Let’s be real with ourselves – everyone has acknowledged the SEC as the top conference.
If you have missed it, the college athletic landscape has been undergoing a dramatic shift over the last month. Everything started with the bombshell announcement that the universities of Oklahoma and Texas were leaving the Big 12 to join the SEC. Now, as the Big 12 appears to be on the brink of collapse, the remaining power five conferences have created an alliance in an attempt to support each other and compete against the SEC.
The real drive behind these decisions comes from the ACC, which reportedly risk losing their top two programs to the SEC – Clemson and Florida State. The conference is scrambling to preserve its top money programs and keep the integrity of the conference intact.
Following the merger, which includes agreements that will make scheduling games against the SEC very difficult, the remaining power-five conferences have clearly made a huge mistake in their haste to make a move against the SEC. Their actions have legitimized the SEC as the undisputed premier conference.
Let’s talk about the future of the SEC and college football
The future of college football looks vastly different than it ever has in the past. This year, the NCAA removed the bans that prevented college athletes from profit on their name, image, and likeness. Now, with the major mixup occurring between conferences, the SEC had managed to pull two of the most recognizable programs in college athletics as well as a major rivalry.
There has never been a conference with 16 schools. Ever. In history. The SEC broke that barrier and will feature arguably six of the top ten brands in college athletics (Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Texas). They’re threatening to pull more schools into the fold, more big-name brands, like Clemson and Florida State.
The ACC felt as though they had to do something to preserve their integrity. They’ve been exploring adding West Virginia into the conference, a move that should have happened at the collapse of the Big East in 2011. Instead, West Virginia went west to the Big 12 despite never geographically fitting into the conference. The experiment adding Notre Dame into their fold in 2020 for the covid season worked well too. Clearly, Notre Dame can’t hope to compete for football National Titles without belonging to a conference anymore. It seems as though completing a full move to the ACC is impending.
The problems with the new alliance
The biggest factor in the football and athletic world with the new alliance is that there will be a “working group of athletic directors overseeing the scheduling component” between the three conferences. This means that matchups against the SEC will be tough to come by – because the scheduling focus will be between the conferences in the alliance.
This new alliance has created two new gaps on that component alone – a gap shutting the alliance from the group of five and then forming a gap between the alliance and the SEC.
Clearly, the newly formed alliance believes that they hold enough power between their (currently) 41 schools to push the SEC to meet them on their terms and think they will cut into their profit margin. Unfortunately, the alliance is very wrong.
If you’re looking for name-brand schools in the alliance now, who do they have? Clemson, Michigan, Ohio State, and Oregon. Florida State obviously has the history, even without recent success. Outside of those schools, who do you hope to push nationally? USC? Penn State? The only advantage that the alliance has over the SEC is the sheer number of schools. The brand power is about even, despite the 25 program advantage.
Why the SEC can thrive without the alliance
Last season, the SEC was the leader when it came to playing football despite covid-19. They almost formed a superconference, pulling schools from other canceled conferences before everyone re-established that they would be playing in 2020. Because of the pandemic, the SEC played a ten-game in-conference schedule, and the results were incredible. It was arguably the best season that the conference had seen in recent memory.
The SEC now realizes that it doesn’t have to play out of conference games. Honestly, the conference would thrive without them. They have enough brand power to do it on their own.
The alliance believes that it’s forcing the SEC to come down to its terms. However, the SEC will spurn that opportunity and will allow itself to rise to a new, higher level. We potentially will be seeing the rise of the SEC as the premier college athletic level and the alliance falling into a new division, much like the difference between the FBS and the FCS.
The worst part is that they’ve done it to themselves, trying to bring the SEC down.
Final thoughts and comments
This rapid change in the college football landscape will bring many schools competing to join the alliance. The remaining schools in the Big 12 will have to if they want to remain relevant. Other group-of-five schools will also be looking to make the jump, one of the reasons I believe these conferences decided to align.
The real test that the alliance will have to withstand is their major programs bolting for the SEC. Because of this, I think it will potentially hurt these programs in recruiting and the transfer portal and generating revenue. The overwhelming majority of the top recruits will want to play at the highest level to increase their NFL chances better, especially if the SEC separates itself, as I believe that they will. Plus, more money will be available in the incredibly more popular SEC conference by factoring in the NIL laws.
The Alliance has only created two gaps within the FBS level of football. The five conferences will lose their ability to really compete, and the SEC will continue on its own level of dominance.
The SEC has officially become the premier level of college athletics.