Tony Barnhart has an article up at GridironNow where he argues that this week’s events will effectively shut the door on SEC expansion. Those two events are the Big 12’s decision to expand, and the ACC’s launch of a network and extension of their grant of rights. Barnhart:
If you’re reading this and an SEC fan, right about now you’re asking, “Why should I care?”
Here’s why: Both stories have a direct impact on the SEC. In short, these moves effectively close the door on expansion in the SEC.
With all due respect to the estimable Mr. Barnhart, neither of these moves is complete, and even when they are they may not deter SEC Expansion.
We know that if the ACC expands it’s not going to be to add Houston or Cincinnati. Expansion will involve some big name universities with new television markets, like Texas A&M and Missouri. Those teams will almost certainly have to come from the ACC or the Big 12.
If the teams are to come from the ACC, the grant of rights is the big obstacle. The ACC Network may make good money; it may not, but it will only be an incentive for a team to stay, not an obstacle for it leaving. The grant of rights is the issue. For some reason everyone wants to assume that it is ironclad and no one will ever get out of it. Maryland managed to get out of it with a settlement. What’s to say another school wouldn’t be able to do something similar.
It’s just a contract. Even if perfectly enforceable, it can be breached. If the cost of breach is less than the benefit of moving to another league, then that kind of move remains very viable. That’s not to say that it’s likely, but it’s far from dead in the water.
The Big12, on the other hand, remains ripe for the picking, should the SEC want to do that. Look at the candidates the Big 12 hopes to stabilize its conference with. Or better yet, read Barking Carnival‘s take. Spoiler: there aren’t a lot of good schools out there that aren’t in major conferences. The upshot? The Big 12 may not expand, and even if it does stability is not guaranteed.
So is SEC expansion imminent? I don’t think so. There is too much uncertainty. It’s unclear what cord cutting is going to do. It’s unclear how cable company consolidation and the FCC may impact the broadcasting of the games. It’s unclear what the ACC newt work is going to do. The SEC may never expand, but I wouldn’t be so quick to say it’s certain because of this week’s events.