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Let’s talk about this SEC expansion madness

Do what now?

Pretty much my expression when I heard about this.
Gary Cosby Jr. via Imagn Content Services, LLC

So, I had every intention of making the usual Talkin’ Season post about the ongoing SEC Media Days this week — and I will! — but I simply had to get something out about the latest conference realignment rumors, because if that doesn’t epitomize Talkin’ Season, I don’t know what does.

In case you haven’t heard about what’s got the college football internet currently going up in flames, there are multiple (and substantiated!) reports about Big 12 heavies Texas and Oklahoma knocking on the door of our very own Southeastern Conference, seeking to join — and the interest is allegedly mutual. This is, at least on its face, complete madness on multiple levels:

a) Why would those programs want to flee the Big 12, a conference they effectively run? (Oklahoma via actual on-field success; Texas via insane boosters, history, and things like the Longhorn Network);

b) The result would be the formation of a 16-team super conference that simply couldn’t be argued with when it comes to which is the best (and is also not something that’s been done on this level of football, with the exception of an ill-fated experiment by the WAC that ended up falling apart);

c) Relatedly, this could potentially be the first domino to the Power Five conferences splitting off from the NCAA, which is an idea that’s been floated before and feels more possible now with the NCAA’s precarious standing in the eyes of the Supreme Court;

d) Depending on whether this happens — and the powers-that-be decide to keep the divisional structure in place — it’s not hard to envision Alabama and Auburn being shifted to the East, which uh, no thank you;

e) The SEC would finally have at least nine conference games, therefore silencing the critics who have been dying on that hill for years now, but only serving to make already difficult schedules even harder.

The single biggest driver in all this, of course, is money — lots and lots of money. With media rights in particular being the tail that wags the dog in college sports, the windfall that these programs — in addition to current SEC members — would receive as a result of this union is no doubt tremendous. I guess it’s also possible Texas and Oklahoma view SEC membership as prestigious and therefore an “easier” path to the playoffs, given that the conference is so far the only one to send two teams (although Texas hasn’t been able to hack it in the Big 12 lately and OU hasn’t had a problem reaching the playoff; just winning games while it’s there).

From a South Carolina perspective, if the money is right, I don’t see a reason why the Gamecocks would object. The competition would be absolutely brutal, especially from a recruiting perspective, but USC would be somewhat isolated from the new members thanks to geography. Life never gets easier in the SEC, so to a certain extent, this is kind of just business as usual.

Of course, one SEC member does have reason to object, and is already loudly doing so despite this all still being firmly in the “rumblings” stage: Texas A&M wants no part of Texas again, and it sounds like Missouri has no desire for Big 12 ghosts to follow them, either. Four votes would be needed to block membership, and it remains to be seen if the two new kids have allies that would back them up here. It’s possible that some combination of Arkansas, LSU, or Alabama wouldn’t love the idea, but they might also appreciate the added access to Texas recruiting territory (and a rekindled, historic rivalry, from Arky’s point of view).

Anyway, the speculation is running rampant right now — everything from whether the SEC would switch to a pod system (my preferred outcome, should this actually happen) to which schools have gentleman’s agreements to block new members, and so on and so on. How are y’all feeling about all these hypotheticals? Is this a net negative for South Carolina, or does the big picture for the Gamecocks remain relatively unchanged?