I was going to let this pass by, but since it is picking up steam by Sporting News reporting this I felt I should address how SEC expansion could effect the Mountain West.
The expansion rumors are back!
It first started as a rumbling from the Texas A&M affiliate sites on Scout and ESPN about them making overtures to join the SEC. This was also brought up last year when the Pac-10 was trying to annex the entire Big 12 South to form a Pac-16 league. Thanks to SB Nation's SEC-themed site Team Speed Kills, they have have dug up four articles discussing SEC expansion talk from last summer (1, 2, 3, 4).
The reason Texas A&M is upset is because of the Texas Longhorn Network which will show high school football games, and the Aggies are not too happy with that and feel that the network is a violation of the NCAA rules. Plus, the latest news that the network is going to attempt to broadcast games with Texas verbal commits Jonathan Gray and Connor Brewer.
Then there is this:
ESPN's Dave Brown (head of Longhorn Network) may have committed NCAA violation by mentioning two 2012 UT commits on June radio interview.
So, there is reason for concern between Texas A&M is attempting to contact the SEC to join their league. The Aggies held a closed door meeting with their Regents about how to get out of the Big 12:
As long as the Longhorn Network broadcasts both high school and Big 12 games, there will be tension within the conference and angst at Texas A&M. In that light I can understand how someone would hear something like "Texas A&M Board of Regents to discuss Longhorn Network" and interpret it as a euphemism for "Texas A&M Board of Regents to discuss getting out of the Big 12."
Oklahoma is also in the mix to join Texas A&M and make an attempt to head east and join the SEC, due to the Longhorn Network. Here is what Matt Hayes of the Sporting News is saying about Oklahoma and Texas A&M:
"A source told Sporting News on Wednesday that both Texas A&M and Oklahoma are so concerned about rival Texas gaining a recruiting advantage with the newly formed Longhorn Network, the two institutions could turn to the SEC if the problems can't be figured out. The core issue: The Longhorn Network will televise live high school football games in the state of Texas, an obvious recruiting advantage for Texas."
However, in the middle of writing about this it seems that Texas is putting a hold on showing high school games on the Longhorn network:
"We want to play by the rules," Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodd said. "We want everything to be in the open with integrity. We're for the conference."
"ESPN knows we don't want to violate any NCAA rules. They don't want us to," Dodds said, indicating a willingness to work through the process on televising high school games.
"That would not be a way we want a recruiting advantage. This will be a service to high school football. We don't want it tied to Texas."
There must be a way for the Longhorn Network to broadcast high school games without ruffling feathers, but the damage may have been done and Texas A&M is always trying to get out of Texas' shadow.
Peter Bean of Burnt Orange Nation talks about how the Aggies and Sooners were successful in at least the short term to stop the Longhorn Network from airing high school football in the fall:
Finally, and perhaps the most important aspect of this story in terms of what's ahead, this was a smart play because -- whether they collaborated or not -- this threat uses Oklahoma and Texas A&M as a tandem to amplify leverage. It will be interesting to see what Texas's two main rivals take from this going forward, and if they figure out how to continue using that advantage to further their own interests as well as Texas has used its own advantages to further its own. That levels the playing field significantly, forcing Texas to be a good bit more deferential and cooperative than it otherwise would have to be if it were assured to remain coupled with Oklahoma.
Now for the fun part. So, if Texas A&M and Oklahoma do blaze their own trail to the SEC it would leave the Big 12 with seven teams. There would be no real reason for Texas to stay, because the value of the Big 12 would plummet with two of their most valuable teams leaving the league and adding BYU to make the league an eight-team league would not make up the difference. So, I could see Texas then going off on their own and going independent.
The Big 12 would be done and Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri would head off to the Big East as they almost did during last years expansion talk. That would give the Big East a 20-team basketball league and a 12-team football league. That would leave four teams left: Texas Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma State and Iowa State.
This is where the Mountain West would come in and improve upon their 10-team football league by snapping up Texas Tech and Oklahoma State to form a 12-team football league. The alternative to what Texas Tech and Oklahoma State could do are very limited and I doubt the Pac-12 would head East to take the Big 12 leftovers just to keep pace with the SEC who would now have 14 teams.
This is all fun but if Texas A&M and Oklahoma did bolt to the SEC then it would make senese that the Big 12 would fall apart and that would put the Mountain West in a good position to pick up the extra Big 12 teams, because that would be the best option over joining Conference USA.
Odds are nothing will happen and the Aggies, Sooners and Longhorns will kiss and make up.
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