Latest Expansion Talk: Virginia Tech to the SEC?

I was going to relegate the expansion talk to the MM today in favor of some recruiting stuff, but the ACC potentially being robbed of a member means that this is real (kinda) news.

The SEC, so far, has been pretty non-committal - like the Big 12 or ACC - about expansion. They're already rich, and short of Texas, it's been thought that there's no one that would actually improve their conference.

But apparently, the public facade isn't quite the same as what's going on behind the curtains at SEC HQ. The most concrete quote I've heard is actually a few days old, but was just brought to my attention today by a post at Gobbler Country. It comes from Chris Low, ESPN's SEC version of Heather Dinich:

Two of the possibilities that popped up the most during casual conversation with coaches, athletic directors and other league officials were Texas and Virginia Tech. Both are tailor-made for the SEC in football, and it would be two brand new markets you'd be adding to the league.

Now, the most obvious gigantic flaw here is that, as we so coldly learned a few years ago, Virginia Tech doesn't give you much in terms of markets. Actually, Virginia Tech doesn't provide you much of anything outside of Mark Warner's support. Most of what VT provides is a solid football presence, and that's not something the SEC is lacking in. The ACC was, which was why the addition of VT made some measure of sense, but the SEC doesn't have that problem.

But we're not SEC observers, so maybe another draw exists somewhere. I will say that they make at least as much sense as Clemson, which doesn't provide much that South Carolina doesn't already, and Miami, which has a good history but a small alumni base. Both are popular potential SEC expansion candidates.

Regardless, this isn't the first time Virginia Tech's name has come up in these discussions. T. Kyle King from the SBN Georgia blog, Dawg Sports, had VT in his expansion plan for the conference.

Add the Oklahoma St. Cowboys and the Texas A&M Aggies to the SEC West. Add the Clemson Tigers and the Virginia Tech Hokies to the SEC East. Keep the current twelve teams in their present divisions. Those are four programs that make fair degrees of sense in terms of conference strength, cultural compatibility, and market expansion.

They've also been mentioned in a CFN roundtable on the subject. They were mentioned in passing as a "fit" by the Orlando Sentinel.

No, this isn't much to go on. The involvement for Virginia Tech in SEC expansion talks hasn't yet moved past "casual conversation." But that's how Maryland and the Big Ten started, and the longer that goes the more it looks like there are some legs there, especially with a new president at some point soon.

The next thing to tackle would be Virginia Tech's interest in joining the conference. Gobbler Country is yet to offer an opinion on the topic, but Joe at The Key Play, another prominent VT blog, isn't as quiet. His argument is pretty simple:

Being a member of the SEC, the premier college football conference, would provide more national and regional television exposure (CBS, ESPN, ABC broadcasts), increased recruiting clout and revenue (dump trucks full of money). Critics will argue that our 10 wins in the ACC equate to 7 wins in the SEC. Sure, an ACC school winning 10 games against a SEC schedule is daunting, but I think it's obtainable once we're on an even playing field. As a member of the SEC we'd commit ourselves to a higher level of excellence under a greater pressure to succeed. To be the man, you gotta beat the man.

And, of course, if Virginia Tech was offered a spot and they did accept, the playing field would dramatically change for both the Big Ten and the ACC, and thus for Maryland. As for the Big Ten, it would simply indicate that the expansion process has begun, and unless they want to give up the upper hand they've held all along, it's time to get a move on. For the ACC, it would mean that their entire landscape has drastically altered.

VT wouldn't be a crippling blow in terms of the revenue they provide. They're tucked away in SW Virginia and, to this point, have accounted for little in the way of TV money that the ACC didn't already have. They are still one of the ACC's best football programs, and an up-and-comer in basketball, but they're not irreplaceable. What they do provide, however, is important: a football championship game. It may need to get out of Florida stat, but the championship game is still important in today's world, and retaining twelve teams is therefore important along with it.

The ACC would have three options at that point. Forget about it and begin their quest to go back to 9 teams (please no), add one team to replace Tech (Pitt? Syracuse?), or begin the Super-ACC plan, adding several teams to get to 14 or 16. The most likely of those is probably the second. Whoever is added, though, will have to make up for the other thing that VT gives the ACC: a legitimate contender in football. Those aren't easy to find.

After that plan is decided, Maryland could be put in the position of making a decision on a Virginia Tech-less ACC. That's way too far away to think about, but it's something to keep an eye on.

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