MaconDawg said it best: conference expansion is a subject about which we can all go back to not caring. Everyone has a "winners and losers" post up---David Hale has a good one, and so does C&F, although I don’t see the Big Ten as the big winner when the Midwestern league neither nabbed Notre Dame nor made a paradigm-shifting move but instead settled for another contrived trophy game---yet the upshot of all this sturm und drang is that Larry Scott failed while daring greatly, Texas demonstrated a selfish disregard for its supposed partners akin to that demonstrated by Al Pacino in "Ocean’s Thirteen," there were plenty of metaphorical RBI doubles but no home runs, and Poseur summed it up from the SEC perspective: "I’m happy we’re staying at 12, but I am sad we are not partners with the Aggies." Frankly, I don’t care who you are, where you are, or what team or conference you claim; at this point, admitting that you got fired up over conference expansion is as embarrassing as admitting that you used to think Britney Spears was hot.
So, here we are on a random Tuesday evening after the end of the world almost happened but didn’t, more or less needing to re-read Walker Percy’s Lost in the Cosmos, and it’s time to shift our focus back where it belongs. Instead of imagining an absurd and bizarre world in which Texas Tech played conference games against Washington State, three of the six existing automatically-qualifying BCS conferences were ripped to pieces and cannibalized for spare parts by sixteen-team juggernauts bearing no meaningful resemblance to leagues as we historically have known them, and robot referees officiated games from flying cars fueled by a mixture of glitter and Dan Beebe’s perspiration, we would do better to express gratitude for a reality we took for granted before it was revealed to be more tenuous (at least in some parts of the college football universe) than we believed two weeks ago.
Here, then, are seven reasons I’m glad I’m an SEC fan:
7. The name "Southeastern Conference" is not a misnomer. The Big Ten has twelve teams. The Big Twelve has ten teams. The Pac-10 is in flux, but it will settle upon a number of schools larger than ten. The Southeastern Conference is both Southeastern and a conference. That’s more than a lot of leagues can claim, and the beauty of not having changed is that the SEC didn’t have to change. This ties into my next reason for being glad I’m a booster of a conference I call home. . . .
6. Ain’t none of us going noplace else. There is talk of the Big 12 adding two more teams to make up for the two the league lost. Anybody worried about the Big 12 poaching Arkansas and Louisiana State from the SEC? Nope, me, neither. While everyone else is asking exactly how the divisions will work, we have the luxury of stability in the midst of uncertainty. That’s an enormous benefit, for which we should be thankful.
5. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. There were a lot of rumors and there was a lot of overreaching, but, at the end of the day, the goal of the Big Ten and the Pac-10 alike was to get to twelve teams so they could split into two six-team divisions and establish a conference championship game. While you have to admire Larry Scott’s chutzpah and you have to respect Jim Delany’s acumen in founding the Big Ten Network, they both wound up copying the conference alignment model the SEC pioneered. What better confirmation could there be that what the Southeastern Conference is doing is working?
4. Our business partners are serious people who know they aren’t playing with Monopoly money. ESPN didn’t get to be the Worldwide Leader in Sports by being stupid, and there’s no money like Disney money (said the guy who’ll be taking his seven-year-old to see "Toy Story 3" on Friday). Every time Fox bids on a sporting event, I find myself hoping that the network’s programming executives don’t have the home shopping channel in their cable packages, or they’ll be spending thousands of dollars buying commemorative plates and display cases for their complete collections of state quarters. The numbers we’ve heard on the Big 12 television deal sound like Dr. Evil making a ransom demand . . . or worse.
3. I hate Auburn . . . and I know I always will. It’s easy to trace the history of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. The two teams first met in 1892, and, since 1894, in the absence of a world war or the death of a player from injuries sustained on the field of play, Georgia and Auburn have met on the gridiron. The series has been uninterrupted, and I know it will continue to be, just as I know the Bulldogs will continue to play the Gators in conference and the Yellow Jackets out of conference. However, joining the Big Ten cost Penn State its in-state rivalry with Pitt and deprived Nebraska of its longstanding feud with Oklahoma. Pac-10 expansion threatened to cost Texas A&M its series with Texas if the Aggies did not bend to the Longhorns’ whim. While the league presently is less than perfect, as evidenced by the infrequency with which Georgia plays Clemson, the SEC has done a better job than most of preserving traditional rivalries.
2. It’s an open competition to get to be the alpha dog. Right now, it looks like Alabama and Florida are preparing to stand astride their respective divisions like a pair of colossi. Four years ago, Georgia and LSU appeared similarly poised to be the dominant forces in the league. Hegemony is cyclical, and the SEC’s revenue-sharing model provides for an even split of league revenues while preserving individual schools’ opportunities to negotiate their own side deals. The cream can rise to the top, but the rising tide lifts all boats. By providing a level playing field with incentives to excel, the SEC holds no program back yet leaves no school behind, thus preventing the kind of fractiousness seen in the Big 12 throughout its history. We’re all doing well under the existing format, so we’re all content to chant "SEC! SEC!" when a conference coeval we don’t hate too badly does well. How many fans of other Big 12 schools do you reckon are going to be chanting "Big 12! Big 12!" whenever Texas wins a bowl game?
1. For lunch today, I had a Chick-fil-A spicy chicken sandwich deluxe with pepper jack cheese, with a side order of cole slaw and a vanilla milkshake with whipped cream and a cherry on top. It’s all good. Y’all enjoy them earthquakes and snowstorms, hear?