I had promised myself I wasn’t going to get sucked back into the conference realignment discussion until there was bona fide news upon which to comment, but, now that the governor of Texas appears to have let the cat out of the bag that discussions are taking place, I suppose it’s time to examine the implications of the Texas A&M Aggies joining the Southeastern Conference.
First of all, I will begin by setting forth my assumptions and opinions in the matter, with which reasonable people are free (indeed, encouraged) to disagree. These are they:
- I do not believe the SEC presently needs to expand. For all the hullabaloo about radical realignment last summer, at the end of the day, the Pac-
1012 and the Big TenTen opted for the model the SEC pioneered: twelve teams, two divisions, one conference championship game. It ain’t broke.
- However, I trust Mike Slive in such matters, and, if he thinks it’s time to move, I am prepared to accept it on faith that it is time to move.
- The Big
1212 remains a dead league walking, and it is clear that the conference eventually is going to be split; all that remains is to determine where the chips will fall when the Texas Longhorns become an independent, which is inevitable.
- No program not currently in the SEC is as good a cultural, financial, and geographic fit for the SEC as Texas A&M. Some schools (Clemson, Florida State, arguably Georgia Tech) make good cultural and geographic sense, but not good financial sense; other schools (North Carolina, Texas) make good financial and geographic sense, but not good cultural sense; still other schools (Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, arguably Missouri) make good cultural and financial sense, but not good geographic sense. Accordingly, Texas A&M is far and away the best candidate for SEC expansion.
Since this appears to have moved beyond the mere rumor stage, the next question is obvious. How would bringing the Aggies into the Southeastern Conference affect the Georgia Bulldogs?
Several particularly salient points were raised by Year2, who wrote:
Texas A&M joining the conference allows the Aggies to sell the SEC to recruits in Texas, but it also opens up the gate. The SEC West schools, who will end up in a division with A&M, will have few remaining barriers to going after prized Texas recruits. The cutthroat world of SEC recruiting will annex some large and fertile territory. I don't know how much East division schools will benefit directly, but they might be able to poach a few more players here and there. They might also benefit if some West schools divert some resources away from Florida and over into Texas.
Though this condition is unlikely to prove permanent, the SEC West currently is the stronger of the league’s two divisions. It also is home to 51 of the 61 native Texans presently listed on Southeastern Conference rosters; the Vanderbilt Commodores, curiously enough, are the only Eastern Division outfit with more than one Lone Star State player on the team.
This correlation does not imply causation; Ole Miss and Vandy, who field the league’s third- and fourth-most Texans, respectively, shared the SEC cellar at 1-7 in conference play in 2010. However, increased access to the fertile recruiting fields of the former Southwest Conference certainly wouldn’t hurt the westernmost teams in the league, each of which would play the Aggies annually.
Year2, though, makes a good point that the opening of the door to the Lone Star State might well distract Western Division squads from focusing their efforts on the Sunshine State, from which the Red and Black have pulled more than a few recruits in their history. Of course, a reduction of the presence of the Alabama Crimson Tide, Auburn Tigers, and LSU Tigers in the Florida Gators’ home state might well benefit the Bulldogs’ primary division rival more than any other team, so having some of those young men go west might help keep the Sunshine State Saurians from being any more dominant than they are in the Eastern Division.
Still, the enticements offered by the state of Texas are strong, even if Georgia would only play Texas A&M on a rotating basis. In the Mark Richt era, the ‘Dawgs have fielded such Texans as Garland’s Dale Dixson, Bulverde’s Rowdy Francis, Dallas’s Matthew Stafford, and Highland Park’s Wes Van Dyk, and I wouldn’t mind having a few more of those fellows in Athens. (The Classic City Canines also have fielded such Oklahomans as Tulsa’s Michael Johnson and such Missourians as Columbia’s Logan Gray and Aron White, as well as Bolivar’s Dennis Roland, so maybe the Sooners and the Tigers aren’t the worst candidates in the world to accompany the Aggies into the SEC.)
What do you think? Is inviting Texas A&M to join the SEC a good idea, and, if so, which team or teams should join the Aggies in making the move?