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Conference realignment has taken over the discussion around the water cooler this June. Now that Nebraska appears destined for the Big Ten, countless other dominoes are expected to drop all across the college football landscape including the rumored Pac-10 raid of the Big 12.
What does all of this mean for the SEC? Nobody knows yet, but the silence coming out of the SEC office in Birmingham is deafening. Don't be fooled by the lack of comment or action by the SEC. Commissioner Mike Slive has a plan for any situation that realignment presents for the SEC.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. The SEC is doing the right thing by being reactive instead of proactive. Unless the Big Ten and Pac-10 both expand to 16-team conferences, the SEC should stay put at 12 teams.
For the sake of argument (and this column) let's assume that the speculation that the Big Ten and Pac-10 are both expanding to 16 teams is true. The SEC would then be looking for four dance partners that bring as much to the conference as the conference brings to them.
In that case, my solution for the SEC to add Clemson, Florida State, Virginia Tech and Miami.
Clemson and Florida State are SEC naturals. They both have the history, tradition and fan base to slide right into the SEC mix . Do they bring the best TV markets in the world? No. But if Texas is gone, picking up major TV markets that geographically fit is pretty much out-of-the-question for the SEC.
Virginia Tech doesn't bring much to the table in the media market department either, but what the Hokies lack in eyeballs they make up for with talent on the field. Frank Beamer has built the Hokie program into a juggernaut. They've posted 10-win seasons for six straight seasons, and have gone to 17 straight bowl games, the third-longest active streak in the country.
Adding Miami would round out the "Big Three" in the state of Florida. Miami may not have the same "feel" as the other SEC schools, but the Hurricanes and their five national titles would further bolster the prestige of the conference, further penetrate the talent rich south Florida recruiting area and open the door to a large and very diverse media market.
It might take some work by the league office to convince the Florida Gators to sign off on adding two more teams from the state of Florida, but as it stands right now, these three teams cannibalize themselves when they're on TV at the same time. Having them in the same conference would allow them all to achieve greater TV exposure throughout the state.
So why not some of the other possible teams?
Georgia Tech would be an option, but the SEC already has the Atlanta market and the Yellow Jacket fan base is notoriously apathetic. Plus, the Yellow Jackets already had their time in the SEC and chose to leave. Even though they withdrew from the conference nearly 50 years ago, it will still play a factor in the SEC's decision-making process.
West Virginia would also be a possibility, but I see them being one of the centerpieces of the new ACC/Big East, should those two conference combine.
Louisville would give Kentucky a natural rival in the SEC and bring in the No. 49 television market. But because of their success in basketball, the ACC/Big East will do whatever it takes to keep the Cardinals in house too.
South Florida would open the SEC up to the No. 14 television market, which can't be overlooked. But even though they have a large alumni base, the Bulls are lacking in the prestige department.
In the new look SEC, each team would play seven games within their division, play one rotating game against the opposite division and have one permanent inter-division rival. Here's what the new look SEC would look like (permanent inter-division rival in parenthesis):
Florida (Florida State)
Kentucky (Mississippi State)
South Carolina (Arkansas)
Virginia Tech (LSU)
Arkansas (South Carolina)
Florida State (Florida)
LSU (Virginia Tech)
Mississippi State (Kentucky)
What do you think of the new look SEC? Feel free to shoot me an e-mail and let me know your thoughts.
Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at email@example.com, or on Twitter at @BarrettSallee
Off-Season Column Archive:
Realignment – What Should The SEC Do? – June 9, 2010
SEC Roundtable Discussion Part I – June 7, 2010
Richt On The Hot Seat? – June 3, 2010
Auburn Dismisses Redshirt Freshman RB – May 21, 2010
SEC Hires of the Decade – The Bottom Five – May 14, 2010
Top 5 SEC Hires of the Decade – May 5, 2010
Georgia In A Gray Area – April 26, 2009
Taunting Rule Goes Too Far – April 16, 2009
Memorable SEC Press Conferences – February 20, 2009
2010 Early SEC Picks, Part 2 – February 18, 2009
2010 Early SEC Picks, Part 1 – February 16, 2009
Florida Reaches For DC – February 12, 2009
Vols Go West For New DC – February 3, 2009
Early 2010 SEC Predictions – January 31, 2010
Chizik Doing It Right – January 21, 2010
Georgia's DC Debacle – January 12, 2010
SEC Bloggers: Do Over – January 8, 2010
Trouble In Baton Rouge – January 2, 2010
Meyer Calls A Reverse – December 27, 2009
Urban Meyer's SEC Legacy – December 26, 2009
End Of The Season Accountability – December 26, 2009
Ranking The SEC Bowl Games – December 18, 2009
2009 SEC Superlatives – December 13, 2009
Click here for the 2010 Three & Out archive