Sports column: SEC expansion will leave lots of unintended casualties

Published 4:35 am Sunday, August 1, 2021

It’s hard to believe the movie “Speed” is approaching its 30th anniversary. Like a lot of things from the 1990s, it has somehow remained in our pop culture consciousness.

For younger readers who have no idea what the movie was about, though, the basic plot was the villain rigged up a bus with a bomb that would explode if the bus went below 50 mph. Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves starred.

Early in the film, Bullock is driving the bus through heavy rush hour traffic and plowing through hapless bystanders in their stopped cars. It’s a great action sequence, as is the climax when the empty bus explodes on an airport runway and takes out a cargo plane with it.

Sorry. Forgot to give a spoiler alert. And you’re probably wondering where I’m going with this in what is supposed to be a sports column, so I digress.

The recent move by the Southeastern Conference to add Oklahoma and Texas to its ranks in 2025 feels like everyone involved is following the plot of “Speed” — it’s a fun idea, and indeed will lead to some great action when it’s all said and done, just as long as you don’t stop and think about the tremendous amount of collateral damage the protagonists are causing along the way.

By poaching the Big 12’s two most successful football programs, the SEC might well have doomed its rival conference to extinction. The league was already down to 10 members after the last round of conference realignment a decade ago, and now the remaining eight will need to decide whether to move to greener pastures themselves or dig into other conferences to fill the ranks.

Either way, there will be a huge ripple effect. If the Big 12 goes after some of the bigger members of the American Athletic Conference, for example, then the AAC will likely turn to Conference USA or the Sun Belt to flesh out its numbers.

The remaining power conferences — the SEC, Big 10 and Pac-12 — might also snatch other members of the disintegrating Big 12, forming 16- or 20-team super conferences that would allow them to break away from the NCAA. Nothing seems out of the realm of possibility now.

The effects also go beyond football. Texas and Oklahoma both have respectable athletics programs from top to bottom. Texas adds yet another baseball powerhouse, and Oklahoma a solid basketball program. How will that affect the SEC’s middle class programs like Ole Miss and Mississippi State? Can they keep up, or will they fall behind?

There are a lot of dominoes that will fall by the time all of the dust settles on this. Fans of SEC sports will likely be winners in the end, with better competition and teams to watch. Just try not to look too closely at the reckless path the league is taking to get there.

And remember that there was also a “Speed 2,” which didn’t go well for anybody involved.

Ernest Bowker is the sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at ernest.bowker@vicksburgpost.com

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured sports reporters in the paper's 137-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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