Major SEC changes are just around the corner

Published 11:24 am Thursday, June 14, 2012

In just 16 days, the Southeastern Conference will be changed forever.

For the better? That’s anyone’s guess.

June 30 will mark the day that Missouri and Texas A&M will join the league.

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What does it really mean besides two more schools and some new road tailgate destinations? Plenty, especially when it comes to scheduling and league revenues. The newest buzzword in this day of colleges hopping conferences like turnstiles is media footprint, and the two new schools put the SEC in three big markets — Houston, St. Louis and Kansas City. Come renegotiation time, the SEC should be able to use these as leverage to get a bigger and better TV deal. With 14 teams, an SEC TV network can’t be far away, regardless of the tie-in with ESPN.

As far as quality, both schools have enjoyed solid, but not great, success on the football field. Neither has won a national championship or won a title in their old conference, the Big 12, in the past decade. Texas A&M’s last conference title was in 1998. Mizzou’s last conference title was in 1960 in the old Big Eight, and won only because of two Kansas forfeits. Ouch.

In other sports, like men’s basketball and baseball, the two schools will make a tough conference only tougher, but not appreciably so.

So does adding the Aggies and Tigers to the SEC really do anything positive besides add to the bottom line?

The Aggies were tired of always playing second fiddle to Texas, while Missouri was in real danger of being left without a seat in the latest edition of conference musical chairs.

The league Missouri and Texas A&M left — the Big 12 — was a product of the last throes of realignment in 1996. It was a poorly matched combination of four survivors from the disgraced Southwest Conference — Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor — and the Big Eight, led by Nebraska and Kansas, and was merely a marriage of conference convenience.

Once upon a team, geography meant something when it came to major conferences. Not anymore. West Virginia is now part of the Big 12. TCU was in the Big East for 5 minutes, then jumped ship to the more natural Big 12.

Boise State, which is east of Seattle and not much else, joined the sad remains of the Big East, which lost founding members Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Western Athletic Conference is in jeopardy of folding after its far-flung members were snatched up in the latest realignment feeding frenzy.

Rivalries — such as Texas-Texas A&M and Missouri-Kansas — were treasured parts of what made the college game different than the NFL. Now all of that’s gone in the pursuit of TV dollars.

The SEC likely will renegotiate its once-blockbuster TV deal and rake in the cash with both hands. Maybe even SEC commissioner Mike Slive will dive and do the backstroke in a great vault filled with all of the money like Scrooge McDuck in the Disney cartoons.

And that’s probably not a good thing.