In Order to Form a More Perfect Conference
Conference realignment is something that we as college football fans have been talking about for more than two years now. It finally became reality for Southeastern Conference fans about two months ago. Blame this wave of change on Colorado or Nebraska or whichever scapegoat you prefer, but all of this was relatively unavoidable. It is natural for institutions of any size, upon experiencing success, to grow.
Anyone who deals with sports business (an area which I find fascinating but in which I claim no personal expertise) will tell you candidly that there is little to no argument against conference expansion. And yet any run-of-the-mill SEC fan will basically tell you that we’re cool, they’re not and we don’t want them in the club. You can’t blame us for being superior, can you? You can’t blame the cool kids for not wanting to hang out with those desperate wannabes, right?
I am not going to waste paper telling you how wonderful and perfect and all-time-best-ever-incredible the SEC is — you know all that. And it is natural that when you are a part of something great, you are afraid to see it change, even if that change is ultimately beneficial.
After much reflection, I, for one, eventually decided to take the high road. After all, who were the last two new kids on the block in the SEC? Arkansas and South Carolina. I have spent the past year being the pot calling the kettle underwhelming.
The truth is that both of the new additions to our conference have highly respectable athletic programs with storied histories. The truth is that opening up the reach of the SEC to cities like Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Kansas City and St. Louis benefits everyone. More eyes on CBS at 2:30 on Saturday afternoons equals more money, and hopefully some of those eyes belong to high school football prodigies who had previously assumed they were bound for the sinking ship that is the Big __ (insert ever-plummeting number that was once 12 here).
Also, it is sometimes easy in the SEC to forget that a conference is about more than just football. It is about every sport, every student and ultimately it is about each school as a whole. Plus, hey, we could use a legitimate basketball contender like Missouri around here.
There has been some concern raised throughout the last year over whether Missouri and Texas A&M truly fit in culturally with the SEC. I have several problems with this concern. Firstly, anyone can adapt to the culture of the SEC, and who on earth wouldn’t want to…it’s a non-issue.
Secondly, these are schools where sports rule all—just like around these parts. Fans of these schools are seriously passionate and it is a big mistake to doubt that. I’m not sure if anyone is poisoning trees in Colombia or College Station, but Texas A&M has the concept of the 12th Man copyrighted, for crying out loud! I questioned if these schools were the right choices for our inevitable expansion for a long time, but I honestly think that they will fit in a lot better than it may seem.
Missouri and Texas A&M have been a part of this conference for 53 days now and will be so for a very long time. Their first true chance to prove themselves worthy of sitting with the popular kids in the cafeteria comes this football season. Texas A&M plays Florida in College Station on Sept. 8 and Missouri plays Georgia in Colombia the same day.
The last truth I have to offer is that in all probability (at least in football) they will each experience a pledge-ship more trying than any fraternity could dream of doling out. But SEC pledges they are, so start loving them that way—as little brothers, aspiring elitists and youngsters only beginning to scoff at the rest of the country with the vigor and passion of a true SEC fan. They’ll learn fast; we sure did.
Liz Beadle is a guest sports columnist for The Arkansas Traveler. Follow the sports section on Twitter @UATravSports.