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Conference Realignment Rumor Mill Churns Again: SEC Looks to be Expanding

Are we doing this again? The conference expansion/realignment carousel is starting back up? Gah.

Yeah, it's happening again. When you think back to last time, it's actually kind of crazy that, given the absurd amount of hype around the topic, the ACC got away unscathed. This time, the conference isn't quite so directly affected as before, but something tells me they may not be quite so lucky this go around. And though the rumors aren't directly affecting Maryland quite as much as they were last time either, it might just be a matter of time.

Anyway: it looks like Texas A&M is on its way to the SEC. The news comes from AggieYell, the TAMU Rivals site, and I know we've all been burned by these types in the past. The two A&M writers I trust most - Brent Zwerneman and Billy Liucci, both of whom did a great job covering Mark Turgeon's hiring at Maryland - are saying it isn't done yet, so remain calm. But given that the governor of Texas seems on-board with it and the fans are loving the idea, I'm not sure if there's any going back for A&M at this point.

But what's actually interesting here is the potential trickle-down effect: if the SEC adds TAMU, that's 13 teams, and they obviously can't stop there. So, do they go for 14 (7 per divison) or 16? If it's 16, there's no way the ACC isn't involved, and they still might be wrangled into it even if it's only 14.

FSU has become the hot name to add to the SEC East to balance the addition of the Aggies, and it makes plenty of sense from both sides, particularly from a financial standpoint, which is still ruling the roost throughout these discussions. (Big fanbase, insanely good football for SEC; money and more similar conference mates for FSU). To make matters worse, when asked about it in the past, the Seminole leadership didn't give a denial, which is a smart move but leaves that door placed strategically open.

(NB: Oklahoma and Oklahoma St. are also going to play a large role in this, and may be the front-runners.)

And if the SEC decides to go to 16, they'll almost certainly do some ACC ravaging: Virginia Tech, Miami, and even UNC would probably be on their hit list. VT adds TV money in DC and the 757 and has been talked about before, Miami adds The U brand, and UNC brings academic credibility, basketball power, and a presence in Raleigh. The problem with UNC is that now that they don't care about football again, I can't see them making that move, but the SEC could go for N.C. State if they really get desperate. (Take 'em, please.)

Point being: if they go to 16, they'll almost certainly be adding at least one, possibly two schools from the ACC. And that's not good for the ACC, because they'll probably be the conference's most important, biggest institutions, at least on the football side. (Imagine this football conference without FSU and VT. Oi.)

And, of course, the Big 10 may very well react in that scenario. Which means Maryland might be a target. Again. And with new leadership in place - including a university president who used to be in the Big Ten - they might be a little more receptive to the idea.

Even if they don't look to Maryland, they'll look to the Big East schools that the ACC could've added to prevent being lost in the shuffle - namely, Syracuse, UConn, Rutgers, and Pitt, a foursome I'd love to see added. The problem, of course, is that it's probably going to be difficult for the ACC to be proactive here: if a school is attractive enough to be a candidate for the ACC, they'll probably also be a candidate for the Big 10, and in that case they'll wait out to see if the B10 extends them an invitation. Not that John Swofford would do it any other way, but his hand may be forced into reactivity here.

Whatever happens, I don't think we, or the conference in general, have heard the last of this.