As a Gator fan, I can assure you that I have often cringed at the idea of Florida State joining the SEC. Making fun of a ‘Nole for being a part of the ACC has been a default play of mine over the years. I’m not fond of Tallahassee which sometimes feels like downtown Detroit nor of the student body which on game day frequently resembles the cast of Jersey Shore. Despite my personal animosity towards the school, the city and the people, I’m ready to admit that the SEC should raid the ACC and grab Florida State right now.
Expansion talk has been dominated by the idea of adding television markets. This makes sense on a surface level, but after hearing many arguments against expansion and against the fallacy of new television markets always equating to higher revenue, I think the SEC should consider going after the best football program available. That program is Florida State.
An interesting take on the expansion topic comes from Mark Cuban’s blog. In his recent post on the subject, he takes the clear stance that more teams and more markets does not mean more money. Rather, he says:
The big college TV networks, Fox, ESPN, CBS pay for quality, not quantity. They need marquee matchups that are “Must Tweet TV”. The number of schools in a conference actually reduce the parity and quality of match-ups in a conference. The networks will not pay up for that. Adding Texas A&M to the SEC is not going to add a single dollar’s worth of value to the owner of the SEC TV contract , regardless of sport. Maybe the SEC has an escalator in their contract that increases the total value of the TV contract, but I’m guessing that it still will result in a reduction in the dollars paid to each school when compared to the amount paid had an additional school not joined the conference.
Now, I do think that Texas A&M is a good addition to the conference. It’s a logical fit, and brings in the Texas markets which is valuable in some ways.
But, Cuban has a good point. The reality is that SEC football is the strongest brand of football not because of which markets it is in, but because of the quality of football.
Seriously consider the markets of SEC football: Starkville and Oxford, Mississippi? Auburn and Tuscaloosa, Alabama? Gainesville, Florida? Columbia, South Carolina? Clearly, the marketability of SEC football has nothing to do with the markets it owns. Atlanta, Georgia is really the only major market (and maybe Birmingham).
The brand is what is so powerful about the SEC.
Florida State adds another nationally known football program to the mix.
Consider the alternative. What if the SEC adds a program like NC State? That adds a new market in North Carolina to the conference, but I would argue it absolutely dilutes the SEC football brand.
The SEC has penetrated Texas (at least almost penetrated). Getting some Texas audience is fine for television strategy. Now it’s time to bring in the best program possible, and that is Florida State.
It’s worth noting that Florida State has now formed a committee to analyze and discuss “conference realignment” issues. This could be meaningless or just precautionary, but it could also mean that there has been talks with other conferences or that FSU might push the ACC to try and grab other teams.
The common arguments you hear against the possibility of the Seminoles joining up with the SEC are three fold:
- There is a gentleman’s agreement in place to not add any teams from states where there is a current SEC member.
- Schools like Florida and even Alabama, Auburn and Georgia don’t want Florida State because it hurts recruiting for the SEC schools.
- Tallahassee doesn’t add a new television market
On the gentleman’s agreement, I’m not sure how important that is. First, who knows if it even exists? Second, nothing is set in stone. When it comes to business, a handshake from a decade or two ago can easily go out the window. The other thing is that Florida State did once receive an invitation from the SEC, and Florida was a member back then. Who is to say it can’t happen again?
With regards to recruiting issue, this is nonsense. Florida State is already a major force in recruiting. They are bringing in top classes right now. Florida, Georgia and the Alabama schools have already been competing with Florida State for every high school stud in the area. This is nothing new. Joining the SEC won’t change that.
On the fact that Tallahassee not bringing in a new television market, I think I’ve already addressed why this isn’t as important as we might believe.
Slive, go ahead and make this happen. Let’s keep SEC football as the strongest football conference and strongest brand.
Bring Osceola and his horse Renegade as well.