My reaction to SEC potentially adding Texas and Oklahoma? Hook 'em. Both
HOOVER, Ala. — Eli Drinkwitz asked the question that all of us are wondering about.
The Mizzou coach got a chance to catch SEC commissioner Greg Sankey in the hallway at the Winfrey Hotel at SEC Media Days in Hoover. What did Drinkwitz want to know?
How should SEC teams feel about Texas and Oklahoma possibly joining the league? Let’s break it down
“If Texas joins the SEC, will Horns Down be a penalty?”
According to Drinkwitz, Sankey gave him a “no comment.”
Cheers to Drinkwitz for asking the most important question related to Texas and Oklahoma reportedly reaching out to the SEC about joining the league. The fact that Drinkwitz does his fair share of recruiting in that region of the country might’ve been at the root of that light-hearted jab.
The Mizzou coach did ultimately share his feelings on the potential addition of the Big 12 powers, and they were different from Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork, who said on Wednesday that he wanted the Aggies “to be the only SEC program in the state of Texas.” Jimbo Fisher let out multiple chuckles at his SEC Media Days press conference in response to that and offered up an “I bet they would” want to join.
Drinkwitz said that he was in favor of the potential addition and that “I’ve been trying to tell people everybody wants to play in the SEC, man. If you can attract a couple of really good schools to come play, that’s great.” Drinkwitz also said he called up Mizzou athletic director Jim Sterk and joked that if that meant adding 2 more SEC opponents to the conference schedule that surely Mizzou would get slapped with Oklahoma and Texas.
We can safely say that there isn’t a unanimous opinion within the league about Oklahoma and Texas potentially crashing the SEC party. But should there be?
Obviously no two teams are in the same spot. It’s clear that A&M, perhaps more than anyone else, isn’t exactly willing to roll out the red carpet to welcome the program who they felt hung them out to dry a decade ago.
(When Mizzou joined the SEC back in 2011, the school had a pep rally complete with the marching band and exploding confetti in the student union.)
On an individual level, you can go through what this would mean for each program and find negatives. From a recruiting perspective, Texas joining the SEC doesn’t help the SEC contenders like Alabama, LSU, Georgia and A&M.
Speaking of those contenders, what about the path to the Playoff? Wouldn’t the SEC make it harder on itself by adding 2 programs with Playoff-level upside? Won’t there be more cannibalism within the league?
Sure, it’s possible. But think about this: If and when the Playoff expands to 12 teams, we’re no longer living in a world in which you have to be an unbeaten or 1-loss team to make the field. Let’s say this move doesn’t happen until 2023 when that Playoff expansion begins.
Remember how the initial reaction was that the SEC would have a case to get 4 teams into the field in a given year? Now, we could be talking about a league that’s undoubtedly the best in college football. There wouldn’t be any debate. It would be a given. That’s a flex that the SEC has owned, but even the outside world would have to acknowledge that massive talent disparity compared to the SEC.
Besides just adding a couple of massive college football markets that would carry major weight for negotiating that next media rights contract — both of those schools have other elite athletic programs beyond football — the SEC could control the Playoff discussion on a yearly basis — even more than it already does.
There’s another piece of this related to that. If you haven’t, go look at future nonconference schedules for contenders like Alabama, Florida and Georgia. They’re loaded. Facing 3 or even 4 Power 5 teams to the nonconference slate in a given year is already locked in. Why? If getting to the Playoff includes as many as 6 “at-large” bids on top of the highest-ranked conference champ, it makes sense to pile on the heavy hitters.
Strength of schedule is going to be valued differently in a 12-team Playoff. There’s more room for interpretation. Bids won’t come down to conference championship weekend. The name of the game will be racking up quality wins. So what if that means going 8-4? If you beat 5 ranked teams, you’re gonna have a chance.
Try and look down the road here. If we’re peaking into the future of the Big 12, it doesn’t exist without Oklahoma and Texas. Remember, they were the ones who reportedly reached out to the SEC, not the other way around. If they’re looking for a new home, the Big 12 will be picked apart.
Why would the SEC want to end up with Kansas and TCU when it can have Oklahoma and Texas?
Imagine being the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 this week. You’re on your heels. Now, you’re trying to figure out if it makes athletic/academic/geographic sense for you to add … West Virginia and Texas Tech? Woof. Meanwhile, the SEC is sitting here with its pick of the 2 schools that every conference in America would poach in a heartbeat if given the chance.
The SEC, it appears, has that chance.
Yeah, that complicates the current divisions. There’s time to figure that out. Expansion doesn’t have to include blowing everything up, either. There are bigger fish to fry. If that means moving to a 9-game conference schedule so that those crossover matchups can remain in place and we still get some year-to-year schedule variability, so be it. I know Mark Stoops isn’t on board for that, but a year removed from the SEC playing a 10-game conference schedule, that doesn’t seem so daunting.
Besides, the SEC East needs a shakeup at the top. The current divisions have gotten a bit stale, and if you don’t believe that, perhaps you missed the part where the East captured 1 SEC title in the past 12 years. The divisions could actually become more balanced than they currently are. That’s a win.
This would be a net positive for the SEC. For all those people who like to puff their chest out and brag about the conference’s dominance, you’d be able to do that in a different sort of way with Texas and Oklahoma. There’s no doubt about that.
But if you’re still not on board with the idea of a couple of Big 12 heavy-hitters jumping ship to form an even more powerful superconference, try and find the positive. At least you’ll be able to use “horns down” on a regular basis.
To be determined on if you’ll get flagged for that.