On Sunday the SEC officially announced the addition of Texas A&M into its membership beginning July 1, 2012. This move achieves several of the conference's key goals for expansion. First and foremost, it expands the footprint. Don't fool yourself, this was by far the most important aspect of any addition to the league. Academics, endowments, culture, or athletic prowess were all distant advantages when it came to this process. The footprint is the key to the SEC's most lucrative agreement which is, of course, its television contract. It is that very reason that leads me to believe the boys down in Birmingham are in no particular hurry to find lottery winner number 14. Why should they be?
Conference expansion has made the pundits crazy. It's an exciting affair that only comes around once every 20 years or so. I understand the excitement. Imagine Florida State in the SEC East or Oklahoma in the SEC West or Texas taking on USC every year out in the Pac 12. It's a lot of fun to consider. But the SEC didn't become college athletics' most powerful conference by merely serving the adrenaline needs of a Playstation generation. Mike Slive is no more concerned about fan-friendly match-ups than you are about the density of his league's media markets. He and the SEC presidents didn't bring A&M into the fold because of the great rivalry it potentially presents for LSU and Arkansas or the recruiting boost it might give some of the school's in the league. The SEC wanted the eyeballs that fix themselves on television in the lonestar state on Saturday's when the Aggies take the field. They want those very eyeballs so they can go to ESPN and CBS and tell them that the product they sold them in 2008 for more than 2 billion dollars is now worth more. They will attempt to renegotiate their deal, and in doing so, further line the pockets of the school's who already took home more than 18 million dollars from the conference last year.
Because this move is about money and little else, the SEC is no hurry to add another team. Over the last few weeks and months I've heard how this team or that team is a good fit for the SEC. Read between the lines from the media who puts that garbage out there. All they are saying is a certain team's fanbase is rabid and its average fan could likely be considered more than slightly redneck by Big East standards. Florida State, Clemson, West Virginia, and others are said to be a good cultural fit. While there may be some truth to that, these schools are either already within the footprint or add so little to the television value of the league that it would be pointless.
Many have said that 13 teams will be a scheduling nightmare. I disagree. The Big Ten sat at 11 teams for years and they had smart enough folks in the league offices to figure out how to fairly establish a champion each year. Don't worry about scheduling. The guys who negotiated a 2 billion dollar television deal can figure out how to make sure the right teams play each other every year.
If the right school came along for the SEC to add its 14th member then Slive and company will do what it takes to make that happen. In the meantime, don't expect any press conferences anytime soon that announce a new team just so each division can have 7 schools.
The SEC has the best league with the best players and the best traditions, therefore they have the best product. They don't need another school just to get to an even number. They have accomplished what they hoped to out of the expansion process.