The ink is finally dry. Two former Big XII members have set sail for calmer waters and a more fertile, prosperous territory. As of Sunday, July 1, Missouri and Texas A&M are officially members of the SEC. They have left the conference they called home since 1994 (Big XII play didn’t begin until 1996). It was a young conference with troubled relationships, uneven revenue distribution, pointed fingers and hurt feelings, but it was one with deep roots and storied rivalries. The Tigers had to wave goodbye to their nemesis, Kansas, and the Aggies to the University of Texas. The move had better be worth it for these programs to turn their backs on so much tradition, but seeing as it’s the SEC, it certainly seems like the right call.
Obviously this is a big moment for these universities. It’s akin to getting the call up from triple A to the bigs. With the step up in competition and notoriety, each program will enjoy the many fruits of their esteemed membership, but they will also face new challenges.
So, now that the SEC has officially expanded, let’s discuss who the biggest winners are…
Missouri and Texas A&M
These two schools are making out like bandits. This is an across-the-board upgrade for them both. They are set to pull in way more money in a conference that shares revenue equally. SEC trucks filled with cash are headed to Columbia and College Station as we speak. To the contrary, the Big XII practiced uneven revenue distribution based on several factors, and the University of Texas cornered the market there. That’s certainly more of a capitalistic approach, but conference unrest can be the result, which was clearly the case in the Big XII. The SEC puts a lot of stock in conference stability, and that’s a welcomed notion for the Tigers and Aggies. For two summers they’ve found themselves in the center of rumors and speculation about realignment. They even watched former conference members Colorado and Nebraska pack their shit and move out. The catalyst for this discord was, of course, the aforementioned uneven revenue distribution. But this mild annoyance turned into full-on turmoil with the creation of the Longhorn Network, which not only puts more money into the pockets of the Longhorns, but provides them with constant program promotion on the back of ESPN (even though no one can see that God forsaken channel yet).
Finally, and most importantly, the Aggies and Tigers are joining the premier football conference in all the land. The quality of football, the game day atmospheres, the passion of the fans… it’s all better in the SEC. The conference boasts the last six national championship trophies. That’s big boy football. Conversely, like an MLB pitcher during the pinnacle of the steroid era, the competition for these new members just went from tough to damn near hopeless. We’re talking about two programs that had little to no success in the weaker Big XII, and now they’ll be going up against the best in our nation’s power league. You can bet it will be ugly, at least for a few transitional years.
Here’s exactly what the SEC is acquiring in Missouri and Texas A&M. The following are all-time statistics:
- .544 winning percentage
- 0 national titles
- 15 conference titles
- 13 bowl wins
- .598 winning percentage
- 1 national title (1939)
- 18 conference titles
- 14 bowl wins
Given these numbers, does the move to allow A&M and Mizzou into the conference appear to be football motivated? Couldn’t they have pursued more relevant or historically rich programs in their region? Programs like Florida State, Virginia Tech or Miami? If not, why did the SEC lock these programs down? Are they the chosen sacrificial lambs? It’s big business, driven by money. It’s simple really: the more eyeballs on SEC football, the more valuable their product is and the revenue will follow suit. Missouri and Texas A&M conveniently reside in big market areas. Missouri brings TV sets from St. Louis and Kansas City, and Texas A&M will get people tuning in from Houston as well as parts of San Antonio, Austin and Dallas.
The biggest winners, in my opinion, are the existing members of the Southeastern Conference, at least for the foreseeable future. These members will reap the monetary benefits of expanded markets. They will also find two teams on their schedule that pose little threat. Again, that last part could be temporary, shifts in conference and program strength are always in motion.
Beginning this fall, A&M and Missouri will start the treacherous journey from the new, vulnerable, clean-cut kids in Cell Block D to revered legitimate conference players. It’s going to be a long, tough ride that will probably leave each program begging for mercy at times. But hey… at least now they’re in the SEC.
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