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SEC Expansion and Clemson: Initial Thoughts on the Matter

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This is a tricky topic that everyone is following.  It is a little premature to discuss Clemson and the SEC seriously.  First off, the SEC hasn't even committed to expansion.  Second, there is no assurance that our Tigers would be asked to join the other conference for various reasons.  However, I'll go ahead and break the seal (well, kind of break the seal as 007 put together a nice FanPost promoted to front page earlier in the week) on this topic and toss out some early, early thoughts on the matter...

I'll begin by saying that Texas A&M is almost assured to be offered an invitation to the SEC.  The question is, "When?"  The first step here is for TAM's lawyers to figure out how much this separation will cost and the best way to sever ties with the Big 12.  The other portion of this answer lies with others who may enter the conference with the Aggies.  Having thirteen teams is just stupid for many reasons, including the obvious scheduling headache created.  Thus, either two or four teams will be involved in the expansion with the current SEC representatives carefully choosing the new participants.

I suspect there will be a great effort to maintain geographical balance.  A team from anywhere west of Alabama would then require a partner team located east of Bama.  Other issues with existing members lie within this concept.  Teams like Florida & UGa don't want other in-state schools like Florida State/Miami and Georgia Tech to enter.  I am not sure South Carolina is as opposed to Clemson's inclusion but many of the fans do have sour looks on their faces when Clemson to SEC talks arise.

So if some of these teams are off the table and the SEC has to look further north for expansion, where do they go?  The Tobacco Road schools run the ACC now, particularly UNC.  The Tarheels aren't leaving, neither is Duke.  I guess you could ask NC State but I really don't see this as expansion worthy.  Does the SEC continue further up the coast?  Virginia Tech is a viable option but will they be able to divorce themselves from the ACC, particularly with all the efforts that the Virginia state legislature put forth to get them in the ACC in the first place?  West Virginia?  That just seems too North for the SEC as does a school like Maryland, which doesn't have the overall football-inspired fire needed there.

I am consequently a little confused who would get asked on the Eastern side of the country, assuming this would be a criterion.

Now let's hypothetically say Clemson is actually in the mix.  Here are my thoughts on old CU and potential conference choices.

What About Each Conference?

Here is what we currently have:  A conference and a commissioner who don't care about our Tigers.  Specifically, we have a commish who is a North Carolina Alum and former AD.  This is the same man who led the charge to implement additional penalties for Clemson over and above NCAA imposed sanctions back in the day.  Give me any reason to trust this guy will be fair, particularly to my Tigers. 

Swofford recently locked the conference into a comparatively lesser TV deal featuring his son's employer, Raycom.  Also, he refuses to hold an ACC Championship in South Carolina, even pulling the baseball tournament from Myrtle Beach and taking it back to North Carolina.  I'll sum it up quickly...the league needs new leadership and is biased towards its Tobacco Road members.  Swofford et al have proven to be reactive and not proactive which will get you clobbered in today's sporting environment.

The football conference is about middle of the pack with Clemson being middle of the pack, which we've discussed with disgust at length here.  The SEC is tough year in and year out and Clemson would take some lumps, particularly due to depth issues we've seen in Tigertown.  I am not saying Clemson couldn't win, they just won't with the product we saw on the field last year.  Increased competition as well as rekindling of the UGa rivalry are definite plusses.  Increased competition should light a fire under someone's ass in the administration, but we definitely cannot promise that after the past 20+ years of shenanigans.  If you didn't notice, we think about football first here at STS.

ACC basketball, though diluted through conference expansion, is still strong.  Duke and North Carolina are traditionally tough and the ACC has its fair share of other schools with NCAA tourney crowns and Final Four appearances.  As you know, we don't have any and are not a traditional power but have been reasonably competitive since Larry Shyatt left.

Baseball is consistent at Clemson and the ACC is generally strong overall.  The ACC competes well here and holds its own with the rest of the country.

Here is what we'd be getting into with a conference switch:  A conference and a commissioner committed to being at the forefront on college athletics particularly in football.  Football is very important and people treat it as such, just ask Bamafan.  Clemson will have to get serious about winning and developing needed depth to compete year in and year out in the SEC.  Further, the Clemson admin need an attitude adjustment to better support our football and overall athletics program.

Basketball wise, sure Florida and Kentucky have been really good in the recent past (and everyone knows about UK's bball tradition) but in the SEC Clemson would be immediately competitive.  Clemson would get a more level playing field not being in a league with the extreme Duke/UNC bias.  There may be a Kentucky bias in the SEC but it is nowhere near what we see in the ACC.  Baseball would be dicey and difficult in the Southeastern Conference just like in the ACC and, just like the ACC, Clemson would hold its own here.

What Should Clemson Do?

If offered, Clemson should accept.  If the SEC expands to 16 teams and they want to pluck FSU from the ACC, this one is a no-brainer.  You have to leave because the loss of Florida State would be a big loss for the conference, probably one too tough to overcome in the football arena.  I'd think a little harder if we were the only team invited, but would end up accepting simply because I fear what the reactive ACC leadership would do in the competitive arena of college athletics in addition to the overall football benefits. 

As for the ACC, my guess would be it would wait six years after the other conferences move then add a bunch of schools in which I have no particular interest.  I would definitely care about playing teams around the Southeast much more than a team further North.  The fear is getting left too far behind as a whole in the ACC in a fast changing environment then getting stuck with leftovers in the end.  Well, all this and we get to play Georgia every year.

The real question is "Can the people who run Clemson University put together a plan of action to properly and swiftly address this issue should it arise or will these guys flounder around if the opportunity arises, leaving Clemson behind as the college athletics world moves forward?"