Conference Realignment: What If the SEC Split Up?

What if the SEC Decided to Split Into Two Separate Conferences?

Two posts today got me thinking about some hypothetical future — but not implausible — conference realignment scenarios. The first, an overly nostalgic and naive piece from ESPN, explains that the ACC (of all places) holds the keys to realigning things just so Kansas and Missouri can be together. Sure, I suppose. But that sort of pipe dream requires a lot of moving parts. Further, if we’re just being honest here, since when has KU-MU been the glue that kept the Big 8/Big 12 together on the gridiron? Beyond that magical 2007 Jayhawks season, the two have rarely had any bearing on the conference’s ultimate champion and the rivalry could simply continue as a non-league affair.

The second piece is where this hypothetical scenario stems from, however. SBNation’s Jason Kirk sarcastically floats the following quote:

“If part of the SEC secedes from the SEC, would that be the most SEC thing to ever happen?”

Of course he’s not being serious, but he’s also right. If any league were to pull something like this (besides the Big East basketball schools, of course), it would be the SEC and all of its valuable pride it seems to throw in our faces on a regular basis. No disrespect to the best football conference in America (no argument from me on that point), but extended periods of good feelings usually bring about mistakes, unrest and the eventual formation of factions focusing on rather unimportant details (read into that as a political statement all you want). Their arguments over a nine-game slate and protected rivalries are just the sort of foolish thing that starts the ball rolling on dissatisfaction amongst the league’s members. And all it may take is one of its larger players to make a drastic move.

From here, we’re speaking purely in hypotheticals. Let’s say that the scenario above results in sour grapes from LSU, followed by some historic snub on behalf of the BCS (think the Big 12’s ’08 three-way tie situation as your starting point). Some of the league’s members get restless and start to rethink these divisions they’ve got laid out. The Tigers start chatting with Alabama and suddenly the wheels start turning toward secession.

The obvious line to go by would be the SEC West/East split, sort of. An initial conference break would look like this:

SEC EAST Conference: Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt

SEC WEST Conference: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Missouri, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Texas A&M

The next move is where the ACC’s affected. Faced with a do-or-die situation, the former SEC East scraps the so-called “gentleman’s pact” they’ve held for so long, and invite Clemson, Florida State and Georgia Tech. The final invite goes to Louisville, giving the league an even 10 teams, with two each in five different states. They’ll play nine conference games each season, and would be considered among the country’s best conferences each year, just like they were before.

Pressured to go to 10 teams by A&M, the Former-West adds Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, becoming the country’s top conference without question. After the moves, the new leagues look like this:

SEC EAST Conference: Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Louisville, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt

SEC WEST Conference: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Missouri, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Texas A&M

… And you probably know how the rest goes. The ACC finishes the job on the Big East, grabbing its last viable members and relegating everyone else to Mount USA. The two SEC conferences end up being the dominant forces in the sport, and people are less inclined to complain when their respective champions meet in the title game every year. I mean, they are two different conferences now.

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2 thoughts on “Conference Realignment: What If the SEC Split Up?

  1. Don’t forget, that the SEC originally included current ACC Team, Georgia Tech, and also had Sewanee and Tulane as founding members of the conference. With the exception of Arkansas and South Carolina (1991) and the addition of Texas A&M and Missouri, all other current members are all founding members (1932).

    • Oh, absolutely agree. This isn’t the most likely scenario at all, especially given the league’s history together. That said, if they find it in everyone’s best interests to function as two separate entities — and nearly guarantee themselves both slots in a title game (should a playoff fail to materialize) — a setup like the one outlined above seems feasible.

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