USC and UCLA kicked off the latest phase of college football realignment, and now most eyes are focused on what the SEC might be up to next.
You could say the Big Ten’s move was inspired by the SEC when that conference voted to add Oklahoma and Texas in a bombshell move last offseason.
Now comes the waiting game to see if the SEC will up the Big Ten’s ante. ESPN commentator Paul Finebaum believes that’s exactly what is happening as the league is at work scouting new members.
“Survival of the fittest”
“I think you’re looking at two superpowers in a survival of the fittest contest,” Finebaum said on WJOX in Birmingham.
“This didn’t look like this was an active contest a year ago when the SEC took over college football for good, or so it seemed. But I think the dynamics have changed now with SC and UCLA, and the domino effect that it’s had.
“What’s interesting, I don’t know where Kevin Warren has been the last week or two. I have a pretty good idea where Greg Sankey has been, and he has been so far off the radar that he can work in the darkness or the light. Either directly or indirectly. And sometimes it’s best to be indirect.”
behind closed doors
All the major moves in college football realignment have been the result of private and secret conversations between decision-makers at the relevant leagues and schools.
All the diplomacy and negotiations take place where no one can see, and only when all the terms are agreed to, does everyone make the deal known to the public.
Finebaum believes the SEC is sending out intermediaries to speak with people at other schools like Clemson and Florida State – but unofficially.
“It is interesting that one of the primary lawyers of the SEC’s office is in downtown Charlotte,” Finebaum said.
“It probably is not going to be difficult for someone representing Clemson or North Carolina or somebody to meet this guy. I think that’s what’s going on.”
Who could the SEC add?
Everything is still speculation at this point, but it’s no secret that the SEC would be more than willing to add some of the ACC’s most prized football programs.
That would include Clemson, a perennial College Football Playoff contender, in addition to schools with large followings like Florida State and Miami.
North Carolina, Duke, and Virginia have also been discussed as potential SEC members in recent reporting.
But there’s one major economic hurdle that’s keeping ACC members from leaving: the conference’s grant of rights agreement that doesn’t expire until 2036.
That deal would force departing schools to give their media revenue to the ACC until that date, or else pay a huge exit fee reportedly around $100 million.
That could be enough of a penalty to pause college football realignment for a while, at least from the ACC’s side.
But that won’t stop the SEC from trying, even if unofficially.
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