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This morrning ESPN’s Doug Gottlieb reported that Texas A&M to the SEC was official and that Florida State, Clemson, and Missouri were likely to be three additional members of the conference. I believe Texas A&M has the votes to join the conference. But I maintain my position from yesterday —I’m told the SEC will not expand in any markets where there are already teams present. That would mean that Florida State and Clemson will not be added to the SEC. Why? Multiple sources have told me that Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina have a Survivor-style pact that all three will oppose the addition of any teams within their own state. The reason? All three schools, presently holding exclusive rights to their entire states — believe that their competitive position would be weakened by the addition of second teams in their state.
I’ve also been told that Mike Slive, who always governs with near unanimity from his conference presidents, will not ram through an expansion vote if more than one school opposes the addition. So I do not believe ESPN’s report that Clemson and FSU are likely to join the SEC. At least not so long as this Survivor-style pact remains extant. And I’ve heard nothing to suggest these schools are wavering in this regard.
If anything, I think the floating of Clemson and FSU might well be a trial balloon intentionally sent up to distract attention from another SEC target. But, and this is key, I’m not sure that the SEC has done the requisite due diligence on other schools to know for certain what the contracts for ACC schools say. To reiterate what I said Friday, I believe that the SEC would look to expand to Virginia and North Carolina if it is going to extend offers to ACC schools. Like I’ve said all along, I believe the SEC wants into Texas bad enough that it would be willing to sit at 13 and wait for the college football landscape to change around it rather than moving too quickly and making decisions that are not in the best interests of the conference long term.
As I told y’all Friday, Texas A&M reached out to the SEC this time around, not the SEC reaching out to A&M. So I’m not sure how much due diligence the SEC has been able to do for outside schools. Let’s dive in numbers-wise again and look at where we are.
1. Texas A&M has the votes.
The only thing that could derail A&M to the SEC is — and this is why I question Gottlieb’s report — fear from the SEC schools that adding A&M would mean that a second school could be added to Florida, Georgia, or South Carolina.
Could this be a leak designed to make the SEC presidents of those schools think twice about voting for A&M? Definitely. In fact, I think that’s exactly what this story is, a deliberate plant designed to make it less likely that the SEC votes to add anyone.
2. Remember you can’t trust anyone.
I told y’all Friday to think about conference expansion like the NFL Draft, everyone has an agenda. Could I be wrong? Of course. Could every single writer talking to sources anywhere be wrong? Of course. The reality is this: There are so many vested interests at stake right now that everyone is trying to use the media to advance its interests.
Remember the Pac 16 story ESPN “broke”? How’d that end up turning out?
Texas played the media like a fiddle and ended up getting wealthy beyond measure. Could Texas and the Big 12 be behind the rumor that FSU and Clemson are going to join the SEC? It wouldn’t surprise me at all.
3. What happens to A&M if the SEC voted not to accept its application to join the league?
It would be the greatest embarrassment in Aggie history, right? How does A&M return to the Big 12 after attempting to join another conference? How much ridicule would it face? Worst of all, what other options would A&M have for the foreseeable future to join another conference?
A&M would become the most humiliated team in conference expansion history, the perpetual cautionary tale of realignment for all time.
That’s why I think these rumors about FSU and Clemson are being cleverly leaked by someone to undercut A&M’s bid for SEC membership. A&M has the votes right now. But could that change if SEC presidents start worrying about the additional teams that might follow A&M?
4. The SEC is worried about being sued for tortious interference.
That’s why it’s significant that A&M came to the SEC first. The league isn’t liable for any Big 12 lawsuit if A&M comes to it first. Now, A&M will probably be sued over its exit fee, but the SEC isn’t buying a lawsuit assuming it operated in an above board fashion.
In reviewing A&M’s contract the SEC would have become privy to all the details of the Big 12’s newest contract arrangements. So, and this is purely speculation on my part, if the SEC really wanted to add a 14th member right now, it would know exactly what the pricetag of that 14th member would be if that team came from the Big 12.
That’s why I’ve always thought the SEC would add more than one team from the Big 12 or stick at 13 right now.
Missouri says it isn’t talking to the SEC. Again, just because Missouri says that publicly doesn’t mean it is being honest. But I’ll go back to what I’ve previously told y’all, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are out as a package deal. That means the only truly viable teams in the Big 12 are Texas Tech and Missouri.
Texas Tech has been pretty damn quiet throughout this whole process hasn’t it?
5. What do the ACC contracts say?
Again, the ACC schools would have had to approach the SEC about membership. I believe such approaches happen fairly regularly. That is, I believe the SEC has been approached multiple times by ACC schools on an informal basis to discuss conference affiliation. I also believe the SEC has had mock votes to assess where different teams stand in the event conference expansion took place. So Slive has a working knowledge of what the votes look like and how teams rank on the pecking order.
But have those talks ever progressed to the point where review of ACC contracts has taken place? I have no idea.
I know the SEC would want to do its due diligence before extending offers. Are they far enough along in this process to invite a team from Virginia or a team from North Carolina this weekend? I doubt it, but who knows?
6. Could the SEC’s leverage with the ACC teams in North Carolina and Virginia improve by waiting?
Let me just say this — and I’ll expand upon it next week — the ACC is not as stable as some of y’all think.
And it may not be the SEC that’s causing all the instability.
7. SEC Commissioner Mike Slive likes to govern via unanimity
I’m told that if more than one school votes against expansion, it’s unlikely that Slive will push through the vote. If three schools — the Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia voting bloc — stay true to one another then there is no way a team is being admitted with that many votes allied against it. So FSU and Clemson are dead. (Georgia Tech as well in case y’all care).
Having said that, here’s one caveat, if South Carolina and Georgia turned on Florida and voted for FSU’s inclusion, could the SEC bring in FSU with an 11-1 vote in favor? Perhaps, but it would create a hell of a mess.
I believe the bloc will stay together and there remains no way that a team from the existing SEC footprint gets an invite to the league.
So bringing it all back to the top, I believe that the suggestion that Clemson and FSU are in line to receive SEC invites is an attempt to derail A&M to the SEC. Based on what I’m told FSU and Clemson are not in play for the SEC.
Read yesterday’s column which has more correct details in it than any reporting thus far by anyone on SEC expansion.