Today the rumor that Texas A&M was leaving the Big XII for the SEC exploded, with the announcement that the A&M Board of Regents will meet Monday to discuss such a move. This will give the SEC thirteen teams, and immediately the rumor mill went wild about a fourteenth school also coming in. First it was Florida State; then it was definitely a school from a state outside the SEC's current sphere of influence. Speculation quickly centered on Virginia Tech, although N.C. State fans, completely unsolicited, offered to take the slot. By the end of the day, the rumor was back on FSU. But just in case you weren't intrigued enough, there's a guy on Twitter saying A&M sources think UNC is the school the SEC is going after. That's third-hand information, so how could it be wrong?
Let's get this out of the way, first. The FSU president has denied any contact with the SEC. The Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver says the Hokies aren't going anywhere. John Swofford is saying no ACC team is considering leaving the conference. None of which is surprising, when you think of it. Just because the SEC might want 14, or 16, or heck, why not 32 teams doesn't mean they're going after them all at once. A&M seems eager to leave, yes, but the SEC has plenty of time to pursue a second acquisition. We have a long stretch of endless speculation and unfounded rumors ahead of us, I'm afraid.
One thing I would like to clarify, however. A lot of this talk is going to center around media markets. (Often erroneously; the Virginia Tech rumors kept focusing on the DC/Baltimore market, which overlooks the facts that a) they're two different markets with little overlap and b) the Hokies have roughly the same mindshare in DC as Boston College does in their hometown.) But the SEC's reach already stretches pretty far. For instance, take a look at this article announcing their last TV deal:
But that's just the start. As part of the deal, ESPN also picked up rights to the syndicated league games previously held by Raycom, most notably the old Jefferson Pilot Game of the Week that traditionally aired at 12:30 p.m. ET on local affiliates across the South. In the past, SEC alums living outside the region needed a satellite package to view those games.
However, ESPN Regional Television has launched a new syndicated package that will place those games in a reported 58 percent of homes across the country, including major markets such as Los Angeles, Washington, Dallas, Detroit and Philadelphia. Even Columbus, Ohio, signed on. The first such contest, Tennessee versus Western Kentucky on Sept. 5, will be available in nearly twice as many homes nationally (66 million) as the Penn State-Akron game being aired in the same noon ET time slot on the Big Ten Network (35 million). The ESPNU games will reach 45 million homes.
By conquering a new media market, the SEC at most will get the additional revenue from whatever local station wants to pick up a minor game ESPN and CBS don't want to air. They won't be going after markets so much as going after schools that will enhance their product. That puts a lot of teams up for grabs.
But let's get real. UNC won't be one of them.