While the idea of expanding the Southeastern Conference within college football may seem appealing to most on paper, this concept could actually take away from the sport as a whole and hurt teams that have had less-than-successful records in past years.
It was announced this past July that Big 12 conference teams Oklahoma and Texas would be joining the Southeastern Conference after SEC presidents voted unanimously to admit both teams into the 14-team conference.
Several reasons as to why these programs left the Big 12 could lay in its dwindling popularity since the exits of other teams (such as Colorado and Nebraska), a limited ESPN contract or simply the allure and profits that come with being a part of the SEC.
While this move will not actually occur until the summer of 2025, many have speculated that these two teams will not be the last to leave their original conferences to join the SEC.
Sports analysts and fans alike have speculated that other college football powerhouses, including Clemson, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Central Florida and Florida State among others, could make similar moves to the SEC in coming years. In doing so, these teams would garner more popularity and profits as the SEC would consist of a large portion of the Top-25 college football teams.
Fans of several SEC teams including Arkansas, Tennessee and Vanderbilt have applauded this idea, believing a larger, more powerful SEC conference will attract more viewers with the inclusion of elite programs of Oklahoma and Texas and generate more television revenue and profits for all participating teams.
However, many problems exist within this concept. With the conference eventually growing to 16 teams, most schools will only play around half of those within the conference. This translates to less-heralded match ups, rivalries and familiarities between certain teams each year. In addition to this, the SEC already possesses successful, currently-ranked programs in teams such as Alabama, Georgia, Texas A&M and Florida.
Adding two more highly successful programs may garner more attention in match ups between these powerhouses, but will ultimately take away from SEC programs that haven’t recorded as many wins in the past few seasons; the more winning teams added to the conference, the more likely struggling teams will experience losses and regular losing-records.
Teams such as Missouri, Tennessee and Vanderbilt will be left in the dust of this mega-conference. Even South Carolina — which has improved steadily under new head coach Shane Beamer and quarterback Zeb Noland — could struggle to shine within the conference once it expands.
Every sports fan often enjoys a Cinderella-upset story within college football; however, the chances of these occurring during the SEC conference season will dwindle as more elite programs play.
Expanding the conference will also create a slimmer possibility for teams such as South Carolina to win the overall conference. This especially remains true if the other rumored programs choose to leave their respective conferences and join the SEC.
When this expansion begins, the question arises of where this growth of the conference will stop. How many teams constitute too little or too much? Will the “weaker” teams in the conference be pushed aside or forced to leave to adjust for the growth of the SEC? What will be left of these transferring teams’ original conferences such as Big 12, the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12?
While many have fallen in line with the idea of a powerful, mega football conference in the SEC with the additions of Texas and Oklahoma, doing so will not only hurt the SEC and the Gamecocks' chances of winning the conference championship, but also the entirety of the college football landscape as we know it.