Skip to main content

SEC won't go on offensive, but would react to paradigm shift


DESTIN, Fla. -- SEC presidents will discuss expansion at their scheduled meeting Friday, but they don't intend to go on the offensive.

"We would be reactive, not proactive," University of Florida president Bernie Machen said Thursday. "There's not a plan that we will take out of here. We would be reactive to a paradigm shift."

That paradigm shift could be in the works, according to a report from network site A story posted Thursday afternoon on the Web site cited "multiple sources close to the situation" claiming the Pac-10 is on the verge of inviting Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado -- half the Big 12's membership -- to join the league. Current Big 12 members Missouri and Nebraska have been rumored to be targets of the Big Ten, which also is studying expansion.

Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott released a statement Thursday throwing cold water on the report and saying the league's expansion study is not yet complete. "We remain focused on a thorough evaluation process that examines all of the options for increasing the value of the conference for our member institutions, our student athletes and our fans," Scott said. "We have not developed any definitive plans. We have not extended any invitations for expansion and we do not anticipate any such decisions in the near term."

Meanwhile, at the Big 12 meetings in Kansas City, Commissioner Dan Beebe postponed a planned press conference until Friday. Also, Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn told the Boulder Daily Camera he expects the Pac-10 to invite six Big 12 schools, including Colorado.

Thursday, Missouri Chancellor Brady Deaton declined to offer any assurance that the program would remain in the Big 12. "We're not shutting our ears to anything," Deaton told The Associated Press.

SI Recommends

SEC commissioner Mike Slive plans to continue to use former Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart's philosophy to determine whether a potential shift is great enough to force the SEC to act: He'll know it when he sees it. Until then, he said, the league will prepare for various scenarios. "We pay attention to what's happening all around," Slive said. "We think about what's happening, and we think about what's in our long-term best interests."

At issue for the SEC is whether it should expand at all. It just wrapped the first year of deals with ESPN and CBS that will pay the conference $3 billion over 15 years. "The numbers are extraordinary. ... That's a cause of celebration," Slive said. " Obviously, the finances give our schools a sense of long-term security."

Of the schools mentioned in the report, Texas and Oklahoma would seem the most attractive if the SEC chose to expand. Taking just those two might prove difficult if their respective state legislatures apply pressure to keep them tethered to other state institutions.

Machen, who was instrumental in the breakup of the 16-team WAC and the founding of the Mountain West while president of Utah, said a number of factors would determine whether a school added enough value. "There's financial value," Machen said. "Then there is perceived value and all that other stuff. It's not as simple as you think."

The SEC probably would not have the same priorities as the Big Ten, which would expand by seeking out new markets for its eponymous cable network. The SEC is distributed on television by CBS and ESPN, and each school is allowed to sell its own local multimedia package. Florida, for example, makes an additional $10 million a year from its local package. "We don't need to get larger for purposes of distribution. ... Everyone has to look at their own elements," Slive said. "But that's not an element that would have to cause us to expand."

Also, the SEC probably would not expand with any deal that provides for an unbalanced revenue distribution. Much of the strife in the Big 12 is a result of a revenue-sharing agreement that pays schools more for more television appearances. "This league has never done that," Slive said. "We share equally. That's been the long history of this league."

If the SEC did choose to expand, there are windows built into its contracts with CBS and ESPN that would allow the league to renegotiate those deals, a source said. But, the question remains as to what scenario would allow the SEC to benefit from expansion. That's precisely what presidents will discuss Friday.

"We're sitting in a pretty good position right now," Machen said.