A few weeks ago, the college sports internets were all aflame with talk of SEC expansion and what it would mean for everyone left in its wake. Just when things calmed down a bit, Texas A&M is in the news again.
Whether anything is imminent with the SEC and the Aggies, it’s clear that Texas A&M isn’t going to lay back and quietly take the “most favored nation” status that the Big Twelve granted their arch-rival, in order to keep Texas in the fold. And they don’t really care who they piss off in the process.
Good for them.
It’s highly unlikely that the SEC goes to 13, even temporarily, without #14 slotting into place in short order (with 15 and 16 not far behind). In my humble opinion, whoever is that #14 will be in the last “first class” seat on the expansion train. You don’t want to be in the mad scramble for the two “coach” seats – or far worse, left behind at the airport. NC State needs to do everything it possibly can to be #14.
Please note that I’m not saying that NC State is the best fit, or if the SEC would even be interested. But I do think NC State brings something(s) to the table. We are not located in a state with a pre-existing SEC team (apparently an absolute prerequisite). We bring a large alumni base, and add the 10th largest state in the nation, population-wise (with two Top-30 TV markets). We also are a nice counterbalance to bring in along-side A&M – an engineering/technical land grant university, with an appetite for football who’s well-motivated to get out of the shadows. I think this is at least enough to get the SEC to hear our pitch. Now, here’s why we need to give it, post-haste.
First, dissenting voices may argue “this is all about football and money, and ignores history and tradition.” But at a higher level, this is how we need to look at things. College Football = Money. Money = Survival. More about the post-expansion landscape later. But we have no need to even feel the slightest bit apologetic about wanting to survive. And we should care as much about Carolina and Duke as they care about us.
Indeed, this is all about football, because that’s where the money is. But frankly, I don’t see how this hurts NC State basketball in any event (for the record, I would still support joining the SEC regardless). Right now, we play in a league where all that matters is Duke-Carolina. The rest of the league has been abyssmal since Gary Williams got complacent, and the powers-that-be are fine with the status quo. Yes, the ACC has great tradition – but that’s all. And it’s increasingly irrelevant in the modern college sports world.
Look at the coaching staff we have – it’s perfectly designed to be a respectable SEC middle-echelon program. One that goes to the NCAAT with reasonable regualarity, enough to not lead to embarrassing attendance in our way too big arena. And it does so at a budget-friendly salary, allowing us to focus long-term on what we should focus on – football.
As I’ve harped on many times – NC State has shit all over its brand identity, to the extent that the old one can never come back (IMHO). So, we need to be reborn as something else, unless we want to be an ACC also-ran forever. Joining the SEC gives us our one and only decent shot at this re-birth.
The second objection goes like this – if we can’t rule the ACC, wouldn’t we be destined to go 6-6 or worse every year? Hell no. We will never be Florida, Alabama, or LSU. I totally understand that. But why can’t we be South Carolina? Despite their woeful first 70+ years of existence, their last two decades or so would represent an all-time high water mark for NC State football. And we would have a key advantage in recruiting NC/VA/MD – the only Mid-Atlantic program that offers a chance to play in the SEC. We would also be the most urban-centered program in the league (other than Vandy – but come on, they hardly count). We would offer kids the chance to live in a real city, without the quasi-Confederate local climate that can’t ultimately be that attractive to a lot of young black athletes.
I would also much rather be ahead of the stampede to become teams 15 and 16. There’s no doubt that even the marginally intuitive athletic directors and chancellors will see the writing on the wall as they watch the SEC’s expansion press conference. Hey, I had better get in on this, or we’re totally fucked. Now you have a stampede for the last 2 SEC slots, and for teams out west, the next 4 Pac-16 slots (big advantage to teams in the Midwest, who can consider both options). Once you have a 16-team SEC, the Pac-12 will surely follow, swooping up the best remnants of the Big 12. Maybe the Big Ten (eventually, as I suspect that they will be reactive, not proactive) decides to poach 4 East Coast/ND teams as well. Then the three supers basically create a 16-team playoff system that they dominate, with the ACC/Big East remnants basically reduced to C-USA/Mountain West status (where they need to go 12-0 just to earn a low seed in the tourney).
Or maybe the remanats don’t factor at all into the new NFL model that the SEC and Pac-16 dictate. Who really needs them? Why share the money?
This makes sense to me. So the choice is “remnant or viable entity” – and I know what I want NC State to choose.
In closing, who makes the most sense for the last two SEC slots? Missouri and one of Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, or Maryland (DC television market). In 2013, the line-up could be this:
SEC West: Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State
SEC East: Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vandy, Kentucky, NC State, Missouri
I suspect teams will play a 9-game league schedule. Duke and Wake can be non-conference “2-for-1″ series – which we will be able to schedule because all of a sudden it’s little old NC State that’s calling the shots. I could get used to saying that.
In the comments, feel free to play around with what you expect to cobble together from the ACC/Big East/C-USA remnants. Take a guess how big a disparity there will be in the TV money and fan interest.