just around the bend.

But that's beside the point, really. The point isn't who actually goes there. The point is who watches on TV.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.

© 2011 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 38

lomas98 writes:

All these extra teams and there will still be a whole month or longer of downtime for some teams when regular season ends. They say it is still about the student athlete and exam time. That is phooey. What about the student athlete when south Carolina has to go to tx a and m on a Wednesday night to play a basketball game. If they add more teams to conferences more games should be played.

BigVolFaninSC writes:

Come on West Va.!

kdaff51 writes:

If the "Big 12" takes legal action are they going to include Nebraska in the lawsuit? And yes it is about the TV market and what you can sell to the networks.....

FWBVol writes:

The SEC orginally had 13 teams. The first to drop out were The University of the South (Sewanee) in 1940. Georgia Tech and Tulane were the next to leave. Tech left in 1964 and Tulane in 1966.

Of course in 1991 Arkansas and South Carolina joined hte conference getting us back to the 12 league we were for the first 30 something years.

I believe when the legal mess is resolved allowing Texas A&M to come to the SEC that another team or three will be invited too so we can have seven or eight team divisions. Of course if that doesn't happen and we just get A&M we will be back to 13 schools just like it was at the start.

But I think A&M is only the start of the next round of realignments. When all is said and done I am afraid we will have the four super conferences with 16 schools each. Everyone looks at the football implications, but I wonder what will happen with the other sports as well.

The rich will continue to get richer and schools related to the rich by way of conference affiliation such as Vanderbilt and Baylor also will benefit from things.

Like Derek Dooley, I'm a traditionalist. I hate seeing what has been a great product in the SEC change for the sake of TV, but I know that's the wave of the future and I have to accept it.

rabidvol1998 writes:

WHY, WHY, WHY. I'm happy just the way we are. Did anyone ask the customer (fan)?. I really don't get it. How is this the best way to make more money? I'm ok with making more money, but how does this do it? It dilutes the record book. It makes SEC championships fewer and further between for EVERYONE. What is the point? Somebody tell me.

arkyvol writes:

if the criteria is television (eyeballs), the sec would be insane to consider west virginia. if the criteria is football tradition, the sec would be insane to consider west virginia. if the criteria is academics and culture,...

flatrock writes:

Bring in Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Missouri. Move Alabama and Auburn to the SEC East. Play 10 conference games- 7 in your division. (Vandy could schedule Ensworth and MBA
for its' non-league opponents!).

SEC EAST-South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Auburn, Alabama.

SEC WEST-LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State,
Missouri.

Now, that would be fun!

Hrockytop writes:

in response to MerlOT_GoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Agreed..Sad but probably true...becoming commercial like nascar.

Colliervol writes:

in response to kdaff51:

If the "Big 12" takes legal action are they going to include Nebraska in the lawsuit? And yes it is about the TV market and what you can sell to the networks.....

Yep. I think if I were A&M, the first thing I'd point out to the judge is that none of the schools sued Nebraska or Colorado for leaving. They just took the payoff. Sounds like precedence to me. If they were all that upset about "damage", they should have sued those two schools last year.

As far as this article highlighting that this is all about football and TV, well, that rates a great big DUH. As if we didn't already know that.

jumboliyah writes:

How about this?
North: Ark Tn Vandy Ky VaTech NoCar Ga SoCar
South: A&M OleMiss MissSt Bama Aub Fla FlaSt LSU

Colliervol writes:

in response to FirstAndGoal:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I think that ship has sailed. Might as well get ready for the change that is coming. The super conferences are on the way. Four 16 team conferences and maybe the demise of the NCAA as we know it. (That last one is just speculation but I believe that it's possible. The NCAA is antiquated and has outlived its usefulness in today's game.)

bmgvirgo#210233 writes:

It is the SouthEASTERN Conference. Southeast does NOT include Texas. I hate this this potential addition to the league. If you want to expand so bad, then at least add teams from the SE portion of the US. You need to limit travel times for the athletes and the fans and also travel costs. It costs quite a bit to fly a small team halfway across the country, much less a big team (football).

BigVolFaninSC writes:

in response to arkyvol:

if the criteria is television (eyeballs), the sec would be insane to consider west virginia. if the criteria is football tradition, the sec would be insane to consider west virginia. if the criteria is academics and culture,...

Okay! How about Boise?! ;)

I don't know if Va. or Tech would leave the ACC; much less Florida St. Not to mention, none of the Florida additions would expand the TV package more than it is now. So, no to Ga. Tech, Louisville, Clemson or any other schools where the SEC already has eyes! Mizzou, W. Va., Oklahoma or OSU should be on the radar. Like it or not, it's about BIG money!

TimmyTwoTone writes:

I've got a BAD feelin about this one... Mike Slive has ruined his legacy by grossly underestimating the will of SEC fans on this one.

stevefrommemphis writes:

in response to FirstAndGoal:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I would be willing to trade Ole Miss for Texas A & M and just put A&M in the SEC West. Still only twelve teams.

I aplogize for being off topic, but I am trying to find out if rumors I have heard are true that people were arrested outside the gates of Neyland Stadium for merely complaining loudly when the gates were stupidly locked Saturday night during the storm. Can anybody say yes, no, myth, or fact? I appreciate it.

huntined#565710 writes:

May end up with 16 teams by the time they end it.
It may not be a bad thing as it will take a while before those teams really get some RIVAL TEAMS like we are with BAMA ect.

TKO writes:

Bring in Notre Dame

westknoxrepub writes:

in response to bmgvirgo#210233:

It is the SouthEASTERN Conference. Southeast does NOT include Texas. I hate this this potential addition to the league. If you want to expand so bad, then at least add teams from the SE portion of the US. You need to limit travel times for the athletes and the fans and also travel costs. It costs quite a bit to fly a small team halfway across the country, much less a big team (football).

I don't get why everyone is so afraid of change, these reactions are really stupid. I just think people are afraid Tennessee will never win another SEC Title (and they probably won't for a while, but haven't in over 10 years with 12 teams so. . .). Texas A&M is a great fit, they walk into a divisional rivalry game with LSU, and they're not far from 4 of the 6 teams in teh SEC West, and the East Teams will only have to travel there for football once every five or so years.

westknoxrepub writes:

in response to arkyvol:

if the criteria is television (eyeballs), the sec would be insane to consider west virginia. if the criteria is football tradition, the sec would be insane to consider west virginia. if the criteria is academics and culture,...

Morgantown, West Virginia is really really really close to Pittsburgh, PA, and I would be willing to guess there is a substantial WVU presence in the Pittsburgh area. . .so from the TV side of things, West Virginia has benefits.

thevoice writes:

in response to rabidvol1998:

WHY, WHY, WHY. I'm happy just the way we are. Did anyone ask the customer (fan)?. I really don't get it. How is this the best way to make more money? I'm ok with making more money, but how does this do it? It dilutes the record book. It makes SEC championships fewer and further between for EVERYONE. What is the point? Somebody tell me.

Our only voice is heard when we don't show up at the games and don't buy the $10 cokes. In this ever-evolving arena, I wonder if we'll ever reach the point of watching games on TV with no one in the stands.

volaholic45 writes:

O, the humanity!

What's the use? Football was ruined when they legalized the forward pass anyway.

That's it! I'm outa here. Never gonna watch another game.

BTW, what's the spread for Cincy?

tnbuco#393180 writes:

I hope that this leads to 8 - 16 team super conferences and a 16 team playoff.
Then maybe championships can truly be decided on the playing field and not by a bunch of big schools trying to keep all of the pie to themselves.

tnbuco#393180 writes:

in response to tnbuco#393180:

I hope that this leads to 8 - 16 team super conferences and a 16 team playoff.
Then maybe championships can truly be decided on the playing field and not by a bunch of big schools trying to keep all of the pie to themselves.

btw - According to Wikipedia there are 131 FBS programs so getting down to 128 teams wouldn't be that hard.

volbike writes:

Uh, we could still see those old rivalries more often if the league went to playing 9 conference games (like some other conferences), one real non-conference opponent and then two slices of baloney. As a guy said last year I would rather lose to UNC than beat Buffalo?

westknoxrepub writes:

in response to tnbuco#393180:

I hope that this leads to 8 - 16 team super conferences and a 16 team playoff.
Then maybe championships can truly be decided on the playing field and not by a bunch of big schools trying to keep all of the pie to themselves.

You couldn't do a 16 team playoff. . .it would shorten the season, which would be a bad thing with confrence expansion, plus the teams would not be willing to give up regular season games. The downside to that is eight teams would get real old real fast when the same eight teams are in the playoffs every year. Just do a plus one, it's the most reasonable solution.

tnbuco#393180 writes:

in response to westknoxrepub:

You couldn't do a 16 team playoff. . .it would shorten the season, which would be a bad thing with confrence expansion, plus the teams would not be willing to give up regular season games. The downside to that is eight teams would get real old real fast when the same eight teams are in the playoffs every year. Just do a plus one, it's the most reasonable solution.

Really?

Why not?

A 16 team playoff would last 4 weeks for the the teams that make it to the championship.

That is a shorter period of time than the current bowl structure.

Volunatic writes:

in response to stevefrommemphis:

I would be willing to trade Ole Miss for Texas A & M and just put A&M in the SEC West. Still only twelve teams.

I aplogize for being off topic, but I am trying to find out if rumors I have heard are true that people were arrested outside the gates of Neyland Stadium for merely complaining loudly when the gates were stupidly locked Saturday night during the storm. Can anybody say yes, no, myth, or fact? I appreciate it.

I saw interviews with a few people who said they were threatened with arrest for not leaving the box office because they were turned away when their soaking-wet home-printed tickets wouldn't scan.
I think that's ridiculous. There were 8000 unsold tickets for that game, and I would guess that there were 3000 to 5000 unused tickets among those that were sold.
UTAD should have let in anybody who had a piece of paper that looked like it could have been a ticket at one point. There would probably be a few dozen scammers who might get in who didn't actually buy tickets, but there's no way that it would result in a seating shortage. Heck, even the scammers would be buying $5 cokes and $4 hotdogs and adding to the bottom line once they were inside the stadium.

stevefrommemphis writes:

in response to Volunatic:

I saw interviews with a few people who said they were threatened with arrest for not leaving the box office because they were turned away when their soaking-wet home-printed tickets wouldn't scan.
I think that's ridiculous. There were 8000 unsold tickets for that game, and I would guess that there were 3000 to 5000 unused tickets among those that were sold.
UTAD should have let in anybody who had a piece of paper that looked like it could have been a ticket at one point. There would probably be a few dozen scammers who might get in who didn't actually buy tickets, but there's no way that it would result in a seating shortage. Heck, even the scammers would be buying $5 cokes and $4 hotdogs and adding to the bottom line once they were inside the stadium.

Thanks for the info, and I agree. This whole thing was a fiasco. I'm going to write the new A.D. to complain about several things, this being one of them.

cooper65#432178 writes:

in response to tnbuco#393180:

I hope that this leads to 8 - 16 team super conferences and a 16 team playoff.
Then maybe championships can truly be decided on the playing field and not by a bunch of big schools trying to keep all of the pie to themselves.

Very similar to what I want. I want something that produces a true national champion. I agree with 8, 16-team conferences. I would have a conference championship game like we currently have. Each of the 8, conference champions would play in an 8 team playoff. Independents like Notre Dumb would have to join a conference or be left out.

Vol_in_Mich writes:

in response to volaholic45:

O, the humanity!

What's the use? Football was ruined when they legalized the forward pass anyway.

That's it! I'm outa here. Never gonna watch another game.

BTW, what's the spread for Cincy?

UT +6

westknoxrepub writes:

in response to tnbuco#393180:

Really?

Why not?

A 16 team playoff would last 4 weeks for the the teams that make it to the championship.

That is a shorter period of time than the current bowl structure.

Well, the lower division base hosting on a bid process, which will automatically trigger complaints from schools with smaller markets. Then you'll have to convince fans to potentially travel four weeks in a row to see their team play. The smaller schools, who won't be able to secure a hosting bid, or don't have adequate facilities will complain and want the games at neutral sites, which, during the holiday's will likely lead to lower attedence rates. Ratings will probably be good the first couple of years, but once everyone realizes it's the same teams year in and year out, interest will decline. I mean Boisie will get in every year because they play in a pathetic conference. It may be decades before Tennessee gets in, fewer teams in the post season will lead to less revenue for confrences, because instead of the SEC sending six or seven teams to a bowl game, they might get two teams in a playoff. Don't kid yourself thinking the bowl system will survive alongside a playoff. It won't.

tnbuco#393180 writes:

in response to westknoxrepub:

Well, the lower division base hosting on a bid process, which will automatically trigger complaints from schools with smaller markets. Then you'll have to convince fans to potentially travel four weeks in a row to see their team play. The smaller schools, who won't be able to secure a hosting bid, or don't have adequate facilities will complain and want the games at neutral sites, which, during the holiday's will likely lead to lower attedence rates. Ratings will probably be good the first couple of years, but once everyone realizes it's the same teams year in and year out, interest will decline. I mean Boisie will get in every year because they play in a pathetic conference. It may be decades before Tennessee gets in, fewer teams in the post season will lead to less revenue for confrences, because instead of the SEC sending six or seven teams to a bowl game, they might get two teams in a playoff. Don't kid yourself thinking the bowl system will survive alongside a playoff. It won't.

I really don't want the bowl system to survive, it is a rigged joke.

Do we want a champion determined on the field or not?

If we go to 8 superconferences then teams like Boise will end up in a stronger conference.

The same teams every year? How many SEC champs have there been over the last five years? Which conference has a five time defending champion?

As for attendance - 1) You see many NFL playoff games with empty seats lately? and 2) When was the last time you heard someone say that they were dying to go to the bowl game in Birmingham in January?

Less games will make for more revenue because demand will be greater.

If you want to keep the bowls you can have a week between the semis and the finals and have all of the "What a Joke" bowl games that you like.

westknoxrepub writes:

in response to tnbuco#393180:

I really don't want the bowl system to survive, it is a rigged joke.

Do we want a champion determined on the field or not?

If we go to 8 superconferences then teams like Boise will end up in a stronger conference.

The same teams every year? How many SEC champs have there been over the last five years? Which conference has a five time defending champion?

As for attendance - 1) You see many NFL playoff games with empty seats lately? and 2) When was the last time you heard someone say that they were dying to go to the bowl game in Birmingham in January?

Less games will make for more revenue because demand will be greater.

If you want to keep the bowls you can have a week between the semis and the finals and have all of the "What a Joke" bowl games that you like.

The NFL isn't an apt comparison, the NCAA basketball tournament or the lower division playoff races are. How many of the first and second round NCAA tournament sites sell out? How many look even remotely full. Or, if you want to bring in the NFL comparison, how many fans travel to away playoff games and what percentage of the stadium's capacity is the away team.

As for the same teams, how many years in a row would Ohio State and USC been in? Revenue will go down, because only one or two teams from any given confrence will get into the playoff game instead of six or seven teams playing in a bowl game.

In Division I-AA the highest attended National Championship games were when Marshall was playing and the game was at Marshall. . .just do a plus one, it's the most reasonable solution.

pastor_VOLSfan writes:

Here are my thoughts on expansion. I agree that the current round of expansion is driven by tv money and new markets with little thought about fans or the student athlete. It seems to me that there are two ways to grow tv revenue. One is to expand into new markets which is approach that the SEC seems to be headed towards. The other would be to produce a better product by adding quality programs within the league's existing footprint. Top ranked programs are going to be on national tv no matter where they located. In 1997 I moved to Houston and was worried that I might not get to see TN on tv since i was now outside the SEC. In 1998, with TN putting together an undefeated season and ranked number 2 most of the season, I missed only one game that season which was the Vandy game because it was PPV. The best programs get on tv no matter what.

This year 8 teams began the season in top 25 and all of them were on national tv the first week. If you add programs within the SEC footprint that are annually top programs than you have produced a better product without having to expand into new territory.

Also as a side note. When the SEC Network was created, that game was picked up a local station here in Houston. The reason given was because the football quality of a second tier SEC game was more of a draw than a second tier Big 12 game.

One final thought on expansion. With all the cheering for a 8 16 team super conferences some things are overlooked. First is the end to many traditional rivalries that make college football so great. Secondly is that in the end nothing will have really changed. The divisions basically become mini conferences. The marquee match up that these super conferences are suppose to create will still only happen once every 4 or 5 years since that is about how often you will play teams from the other divisions.

tnbuco#393180 writes:

in response to westknoxrepub:

The NFL isn't an apt comparison, the NCAA basketball tournament or the lower division playoff races are. How many of the first and second round NCAA tournament sites sell out? How many look even remotely full. Or, if you want to bring in the NFL comparison, how many fans travel to away playoff games and what percentage of the stadium's capacity is the away team.

As for the same teams, how many years in a row would Ohio State and USC been in? Revenue will go down, because only one or two teams from any given confrence will get into the playoff game instead of six or seven teams playing in a bowl game.

In Division I-AA the highest attended National Championship games were when Marshall was playing and the game was at Marshall. . .just do a plus one, it's the most reasonable solution.

Same teams?

When was the last time that the SEC had a repeat champion in football?

1998

I didn't research the other BCS conferences but I don't recall too many of them having a team repeat recently.

The +1 is a non starter because it isn't really different than the current setup.

It is still based on the beauty polls and rigged to insure that only certain conferences get a shot.

westknoxrepub writes:

in response to tnbuco#393180:

Same teams?

When was the last time that the SEC had a repeat champion in football?

1998

I didn't research the other BCS conferences but I don't recall too many of them having a team repeat recently.

The +1 is a non starter because it isn't really different than the current setup.

It is still based on the beauty polls and rigged to insure that only certain conferences get a shot.

The Pac 12 had USC on top for a number of years, with the Big 10 it's been Ohio State (although occasionally as co-champ). The Plus One system wouldn't shut out lower confrences because the past two years, Boisie State would have been playing in the Plus One game.

SeminaryVol writes:

Its either eat or be eaten at this point. If the SEC doesn't act now, the Pac 12 and Big 10 will soon. Give me a 16 team superconference! Give me 4 divisions! Give me an SEC final four!

Conference of my dreams

SEC North: Tennessee, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, West Virginia
SEC South: Florida, Alabama, MSU, Ole Miss
SEC East: South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia Tech, Auburn
SEC West: Arkansas, LSU, Texas A&M, Oklahoma

Oh urrgg Guess that was a dream...back to work

slovogkc writes:

It's easy to incite folks who work hard for a living by claiming it's "all about TV" and the money that follows. But I know, from people who know, that the SEC folks don't look at it that way.

My speculation is, the driving force behind realignment will be NCAA reform, rather than TV dollars. The idea here is, after schools re-align themselves according to their interests, there will be fewer voices in the conversation, fewer objections, and fewer red-tape barriers to reform. If all else fails, it will also be easier to say, "to heck with the NCAA" and secede.

Yes, it will be hard to stop TV money from flowing in once this all occurs, but let's not get ahead of ourselves in thinking university presidents who have spent their entire lives devoted to the development of academic institutions are suddenly decided to place athletics ahead of their duties as academic executives.

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