No story has had more twists and turns, starts and stops and general impossible to follow moments than the last week of the conference realigment talk. We have heard Missouri to the Big 10, Big East schools to the Big Ten, everyone to the Pac 10, Kansas to play in the SWAC and Louisville to join the 2nd region in the KHSAA. The possibilities all boggle the mind. While the news this morning is that Texas is willing to commit to keeping open the Big 12 with ten teams, the real story of the weekend is the real possibility of the Texas A&M Aggies joining the SEC. From an Aggie point of view, this would be a GREAT move. With one swoop, they join the best football conference in the land and immediately step out of the Longhorns’ shadow to become a major college football power player again. If you are the Aggies, you can now recruit in Texas and ask players, “would you rather play against Bama, LSU and Florida, or go see Oklahoma and a punch of West Coast pansies?” Many will choose the SEC route and A&M can get on equal footing with the Longhorns again.
But is it a good move for the SEC? The reality is that adding Texas A&M likely wont hurt or help the SEC in the longrun. The problem is not with the Aggies themselves. They add a Texas program, help give the SEC West another solid team to go with Auburn, one notch below Alabama and LSU, and bring about the potential for more revenue. But in order to balance the league, another team has to be added. With the exception of Miami, who Florida seems dead set to keep out of the league, none of the other teams in the conversation (Missouri, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Va Tech) really add a great deal. I would prefer Virginia Tech out of the group and it certainly wouldnt hurt the SEC. But in the SEC, Virginia Tech is a middle of the pack program and doesnt do a great deal to bolster the conference at the top. Thus the football league potentially gets slightly stronger, but has little impact at the top.
As for basketball, the conference would not improve on the hoops floor either. The Aggies did give us Billy Clyde and in recent years have recruited well and been an NCAA team. But their strength has been in keeping local talent at home and counter to football, playing in the SEC might hurt Aggie recruitment. With only Kentucky a marquee matchup, the Pac 16’s promise of playing against UCLA, USC, Oklahoma, Arizona and potentially Kansas (who might take the Aggies’ Pac 10 spot), probably hurts Texas A&M in the process. And unless you are solely wondering about what happened to Hank Thorns, Virginia Tech basketball is a non-factor, continuously on the bubble and always left out when the final bids are given. The basketball league probably gets a bit weaker with the additions, but it has little impact either way.
Thus adding the Aggies and another team wont change the SEC fundamentally in either direction. So why do it? Well, if we are headed to four 16 team power leagues, then the SEC needs to be ahead of the train. One conference is going to be left cleaning up scraps to get to their 16. The SEC does not want to be that league. If we are headed to 16, Texas A&M and Virginia Tech are two of the best options for the conference. It is much better to have those schools than Memphis and Central Florida. Move now and be ahead of the curve, instead of scrambling at the end piece together the best available. From that perspective, the addition of the Aggies makes sense…and if it occurs, a trip to College Station becomes the new highlight of every SEC’s road schedule of the next few seasons.