Based in part on the power of the SEC Network, the SEC appears to be the healthiest of the Power 5 conferences at this point.
While the Big Ten Network isn’t on par with the SEC Network — it’s in business with FOX, not ESPN — it still does very well. The Pac-12 Network lags behind significantly, while the ACC Network is planning a 2019 launch.
On the other hand, there’s little reason to believe we’ll ever see a Big 12 Network. The league’s long-term future appears to be in jeopardy, with the failure of the Longhorn Network a major part of the problem. According to Berry Tramel, a columnist at The Oklahoman, Oklahoma fans would overwhelmingly support a move to the SEC.
Even though Oklahoma is a football blue blood with seven national championships to its credit, that doesn’t necessarily mean it would be the SEC’s first choice if the Big 12 implodes and its members essentially become free agents.
From 1-10, here is how I would rank the Big 12 schools in terms of their overall attractiveness to the SEC:
The SEC welcomed Texas A&M in 2012, as the Aggies were tired of Texas having too much control over the direction of the Big 12.
True, the two schools don’t particularly care for each other, but pairing them in the West — and forcing them to play each other again annually — would add another fantastic rivalry to a division already full of them.
Additionally, Texas is still one of the premier brands in the country. Sure, the Longhorn Network hasn’t been a smashing success, but one school can’t carry a cable channel by itself in the cord-cutting age. There’s also reason to believe that first-year coach Tom Herman can take the Longhorns further than Charlie Strong ever did.
The SEC elevated its presence in Texas when A&M entered the fray. With the Aggies and ‘Horns both in the mix, that would be a step toward ownership. Nowhere in America is high school football a bigger deal than it is in the Lone Star State.
If Texas were to leave the Big 12, then the conference would crumble immediately. It’s the most valuable commodity by far.
In terms of on-the-field dominance historically, Oklahoma has done more than Texas by a pretty wide margin believe it or not.
Like Texas A&M, the Sooners are likely sick of Texas having so much pull when it comes to league affairs. But as a member of the SEC, alongside stalwarts like Alabama and Florida, the Longhorns’ power would be diluted.
Needless to say, augmenting the West with Texas and Oklahoma would require conference realignment. That division is tough enough as it is. Perhaps that’s what finally triggers Auburn to be kicked over to the East, which has been rumored for quite some time. The Tigers could then have cross-division clashes with the Crimson Tide.
Most important, OU fits in with the SEC rather nicely. Nothing is more beloved to the Boomer Sooner types than pigkin.
Of course, Kansas is a basketball school. It always has been and always will be a basketball school. Nothing can change that.
That being said, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey needs to take care of the league with regard to hoops, as well. If the Jayhawks were to meet Kentucky in the finals of the conference tournament on a regular basis, that would generate just as much attention — it not more — than Duke vs. North Carolina in the ACC.
Also, the SEC doesn’t have a presence in the state of Kansas yet. That helps explain the Missouri decision back in 2012.
4. OKLAHOMA STATE
Just because Oklahoma State is clearly miles behind Oklahoma in terms of importance — after all, it’s called the Sooner State — it’s still a solid football program. The Cowboys have won double-digit games five of the last seven years.
With Oklahoma in the SEC, it would take time to develop new rivalries against the likes of LSU and Ole Miss in the West. But getting rid of Bedlam would be a travesty, so make it a package deal and grab both of them.
5. WEST VIRGINIA
Geographically, West Virginia made no sense in the Big 12 anyway. After the Mountaineers bailed on the Big East, the ACC wanted nothing to do with them due to poor academic standards. The SEC tends to be more lenient on such things, fortunately. WVU’s fan base cares about football and also travels well, which is a bonus.
6. KANSAS STATE
Similar to Oklahoma State, Kansas State is a distant second in the state of Kansas. Despite their football team’s ineptitude, the Jayhawks rule. At least it’s not called the Jayhawk State, though. It’s the Sunflower State. But the Wildcats have a lot in common with another second-in-its-own-state overachiever: Mississippi State.
7. IOWA STATE
Iowa is in the Big Ten and a periodic contender. Conversely, Iowa State is arguably the weakest program in the entire Power 5 universe. Still, the Hawkeye State is virgin territory for the SEC. It would only make the league’s footprint bigger.
Even if TCU has made some noise nationally in recent years, it lags way behind Texas and Texas A&M from a gravity perspective. The Horned Frogs have bounced around leagues so much, they never seem to be fully settled.
9. TEXAS TECH
Sneaky and capable of an upset here and there, Texas Tech is rarely anything more than a seven- or eight-win team that goes to a forgettable bowl game.
Considering the current state of the institution as a whole in the wake of the Art Briles mess, the SEC would be wise to keep its distance.