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Disturbing The Good Ol' Boys

Go ahead roll your eyes.

Big Ten expansion.

But honestly, isn't it better than this?

SEC Speed-The reason that SEC teams pwned Ohio State in both the 2007 and 2008 National Championship games, and were 7-2 in bowl games in 2007-08. Also the primary reason that pansy Big 10 and Pac 10 schools refuse to agree to a playoff system.

That's what I thought.

Be happy Big Ten fans, the curse is broken. Even guys like ESPN's Pat Forde are teaming with excitement to be talking about something different over the summer.

Who's that behind the microphone, getting all that face time this week in Chicago? Why, it's none other than Jim Delany.

You're enjoying yourself this spring, Jim. I can see that. And understand it, too.

It's like old times. Your Big Ten Conference is in the spotlight, the subject of relentless conversation and speculation as you circumspectly explore expansion. The entire nation is watching, waiting, wondering what the Big Ten will do, and wondering what the ripple effect will be.

Yeah! Fist pump! Seize the day Big Ten fans.

It's been awhile since you commanded this much attention and flexed this much muscle. Your league hasn't won a football national championship since 2002, a men's basketball national championship since 2000. Women's hoops? Last title was in 1999. We won't even talk about baseball. (OK, we will: Minnesota, 1964.)

Dynasties in volleyball, fencing and women's lacrosse don't exactly galvanize your large and loyal fan base. You've spent so much time staring up at the Southeastern Conference that your neck hurts -- and your pride, too. So this opportunity to remake the college sports map -- and to make the SEC and every other league react to what the Big Ten is doing -- has got to feel good.

...oh, crap...

So, Pat Forde clearly has no use for your Megan Hodge, nor does he have any use for your league's nine Final Four appearances between 2000 and 2010. It's still all about the SEC. Even Big Ten expansion is about what the SEC might do.

Then there's this part of the equation: If you go to 16 and the SEC has to follow, you run the risk of making your rivals even more powerful and expanding the gap between them and yourself. Adding either the southern third of the ACC (Miami, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Clemson) or a southern foursome from the Big 12 (Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State) would only solidify the SEC's primacy.

I'm going to assume Pat is joking about the foursome from the ACC vaulting the SEC back over an expanded Big Ten. If he's serious, though, he should probably ask Ricky Stanzi and John Clay what they think of those teams. But anyway, let's focus on the Big XII teams. Do you really think Texas (and by extension Aggie U) would really just jump to the SEC if no move to the Big Ten were made?

I don't think Texas thinks so.

So anything is possible as the Big Ten looks to grow into other markets. Given that, and the dramatic shifts that may follow, DeLoss Dodds told USA Today this week that "nothing's off the table," including Texas becoming an independent.

With talk of a possible Longhorn Sports Network, you had to know this was coming. So with independence in mind, let's run through Texas's options as you'd expect them to come in chronological order.

  • Join the Big Ten or Pac-10-Big TV money (especially in the Big Ten), and good academic fits.
  • Stay in the Big 12-Assuming the league would go under without Nebraska and/or Missouri and/or Colorado is probably a rush to judgment. The Big East has survived with Pitt, West Virginia, and Syracuse as the traditional football powers. It's hard to imagine a league bolstered by Texas and Oklahoma could fold so quickly. And let's not forget, Texas gets to call a lot of the shots in this relationship.
  • Become Independent-Hard to know exactly how this would shake out because there are so many moving parts, but the upside would be the ability to play a national schedule. The obvious downside would be having to find a home for the non-rev sports. If you can do that, though, and establish your own TV network, your positioned to win bigger than anyone in these conference talks.
  • Join the SEC-Big money from ESPN/ABC, but years away from a unified TV network, and a poor academic fit.

It's all about the options. Texas has a ton of them, and I don't think you could definitively argue that the SEC is the best one.

Moving on, we turn our attention from the less partisan (if you can believe it) offices of Pat Forde and the WWL to Birmingham, Alabama and Kevin Scarbinsky of the Birmingham News.

Mike Slive made a statement Monday afternoon at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.


"We’re not going to allow ourselves in any way, shape or form to be anything less than what we are now."

Allow me to translate.

"Go ahead,Jim Delany. Make my day."

Slive couldn’t have sent a stronger message had he climbed into the cockpit of a blimp and buzzed Big Ten headquarters just outside Chicago.

Did he follow that with any indication the SEC is looking to expand?

Now, Slive didn’t say the SEC was going to expand. He wouldn’t say it unless and until the league was about to do it. He’s too good a poker player to put his cards on the table until absolutely necessary.

So he was just talking and reassuring his base. Just clearing that up. Of course he's going to say the league will be fine, he's the commissioner. You're the one that's supposed to put this in honest perspective, Kev.

Slive said this too.

"Given the success we’ve experienced over the past decade, we are comfortable in the position in which we find ourselves," Slive said. "Having said that, if there’s going to be a significant shift in the conference paradigm, the SEC will be strategic and thoughtful in order to maintain its position as one of the nation’s premier conferences."

Again, a pretty predictable statement, but we clearly didn't read it like Scarbinsky did.

It was nice and humble of him to say "one of," but Slive’s not the boastful type.

He knows the SEC doesn’t have to expand to become a superconference. It already is a superconference in terms of the money it makes and the titles it wins.

It’s not a coincidence that three different SEC schools — Alabama, Florida and LSU — have combined to win the last four BCS championships.

And don’t think that doesn’t bother the Big Ten’s bigwigs, for all their high-minded talk about their alleged academic superiority.

Alleged. Add up the SEC's AAU schools and multiply them by five (is that math too high-minded for you?) and it still has less than the Big Ten. Less than half the SEC makes the top 100 on the U.S. News and World Report National University list.

Bring it home Kevin

Football drives the bus of intercollegiate athletics, and the SEC has been hogging the driver’s seat of college football for years.

But what if the ground shifts, as so many amateur seismologists have begun to predict?

What if the Big Ten gets even bigger? What if it poaches schools like Missouri and Nebraska from the Big 12 and Rutgers, Pitt and Syracuse from the Big East to expand all the way to 16 members strong?

That could force the SEC to flex its own muscles and go after heavyweights like Texas and Texas A&M to the west and Florida State and Miami to the east.

It’s all rumor and speculation now, but there’s no mistaking Slive’s warning. He said the SEC will do what it takes to be what it is.

Second to none.

We talked above about all the options Texas has. We've also talked at length over the last couple of months about the options the Big Ten has. The SEC's options are far more limited.

While the Big Ten talks about locking down a media market stretched from the East Coast straight back through the heartland, and Texas talks about concepts perhaps more forward thinking than anyone, all the SEC can do is talk about how it will respond once it all goes down.

Maybe Scarbinsky and Forde are content with that, but if you were an SEC fan, would you be? My sense is that the Southern folk are beginning to realize the Big Ten caught them napping, and resting on the laurels of its recent glory. Now they're trying to justify it, and draw up speculative scenarios in which they'll still be king in the end.

The dreams of Texas, Miami and Florida State going to the SEC might come true some day, but if I were an SEC fan, I'd be more than a little concerned wondering what might happen if they don't.