Is the SEC the ACC’s unlikely ally in conference expansion?

In the world of conference expansion rumors swirl every day. The latest rumor de jour is that Clemson and Florida State are in discussion with the Big 12. Somehow this rumor which started on a West Virginia message board seems to have taken on a life of its own. When it comes to expansion nobody really knows whats going on and neither do I. That doesn’t mean I don’t have opinion about them.

On twitter Friday @Younglefhander, @KilroyFSU and I had a little discussion about the Clemson and Florida State rumors. Even if it’s true that the Big 12 could potentially have a higher TV payout than the ACC, I’m having a hard time buying this, and I think the SEC is part of the equation. I’m an ACC fan, always have been, but I won’t argue the SEC is the king of the hill when it comes to college athletics at the moment. They are getting it done on the field and that’s a fact. They are making a ton of money and that’s a fact too. During the expansion chaos of last year had the SEC made a major move to poach an ACC team to balance the Texas A&M addition, the ACC would have had hard time holding on to Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech or whomever.

Would it have been a lock that an ACC team moved? No, but there would have been some nervous moments in the ACC offices. The SEC never made a move on the ACC. I believe this was either due to the so-called Gentleman’s agreement. That agreement is where SEC doesn’t pick up a school where an instate SEC team already exists  The Virginia and North Carolina schools were still in play, but nothing ever happened, and the SEC moved west and secured Missouri.

The ACC and SEC have coexisted in much of the same region for more 50 years. Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech play in state rivals from the SEC each year, and 5 of the 6 Chick Fil A kickoff games have been ACC/SEC mathcups. At no time since both conferences have existed has either conference directly poached the other.  They were even aligned on the college football playoffs years ago when no other conferences bought in. Now the ACC’s John Swofford and SEC’s Mike Slive are in agreement over any 4 team playoff while the Pac 12 and Big 10 favor the conference champion scenario. Which scenario favors the SEC getting multiple teams in? The SEC still needs a BCS conference to agree with them, and a move to 4 Super Conferences may prevent this. It would make sense 4 Super Conferences, 4 Playoff teams. They SEC doesn’t want this.  The SEC isn’t making a pre-emptive strike anytime soon against the ACC.

Now if the Big 12 is truly trying to move East and Clemson and Florida State are the teams do you really think the SEC will allow this? Really? Sharing part of the region with the ACC is one thing. As I’ve said it’s been that way for years, but a Big 12 with Clemson and Florida State suddenly becomes an expanding conference that stretches from Midwest to the deep South. That is a direct affront to the SEC. If talks ever got far with the Big 12 the SEC would sidestep their gentleman’s agreement and make a move for Clemson and Florida State. Of course Clemson and Florida State probably would respond much the way TCU left the Big East hanging.

Suddenly the Big 12 is left without the additions they want and the SEC becomes even more powerful by sheer numbers. If it’s one thing expansion has showed is that you go after easy targets. Teams like Texas A&M, Nebraska, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Colorado were desperate to get out their conference. The frustration of these teams was well-known. That’s part of the reason I’m so skeptical on the Clemson and FSU to the Big 12 non-sense.  For the Tigers and Noles it’s just a little internet message board rumbling. Sound a little far-fetched that the SEC is an unlikely ally to the ACC? Maybe but not anymore crazy than the SEC sitting and watching the Big 12 move directly into states they are in or the Big 12 taking such a risk as challenging the SEC in their own backyard.

 Of course the ACC can end any discussion of team movement on their own with a strong new TV contract. We talked in-depth previously about that here a few weeks ago.

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