You can't spell secede without SEC. This scenario (see the primer here) is inspired by @RickMuscles who mentioned SEC secession on his twitter page recently--he is kind of a big deal. The Civil War has been on my mind for obvious reasons as it is. Expansion, of course, is seemingly in everyone's thoughts these days.
That's right, the South's rising again. This time it involves no attempt to leave the Union, just the NCAA. What would prompt secession by the Southeastern Conference? Not wanting to be controlled by events stemming from the Northern Aggression of the Big 10 Conference. Why trust Big 10 commissioner Jim Delany when he says that there has been no acceleration of the conference's expansion timetable? The opportunity to act is open, why not take it? To understand why SEC secession makes sense, it is necessary to lay out a few things about the SEC itself.
Eight of the twelve member institutions are ranked in the Forbes list of the Top 20 Most Valuable College Football Teams for 2010: nos. 5 (Alabama), 6 (Florida), 7 (LSU), 9 (Georgia), 12 (South Carolina), 13 (Tennessee), 14 (Auburn), 17 (Arkansas). The total value of these teams was $634 million, while the total profit pulled in by the schools was $279 million. LSU is in a group of exactly two schools that does not receive a State subsidy for its athletics program (the other is Nebraska). There's also the matter of that lucrative TV contract with ESPN.
Sure Alabama and Tennessee are on the list of the top ten all-time winningest college football teams, but what about recent success? In the BCS era (1998-2010), the SEC is 14-5 (.737) in BCS games. The Pac 10 (in five less appearances) is the only other one of the Big Six conferences (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Big East, Pac 10, SEC) to have a winning record (9-5). Only the Big 10 has more BCS appearances (21) than the SEC (19). The SEC has sent three different teams from each of its two divisions to the BCS. Alabama at 1-2 is the lone SEC squad that is not at least .500 in the BCS. In the BCS title game, four different SEC schools (two from each division) have made the conference a perfect 6-0 (that's fully half of the total BCS titles). The SEC has won the last four (4) BCS title games with three different teams with at least one champion from each division. The SEC has outscored its competition in its six BCS title wins by a score of 184-110. In each SEC title game win the margin of victory was at least seven points.
Since @RickMuscles mentioned secession, let's have a look at the member institutions of the SEC. The twelve schools are located in eight of the former CSA States and one of the Border States (Kentucky). To include the other States of the historical Confederacy, the SEC would need to expand into North Carolina, Texas and Virginia--history is not likely to repeat itself.
SEC Secession and Expansion
An advantage the SEC has over the historical CSA is that the SEC has been in existence for 77 years and ten of its member institutions have been part of the SEC since its founding. The SEC can list some legitimate grievances against the NCAA: a) the NCAA does not allow student athletes to be paid what they should be paid considering the revenue they generate for their schools (not to mention video games) through their performances, b) the NCAA does not sanction the FBS national championship, c) college football in the United States is a de facto minor league of the NFL (how many international players are being selected in the NFL Draft?) with none of the benefits that official affiliation with the NFL could bring, d) the NCAA has recently decided to institute unnecessary rules which could have a profound impact on the result of games. There is no reason to lower academic standards by having student athletes not take any college courses after secession. Instead, the football players can be treated and paid as minor league athletes. In the highest division of professional Mexican League soccer, university teams are represented by professionals, not students. There will still be plenty of colleges left in the NCAA for young men who want to get an education on an athletic scholarship.
Step 1: Commissioner Mike Slive drafts and mails a letter on behalf of the conference to the NCAA detailing the grievances and plans above. He also announces that the SEC is seceding from the NCAA.
Step 2: Slive communicates an interest in adding four more institutions to the SEC to the following schools: Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, West Virginia, East Carolina, Miami, and Florida State.
Step 3: At the SEC annual meeting, the responses are reviewed and the conference decides to admit Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC West and West Virginia and Florida State to the SEC East.
Big 10 Reaction
Overnight, Jim Delany tears up his plans for gradual expansion. The Big 10 attempts to mirror the SEC expansion and secession plan and secures Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Pittsburgh and yes, NOTRE DAME, in rapid succession. Delany had realized the potential of matching the 16 teams of the SEC and joining forces to appeal for affiliation with the NFL as a minor league and contacted Slive. The Big 16 comes into being as retaining the Big 10 name would really stretch the imagination with the added teams.
In a word...flabbergasted. Seventeen of the top twenty most valuable college football teams have left. The Big 12 Conference has been laid to waste. But, at least that Butler v. Duke rematch is still intact for the slightly enlarged basketball tournament.
An NFL Minor League
Between the Big 16 and the SEC, there are thirty-two teams just like the NFL. Affiliations between the colleges and the pro teams could be determined in a variety of ways (number of players drafted from a school, proximity of location, famous collegiate athlete was a star franchise player, etc.). Arranging the new minor league in a similar setup to the NFL would help this process. Here's a possible way to do this:
Big 16 East: Indiana, Penn St., Pitt, Ohio St.
Big 16 North: Michigan, Michigan St., Minnesota, Wisconsin
Big 16 South: Illinois, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Purdue
Big 16 West: Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska
SEC East: Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina
SEC North: Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, West Virginia
SEC South: Florida, Florida St., LSU, Miss. St.
SEC West: Arkansas, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Texas