The Big Ten has 12 teams; the Big 12 has 10 for now, but soon may not even crack the double-digit mark. The Pac-12 has welcomed teams from states that do not border any ocean, let alone the Pacific, and could be poised to welcome several more programs from even further inland.
And while the SEC accepting a runaway Texas A&M outfit as if it is some sort of boarding house is the falling anvil dangling by a rope above a Rube Goldberg device of towering proportions (that rope is on fire, as it happens, and the candle burning through it is powered by the Longhorn Network -- just go with me here, y'all), the conference that housed the last five national championship teams has remained (officially, at least) halfway sound in terms of both geography and numbers. Texas is a southerly state, if not an easterly one; there will be no cheeky editorial cartoons in your local paper over the futility of continuing to refer to the conference by its given name.
In its reported dalliances with Missouri, the SEC is abandoning everything southish and eastish for a grab at a midwestern television market. In its rampantly rumored (and stupid) denial of West Virginia's application to break ranks with the splintering Big East, the SEC has turned away a cultural fit, if not a cartographic one. This veering from one ill-advised choice to the next screams of a need for steady guidance, from a hand well-experienced in coloring in bunches of maps so countries of the same color never touch. To that end, I provide free of charge this handy list of schools which college football's premier conference ought to begin pursuing with all possible haste. You'll find these suggested additions completely bulletproof to ridicule, as all institutions listed are located in the southeastern quadrants of their respective states. It's almost too easy.
1. University of Nebraska Cornhuskers
PRO: A pretty good football team, apparently!
CON: Inflatable Li'l Red mascot is the stuff of nightmares. Possible dealbreaker.
2. University of Hawai'i Warriors
PRO: Most coveted road game destination in all of sport.
CON: Most exorbitant road game travel costs in all of sport.
3. Washington State Cougars
PRO: Insane GameDay flag-bearing tradition suggests depth of passion among fans that would make Pullman natural cultural outpost for SEC.
CON: Still having trouble believing the school isn't genetically engineering giant cattle like something out of a Stephen King agri-terror novel.
4. UNLV Rebels
PRO: Mustachioed mascot would bring a nostalgic tear to the eyes of certain SEC West partisans still sulking over the loss of Colonel Reb.
CON: Risk of conference darling Les Miles abandoning league to launch career as magician on the Strip. (Watch closely, as he pulls a national championship out of this two-loss team's hat!)
5. Marquette University Golden Avalanche
PRO: Program has a proud history, having played in the first-ever Cotton Bowl in 1927.
CON: Program was disbanded in 1960.
PRO: Is Army. Is beloved. Would prove SEC loves America more than anybody else loves America, and if there's one thing Americans love, it's proving that they are more American than you.
CON: This will all take a couple years to get done, by which point quarterback TRENT STEELMAN, the most football-name-having quarterback in recorded quarterback history, will have graduated.
7. Old Dominion Monarchs
PRO: Mascot is a LION WEARING A CROWN.
CON: Care/feeding costs for actual lion and replacement crowns could prove prohibitive (and if I'm commissioner, I'm not letting a program with a stadium that seats less than 20,000 into the league without the promise of a giant cat that does tricks at halftime).
8. Southeast Missouri Redhawks
PRO: Southeast is IN THE NAME, y'all. They came prepared.
CON: There is no downside. They're defending conference champs! Add Southeast Missouri State to the SEC immediately.
PRO: While Corpus Christi is south-er, Houston is about as far south as one can go while still remaining reasonably eastward in Texas. Highly-coveted television market.
CON: Houston Baptist Huskies football program does not technically exist yet (but they're batting their eyelashes on the porch for "suitable conferences," commish, and best you pay attention).
10. Miami Hurricanes
PRO: Five national championships.