Adams: Expansion math would work well for SEC

Jul 5 2011 - 5:13pm

An Southeastern Conference team winning a national championship is nothing new. But winning one against another SEC team gets your attention.

South Carolina and Florida might as well have been playing in Atlanta last week. At least they could have reduced their travel expenses.

Instead, the Gamecocks had to go all the way to Omaha, Neb., to win their second consecutive College World Series, this time at the expense of a divisional rival.

With three consecutive national championships in baseball, the SEC is starting to demonstrate football-like dominance. Kentucky just made the Final Four in basketball and probably would have won the whole shebang if the NCAA hadn't ruled Turkish center Enes Kanter ineligible.

At the risk of sounding provincial, I'm starting to wonder if the SEC has outgrown the NCAA. If it expanded to 16 teams, I wouldn't just be wondering.

SEC commissioner Mike Slive indicated there wasn't so much as a whisper about expansion at the conference's spring meetings last month. I get sad just thinking about it.

I've been following the SEC long enough to qualify as a traditionalist, but I'm also a realist. The nation's best conference could become even better -- and wealthier -- by expanding. And its tradition wouldn't have to be destroyed in the process.

My thoughts on expansion haven't changed since last summer, when every other day seemingly brought a different rumor, if not a substantive report of conference addition and subtraction. The conference that got my attention then and now is the Big 12. It just doesn't work.

It works even less since Nebraska has moved to the Big 10 and Colorado to the Pac-10. The Big 12 now has 10 teams. What does that tell you? It tells me that every mathematics professor in the conference should be appalled.

The Southwest Conference was fine until it went full-fledged outlaw on the way to oblivion. The Big Eight made sense, too. But the Big 12-SWC conglomeration didn't click even before attrition.

Geography is a factor. So is Texas' exalted status.

Nebraska couldn't take it. And it couldn't sit well with Oklahoma, either, especially since the Longhorns now have their own television network. In fact, Texas is on the verge of becoming a league of its own.

Where does that leave the rest of the conference? It should leave the best of the bunch looking elsewhere.

My latest expansion fantasy would put Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M in the SEC. The Cowboys and Aggies can't match the Sooners as a traditional football power, but they obviously have a passion for sports, and their boosters are willing to put their money where their passion is. Since 15 isn't a workable number, I also would add Florida State from the Atlantic Coast Conference.

You might argue that the Seminoles would have no incentive to leave a less competitive football conference since it gives them a better shot at a national title. If you make that argument, you're thinking small. You're also thinking status quo.

My fantasy wouldn't include the NCAA. It would be a super conference composed of teams with similar interests that could make its own rules, which would be considerably less complex and enforced with common sense.

Sure, you would lose something. The NCAA basketball tournament and the CWS would go on without you. But a league as strong as this one could create its own championships and identity -- not to mention a staggeringly lucrative television package.

Imagine four four-team divisions with the winners of each division advancing to the playoffs, which would be comprised of two semifinal match-ups and a championship game. You could have playoff series in basketball and baseball.

The model would be more pro than college. So would the caliber of play.

Great athletes already are drawn to the SEC. The allure would increase if the conference expanded and seceded from the NCAA.

Even Texas might get jealous.

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