Texas A&M Leaves Big 12: Who Else Will the SEC Target?

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on August 31 2011 2:13 PM
SEC
SEC has accepted Texas A&M conditionally, but must wait on a Big 12 school to drop its lawsuit. REUTERS

Texas A&M officially announced what has long been suspected -- the university is leaving the Big 12 conference to pursue membership in another conference by June 2012.

The school has long been rumored to be infatuated with the Southeastern Conference and now it looks like the school could be joining the likes of Florida, Alabama, and Georgia by next year.

Texas A&M will become the 13th member of the SEC, though the conference isn't expected to stop expansion on an odd number. Although the topic is likely to be debated ad nausea over the next year, here's an early look at potential targets for the SEC, in alphabetical order.

Maryland Terrapins

Conference affiliation: Atlantic Coast Conference

Best known former football players: Boomer Esiason, Shawne Merriman, and Vernon Davis

Best known former basketball players: Len Elmore, Len Bias, and Juan Dixon

Why Maryland is a good fit: The biggest incentive Maryland offers is the Washington D.C. and Baltimore television markets. Both are Top 30 television markets, with D.C. checking in at number 7, which means more new television markets, and subsequently, more money in future television negotiations. The football program is solid, though not a national name, and Maryland is known for solid academics. In addition to the television markets, Maryland's strongest incentive is its basketball program -- the school won a national championship in 2002.

Why it wouldn't work: Maryland doesn't have quite the name cache that some of the others on the list do. It doesn't have a national following, like North Carolina, and has struggled selling out its 54,000 capacity football stadium - it has even recently relied on selling tickets through Groupon. The school is below the Mason-Dixon line, but isn't a natural fit with the culture of the SEC. Maryland has also been rumored to be a Big 10 target, which would make a bit more sense.

Missouri Tigers

Conference affiliation: Big 12 Conference

Best known former football players: Kellen Winslow, Brad Smith, and Jeremy Maclin

Best known former basketball players: Kenyon Dooling, Kareem Rush, and Anthony Peeler

Why Missouri is a good fit: Missouri allows for the SEC to tap into the lucrative St. Louis and Kansas City television markets, which would equal extra money in future television rights negotiations. Missouri has emerged as a strong football program under Coach Gary Pinkel and are known or having a strong fan base. Missouri would add to the SEC's growing geographic footprint -- a major strategic goal for the conference.

Why it wouldn't work: The school isn't located in the southeast -- it's actually in the Midwest - which would add to travel costs and potentially take away from some of the allure of the SEC. Conference expansion is largely driven by finances, but one would imagine that the conference would prefer a southern school, especially if it adds to the bottom line.  The SEC wants to add to its geographic footprint, but will do so in the right spots.

North Carolina Tar Heels

Conference affiliation: Atlantic Coast Conference

Best known former football players: Lawrence Taylor, Julius Peppers, and Hakeem Nicks

Best known former basketball players: Michael Jordan, James Worthy, and Vince Carter

Why North Carolina is a good fit: North Carolina is: strong academically, considered to be an elite basketball program, and always seen as a potential sleeper in football. The SEC could pare North Carolina with Kentucky and Florida to boast one of the best upper echelons of any college basketball conference.

Why it wouldn't work: Part of the concern could be with the football team's shady reputation and likely downturn coming in the next few years. The football program suffered suspensions, negative media portrayal, and eventually the loss of its coach Butch Davis from illicit agent payments to players. The SEC has had its own issues with that, notably Auburn with Cam Newton, so the conference may try to steer clear of the toxic nature of the program.

Virginia Tech Hokies

Conference affiliation: Atlantic Coast Conference

Best known former football players: Bruce Smith, Michael Vick, and DeAngelo Hall

Best known former basketball players: Dell Curry, Bimbo Coles, and Deron Washington

Why Virginia Tech is a good fit: Since joining the ACC in 2004, Virginia Tech has been the top dog of the conference. The school has a strong coach in Frank Beamer, rabid fan base in Blacksburg, and also can tap into the lucrative Washington, D.C. television market.  It would be the most northern school in the SEC, but still southern enough to fit in with the rabid football culture of the SEC. In a lot of ways, Virginia Tech is considered to be the best overall fit for the SEC.

Why it wouldn't work: One potential issue is its connection with the state's other big public school, Virginia. Would the state let little brother, Virginia Tech, move on to the SEC and leave Virginia in a weakened ACC? Economics could show that the state would benefit if Virginia Tech left, which could make the move more likely, but anytime politics gets involved with sports it has the potential to get ugly.

West Virginia Mountaineers

Conference affiliation: Big East

Best known former football players: Sam Huff, Marc Bulger, and Major Harris

Best known former basketball players: Jerry West, Joe Alexander, and Kevin Pittsnogle

Why West Virginia is a good fit: West Virginia might be one of the absolute best fits for the SEC currently out there. It plays in an oft-forgotten conference, the Big East, but yet has been able to maintain a national following for its teams. West Virginia is usually loaded with athletes -- fitting right into the SEC's speed M.O -- and is known for its strong, traveling fan base. The school could blossom even more with more money and access that the SEC would provide.

Why it wouldn't work: The main thing holding West Virginia back could be better options ahead of it in SEC's wish list. West Virginia doesn't get as much attention or hype as Virginia Tech, or Missouri, or some of the other listed schools have gotten from national media. It just might not have quite the cache that some of the other considered schools have.

Other Possible Options:

Clemson -- School would be a great fit, but would South Carolina allow the SEC to add another school from that state?

Duke -- Blue Devils add absolutely nothing in terms of football value, which is what this expansion is all about, but would make quite a good rival to Kentucky for basketball.

Florida State -- Same issue as Clemson. Florida State has all the makings of an SEC school, but early reports show that Florida is adamant about the Seminoles not getting an invite into the conference.

Louisville -- Similar issue as Clemson and Florida State, though Kentucky might be a bit more lenient in allowing a same-state school into the conference. Still considered less desirable than Virginia Tech or Missouri.

Oklahoma -- The SEC would likely love to add the Sooners, but Oklahoma seems unwilling to leave Oklahoma State behind. The school has apparently had interest in the conference in the past, according to Sporting News, but Oklahoma lawmakers seem unwilling to allow the school to move without its in-state brother.

 

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