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Is the SEC Playoff a Steppingstone to Expansion?

Is-the-SEC-Playoff-a-Steppingstone-to-Expansion

Could going it alone for the SEC be a smoke and mirrors play to expand its brand?

The SEC over the last week has made headlines that has made everyone in the College Football landscape turn its head. 

In case you have missed the news: 

  •  An all-West Virginian “Hatfield and McCoy’s” feud between Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher over the validity and methodology Fisher landed the #1 2022 Recruiting Class that led Greg Sankey to reprimand both coaches and a gag order on all SEC Coaches on speaking on the matter, notably Lane Kiffin’s opt out on The Dan Patrick Show
  • Speaking of Commissioner Sankey – in an interview with Josh Schafer at Yahoo! Finance – said the following, “There are some concerning trends," Sankey told Yahoo Finance. “We're not seeing name image and likeness activity — we're seeing just straight payments. And I think it's important that we recenter ourselves on what's supposed to be happening here and the desire to keep that activity out of recruitment to benefit young people economically but to do so in a healthy way.”
  • Via Pete Thamel of ESPN wrote – The SEC is exploring a SEC-Only Playoff in response to the collapse in talks of CFP Expansion

The latter bullet point has some merit to it. 

To say the SEC has dominated college football since 2006 would be an understatement. Its brand is only going to enhance itself with the inclusion of Texas and Oklahoma. With the “It Just Means More” exuding itself to the College Football Universe, why not break away and have its own playoff? 

With ESPN backing it and the SEC Network, the money will be there, what it will be losing though through this SEC Playoff is the national exposure you can call it when it plays an Ohio State or Southern California or Clemson in a major bowl. 

The other fear and while it can still happen – would a year of upsets in a SEC Playoff still generate the viewership If per se a Texas A&M and Kentucky battled for SEC Supremacy? 

I feel these two points are why the SEC may look to expand its footprint and look no farther than the SEC and quite frankly ESPN looking at the ACC as a target to raid for expansion. 

Let’s not just overlook ESPN’s influence on College Football this century. They have positively and negatively impacted the sport. 

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With the ACC locked into a TV Deal with the ACC Network until the 2035-36 season, ESPN has the leverage to relieve the ACC from a deal prematurely if it benefits ESPN. 

How would it benefit ESPN is by bolstering a super conference for the SEC and its SEC Playoff? 

The portfolio of the ACC has so many assets the SEC covets without messing with its foundational blueprint. 

Clemson, Miami, Florida State, Georgia Tech, UNC, Duke, UVA, VA Tech, and Louisville all have assets whether it is football, basketball, or baseball that an All-SEC Conference in football would covet.

They keep the geographical football the SEC covets, keep that regional aspect, add marquee names to the equation, and has a deeper talent pool. 

It makes you wonder why the ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips joined peers Kevin Warren of the Big Ten and George Kliavkoff of the Pac-12 in the alliance? 

You take a temperature of the landscape, you look at NIL and the portal, you look at the cats nearly let out of the bag by Nick Saban and Greg Sankey you begin to wonder what super conferences will look like? 

The SEC is almost being as transparent about what they want to do. 

2020 COVID season gave the conference a taste of what an all-SEC schedule would look like and the fans consumed SEC Football as the same rate as they always have. 

The Alliance was formed to counter the SEC, the SEC has made moves via expansion Texas and OU and has allowed The Alliance to allow the collapse of the expansion of CFP. This game of chess is playing before us and the SEC’s intentions are well known, the question now is what does the ACC with its alliance partners Big Ten and Pac-12 do now as its next move?