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What SEC Expansion Could Mean For Auburn

Before the 2010 season, the topic of discussion for the off-season centered around conference expansion and realignment. There were a few changes made with the Big 12 (now with 10 teams), Big 10 (now with 12 teams), Pac-10 (now the Pac-12), and Big East (still not good at football), but in terms of anything that directly impacted the SEC, nothing happened.

Cheating scandals filled the headlines this summer as any talk about conference changes took a back seat. That was until a few days ago when the ‘Texas A&M to the SEC’ rumors began to pop up like they had a year ago.

Due to the University of Texas and ESPN partnering in the Longhorn Network, many teams in the Big 12 feel as though they are getting the shaft, especially Texas A&M. There are many other reasons that all Big 12 teams outside of Austin want out that I won’t get into, but it sounds like some major moves are possible.

In fact, last night the Texas A&M Rivals site reported that the deal was done, the Aggies were leaving the Big 12 and joining the SEC, and it would be announced on August 22nd. In true 2011 journalistic fashion, a few hours later the reports were denied, but most said that it was just a “not yet” denial. It was going to happen, it just wasn’t official yet.

Regardless of what we’re hearing now, it’s going to happen eventually. The Big 12 will dismantle soon, and some of those teams will want to get into the SEC. Teams from other conferences will want in, too. Why wouldn’t they? Sure, they’ll lose more games playing an SEC schedule, but eventually they’ll catch up. Not to mention the fact that the extra money will make those extra losses feel a little better.

So we know Texas A&M is in the mix, but that would leave the SEC with 13 teams. I’m too OCD to allow an uneven number of teams, so the conference is just going to have to pick up another. It just has to happen.

Since the rumors began again, the airwaves, Twitter, and the blog-osphere have been ablaze with thoughts on the possible schools to take the spot. Teams like Oklahoma and Missouri have been named from the Big 12. Teams like Florida State, Clemson, Miami, and Virginia Tech have been named from the ACC. I threw out Georgia Tech as a candidate, but nobody really liked that idea, so I decided to let other people make this decision.

With the additions of teams, some moves within the conference would possibly have to be made. Would divisions be completely realigned? Would we use cheesy names like “Champions” and “Everybody Else?” Would annual rivalries fall to the wayside with so many teams in the mix? All good questions, let me try to answer them.

You may or may not be aware that Auburn is the easternmost team in the SEC West. Vanderbilt, of the SEC East, is actually further west than Auburn. Some have argued that Auburn should be in the East anyway because of the traditional rivalries with Tennessee, Florida, and Georgia. I’m not sure about how I feel about that, but more on that later.

I made a pretty little Google Map that shows the current SEC West teams in blue, SEC East teams in red, and the aforementioned candidates in yellow to give you a good look at what the additions would mean geographically. You’ll just have to figure out which ones they represent. Hopefully it’s not too hard. I was surprised to see that Florida State would be almost as close as a trip to Athens or Tuscaloosa. I guess I’ve just never paid attention.

I don’t know how many cartographers we have out there, but it’s pretty obvious that if a team comes from the Big 12, they would automatically be put in the Western division. The natural thing to do would be to grab an ACC team and put them in the East to balance out the divisions. However, I highly doubt division alignment is anywhere in the minds of the men making these decisions. It’s all about TV markets, also known as money. But because we don’t have anything to do with that, and we really only care about what adding teams and moving others around means for future schedules, let’s take a look at what could occur.

The way I see it, there are four possible outcomes:

1. A team from the Big 12 is added to the SEC West, a team from the ACC is added to the SEC East, the conference moves up to 14 teams (7 West, 7 East), and we go about our normal business, while beating welcoming the new teams aboard.

2. Two teams from the ACC are added to the SEC East causing one current East team to move to the West. The best geographical choice would be Vanderbilt. Gee…I hope this one happens… o_O

3. Two teams from the Big 12 are added to the SEC West causing one current West team to move to the East. This team would have to be Auburn given the geography. Auburn would lose their annual game with LSU, Arkansas, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss, while picking up the older annual rivalries of Florida and Tennessee. Georgia would obviously stay on the schedule and Alabama would as well, taking over the permanent inter-divisional spot that Georgia currently holds.

This scenario would obviously make for an easier road for Auburn to get to the SEC Championship, at least right now. Tennessee is not the Tennessee we once knew. Florida is in rebuilding mode. Georgia, in recent memory, has never been too dominant to scare anybody. But more importantly, Auburn’s traditionally weaker division opponents would become Vanderbilt and Kentucky, which are obviously a step down from Mississippi State and Ole Miss. Sorry, it’s just the truth. They would of course be adding Florida State, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Miami, or whoever, but so would everyone else, so you can throw that out.

Now the problem with all of this is Alabama. With Auburn and Alabama now being in separate divisions, it brings about the possibility of the two playing in the SEC Championship Game one week after the Iron Bowl. You think things are bad now? Can you imagine either team losing twice to the other in one year? Poisoning Toomer’s could end up looking like child’s play. What if the teams split the two games? Who gets bragging rights? How can one brag about winning a game when the other week they lost? My head hurts just thinking about the arguments that would be had over that scenario.

But speaking in terms of real issues that the SEC may consider, do they really want to split up the nation’s biggest rivalry? I always thought it was cool that the Iron Bowl could determine who goes to Atlanta. With the teams split, the Iron Bowl could lose its luster. Nobody wants that.

The Big 10 recently did something similar by putting Ohio State and Michigan in separate divisions, but we won’t know how that pans out for a few years, especially since Michigan is down, and Ohio State is likely to go down. It could be a while before a match-up between the two occurs in the conference championship game, so we may not be able to gauge how this scenario would work by watching how someone else handles it first.

Whatever happens, this is my least favorite option.

4. Two teams from the Big 12 are added to the SEC West, Auburn AND Alabama are moved to the East and Vanderbilt is moved to the West. This scenario works geographically and it gets around the issues I mentioned in the previous scenario. Plus, Saban wouldn’t have to go to LSU every other year. I’m sure he’d love that. At least that’s how I’d sell it to him.

One thing that would have to happen regardless of which scenario occurs is the addition of a 9th conference game. Currently, each team plays five divisional games, two rotating inter-divisional games, one permanent inter-divisional game, on top of four non-conference games. A new team in each division would obviously add a divisional game, which likely means that a rotating inter-divisional game would be taken away. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s a definite change that would have to be made.

Some of this excites me, some of this scares me. I like tradition, but it would be fun to add a few new opponents. Basically, I don’t really know what to think about this just yet.

One thing that’s for sure is that the college football world is changing. The SEC we know now probably won’t be the SEC we know in 15 years, but as long as the big boys stay around, I’m fine with that.

So, which scenario do you like? If the SEC does expand who do you want? Who do you not want? Let me hear it.

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Malcolm 08/12/2011 at 10:08 am

I like option 1, adding aTm and Georgia Tech (though FSU or VT would be nice too).
I like the idea of adding GT to ignite the old rivalry more often. I would wonder if they would want that, given their schedule now in the ACC is MUCH easier.

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wluker17 08/12/2011 at 10:24 am

Option 5: Leave the SEC alone. A&M just needs to lay the smack down to Texas like we laid the smack down to bama in 89. Or A&M just needs to form a new Southwest conference. College Station is just too far away and not in the Southeast for that matter. Norman is just way the heck away and Columbia, MO is absolutely too far. You might as well not call it the Southeastern Conference anymore at that point. How about the ICCD, Inter-Continental Conference of Dominance.
In summary: A&M, handle your own crap. Leave us out of it.
just my $.02

dadams 08/12/2011 at 10:24 am

I would really love to see FSU move into the East so they could move into a rotation with the Western teams. Auburn had some great battles with that team during the 80’s. Wouldn’t it be fun to have that old rivalry back every few years?

Ken 08/12/2011 at 10:29 am

Here are my feelings: I think there are plenty of schools the SEC would love to have join their conference, (you pretty much mentioned them all) and I would venture to say a sound majority of those aforementioned schools would love to join the SEC. If I recall, the SEC basketball coaches voted to abolish the divisions for their sport, so I would think that the coaches would have to propose the idea of division re-alignment that is then passed to the commissioners/presidents, unless there would be a special session in which the coaches are not voting, and would have no say. I am sure the presidents would want to keep the Iron Bowl of significance, and I would hope they would keep them both in the same division.
Florida State would definitely be the most attractive team for the SEC, because Florida already plays them every year, Alabama and FSU have had a rivalry in the past that could be rekindled, and it would be geographically sound because we know the SEC doesn’t like to travel very far from home.
Texas A&M sounds like a done deal, or at least very close, but they are the one team that makes the least since geographically, yet as far as demographics and the media market that exists in east Texas with Dallas and Houston likely Texas A&M fans, the SEC would be able to grab more marketing, viewers, and $$$.
But, Texas A&M would travel nearly 1,000 miles to Columbia (a tiny bit longer than Fayetteville-to-Columbia) and another 900 miles to Gainesville (where Fayetteville is just about the same). Since Arkansas and South Carolina are the latest additions to the SEC and the furthest apart, I don’t see why the SEC would stop there and continue to expand further north/south (Miami/Missouri) and west (Texas A&M/Oklahoma). Geographically, I don’t think the SEC would mind so much, although Texas A&M might want preferential treatment in the first 2-3 years of not having to travel to Gainesville, Miami (if necessary), or Columbia. They are also locked in to the “Southwest Classic” with Arkansas in Dallas, which is already an ABC game, and could generate more interest being a conference game.

I agree with the ‘Blogler about the re-alignment that would interrupt the current divisions – the least disruption, the better.

Rob 08/12/2011 at 10:57 am

One school I’m surprised is not on the list above is West Virginia. They have arguably been more competitive over the last few years than Virginia Tech. Geograpically, they’re really no further than VT would be or Kentucky is now.

Conference expansion is as much (and maybe more) about expanding coverage and TV markets as it is adding schools for competition’s sake. When framed in such a way, SEC expansion into Texas makes sense as it gives the SEC access to the Texas TV markets. College Station is halfway between two HUGE TV markets (Houston and Dallas).

Texas A&M would have to bring their competition level up. Let’s face it, if they were added to the west, they would be closer to Ole Miss and Mississippi State in the level of competition they would provide, at least currently. They would leverage SEC membership in recruiting, selling recruits the choice of playing for Texas in a watered-down Big Whatever vs. playing in the conference that has produced 5 champions in a row. Auburn (which has recruited pretty well in Texas the last few years) would have to counter this to keep the recruit pipeline open.

Finally, another school that could be an interesting addition to the west would be Texas Tech. Tommy Tuberville back in the SEC?

Ryan 08/12/2011 at 1:40 pm

What’s to stop the sec from expanding to 16 teams like was discussed last summer??

DKinAU 08/12/2011 at 3:16 pm

20 Teams, 20 teams, 20 teams.
Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, SMU, Tulane, GT, West Virginia (or Virginia Tech), Florida State
4 divisions of 5 teams each
Auburn will be in South with LSU, UF, FSU, Tulane (I-10 will be fun!)
West is Arkansas, SMU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M
North is Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Vandy, Kentucky, UAT (all these teams are cupcakes)
East is GT, UGA, Carolina, Tennessee and WVU/VT

Have a three game playoff among the 4 division winners (prelims on ESPN). Title game goes on CBS after Army-Navy that 2nd Saturday in December.

9 game conference slate: four games in-division and three permanent rival games.
So make Bama play LSU, Auburn and Tennessee every year.
Auburn’s out of division games would be Bama, UGA and Georgia Tech
the other two conference games rotate every two years. One is shared by two teams Mississippi State and Tennessee for Auburn. Texas A&M and Oklahoma for Bama. The other rotates through home and home for every other team in the Conference.
I’ll put an excel sheet together and share it with @WarBlogle of what schedules from 2013-2015 would look like.
Shift the paradigm. Don’t get stuck wondering what a 14 or 16 team league would look like in East vs. West. Make the SEC an NFL minor league.

DKinAU 08/12/2011 at 3:22 pm

As a caveat. My plan picks up the Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, DC and Richmond,VA tv markets

WDEwg 08/12/2011 at 4:22 pm

I was sort of getting used to the thought of 2 more teams, and then DKinAU just blew my mind. BOOM!

What are the thoughts of the SEC becoming huge and then breaking away from the NCAA? Quick investigations, swift justice, new rules that go along with the current times? I’m probably dreaming.

$camNewton 08/13/2011 at 9:25 am

A&m is done. Sources in SEC said they won’t expand to states they already have a foothold in (this excludes FSU, Clemson, and GT). UVA and the state of VA won’t let VaTech go. Mizzou would love the opportunity and SEC would love to have another mediocre program that everyone can beat up on, plus including that midwestern market. Auburn moves East.

martie 13 08/13/2011 at 3:12 pm

Glad you’re figuring out where Tallahassee is LOL its closer than Gainesville

Childs Auburn Football Uniform 08/13/2011 at 7:54 pm

[…] What SEC Expansion Could Mean For Auburn – There were a few changes made with the Big 12 (now with 10 teams), Big 10 (now with 12 teams), Pac-10 (now the Pac-12), and Big East (still not good at football), but in terms of anything that directly impacted the SEC, nothing happened. Cheating scandals filled the headlines this summer as any talk about conference Poisoning Toomer's could end up looking like child's play. What if the teams split the two games? Who gets bragging rights? How can one brag […]

Will 08/14/2011 at 2:35 am


You should brush up on your geography.

Lubbock, TX, home to Texas Tech, is so far west it’s not even on the map above.

Morgantown, WV, home to West Virginia, is a LOT farther than Blacksburg (Va Tech) or Lexington (Kentucky) now. It sits a few miles south of the West Virginia – Pennsylvania state line, about 30 minutes west of Maryland and an hour south of Pittsburgh.

Paul the oracle 08/14/2011 at 5:24 am

We would not have to drop a out of divison game if we go to 14. We would just have to drop a out of confrence game. If we go to 16 we will only have 2 out of confrences games then… does anyone realize we will never play a good out of confrence game out side of bowls then.. schedule will already be too hard…
We should not expand… I like A&M but its too far(nobody travels to arkansas already) the only teams that should be considered is
1. Ga Tech(rivials of GA and AU, GPA booster, good athletics, geographic) already plays GA
2. FSU(rivals of FL, AU, UAT, great athletics, geographic) already plays FL
3. Clemson(rivals of AU , USC, geographic) already plays USC
Sec needs to think of the fans not markets… sec is great bc of the fans not markets..

DKinAU 08/14/2011 at 3:13 pm

A flight from Birmingham or Atlanta to Houston is not too far. It’s cheaper than the four tanks of gas it would take to get there. Why are folks limiting it to where you can drive to?

Jake 09/07/2011 at 2:17 pm

I’d like to add Clemson from the acc to make 14. Auburn (as if lately) has started playing them. Move them up a few weeks ub the schedule abs let’s just play some smashmouth football! I hare to admit it….but I kinda like option 4…it’ll come down to Auburn vs Alabama every year almost. (until florida re-builds). I would love to have LSU on a every other year schedule because frankly….they scare me more than anyone every single year. Let’s save that game for Atlanta. Joe huge would that be!?!? Auburn vs LSU for the title??? I’m in!

Tuesday Mailbag: Distance, 28-27, Betrayal of a Son - 09/28/2011 at 11:17 am

[…] threw a few other schools that have been mentioned just for fun. I've added the map I made from my expansion post from a while back for you geography […]


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