Oklahoma and Texas heading to the SEC is looking increasingly likely by the hour, but that doesn’t mean all is nirvana within the athletic offices of schools throughout the conference.
As we reported here on Wednesday evening, discussions have been happening between the SEC office and the two Big 12 schools since late last year. As is so often the case in college athletics, it appears the deal was almost done by the time the backdoor dealings became public knowledge.
Much has been made about Texas A&M’s feelings on the potential addition. Athletic Director Ross Bjork spent Wednesday afternoon on a media blitz, making it clear to everyone in Hoover that he didn’t want the league to add another team from Texas.
The SEC’s members have had a gentleman’s agreement for years that the conference wouldn’t add a team in a state that one of the league’s institutions already resided in. Well, not anymore.
Said an SEC source to Dawg Sports, “The last time around it was about opening up new states and metropolitan areas for television deals. This time it’s about cumulative eyeballs.” In the era of streaming, brands like the Longhorns and Sooners are a massive coup to the league.
A high-ranking official at the University of Georgia, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Dawg Sports that the school understands that, but they don’t necessarily like it. “It will never be public knowledge because the school will present a united front with the rest of the conference, but nobody in the administration is really excited about this.”
When you think about it, can you blame them? The addition of Oklahoma and Texas means the realignment of divisions or the breaking of the schedule into pods. The likely outcome of that for Georgia is either facing Alabama every season or losing its annual matchup with rival Auburn.
There are plenty of alumni and boosters who would be upset by either of those things happening. New UGA Athletic Director Josh Brooks is likely facing one of those realities. Those are the type of things that can hang over an administrator’s tenure, never to be let go of by certain fans.
Less than eight months into his tenure, Brooks would probably prefer to not be faced with this dilemma. Despite that, Georgia won’t show the slightest hint of displeasure publicly.
“Another round of expansion was inevitable, and this cements the SEC as the premier league in college sports for decades to come. OU and Texas are the biggest brands that Sankey could have gotten, and you don’t fight this type of money or ruin a relationship with the league office” said another high-ranking UGA source.
That Georgia has it good right now is not lost on the UGA brass. “You beat Florida every year and you’re basically guaranteed a spot in Atlanta. Now the path to the league title game gets tougher, and you have two more premier brands that can tell recruits they play in the SEC,” said the source.
Did the UGA administration or any of the other schools in the league ever consider trying to scuttle these things behind the scenes? “Hell no. You can’t look weak in public. Series were scheduled with Oklahoma and Texas already, but the way this likely changes in-conference scheduling puts us in a lose-lose situation. Despite that, the only thing that could stop this now is the playoff not expanding. Once this starts it might not stop. At this point, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the league turn into a 20-team conference at some point.”
While the source admittedly didn’t know how Georgia and other SEC power players would ultimately react if the CFP suddenly looked like it would stay at 4 teams instead of 12, they did make an interesting point. “The only difference between Georgia and Clemson or Ohio State over the last few years has been that Georgia has to play the eventual national champion in its conference championship game instead of the playoff. If that road got harder and there weren’t increased slots to accommodate more SEC teams, then I think you’d have more than just A&M crying foul.”
For now it looks like the College Football Playoff is set to expand, and with it, the SEC. I have no intel to say that anything is happening behind the scenes to stop this impending round of realignment from happening, but if we’ve learned anything this week it’s that things can look one way right up until they don’t.