|Is there opportunity here?|
However, Slive would have to fight a very tough battle with Georgia and Florida on FSU, Georgia and South Carolina on Clemson. I'd be unhappy with either.
Then there is Tech. There could be some good reasons for the conference to think about Georgia Tech, but the only one I can come up with is academics. Georgia has a strong hold on the Atlanta TV market, as does UF, Auburn, Alabama, and Tennessee, for that matter. They don't bring anything new to the table for athletics, other than a cute offense in football (before you flame me, I know they are a pretty good athletic department, and Mossad could learn a thing or two from them about information control). I guess if you were choosing between South Florida and Tech, Tech is an easy choice, but I'd consider Tech about even with NC State, if NC State were the only choice.
But North Carolina State isn't.
Could the SEC make a move for UNC, Duke and NC State? It gets them into a two growing large markets. It brings decent football from two schools. It bring two top flight academic institutions and when you add the four with Texas A&M, it is a huge academic boost. It would put the SEC even with the Big East in the national basketball discussion, meaning a renegotiation of the TV package (for comparison sake, the ACC just signed a 12 year, 1.86 billion deal with ESPN, comparable to the SEC's per year deal). It would cripple the conference of the in-state rivals of three members.
Imagine at least 5-7 more basketball games and all conference tourney games on national TV. Before you start on UNC would never leave the ACC, did you think Nebraska would leave the Big 12? Given a choice between being a possible non-BCS school (especially with the shenanigans at Miami) or moving to a better long term option with the three schools they are most closely tied to, and getting the money that comes with a move to the SEC? Not a stretch. NC State would move in a heart beat, too.
Strangely enough, the sticking point might be Duke's faculty living with a move to the unwashed academic masses of the SEC. Currently, the median USNews ranking in the ACC is 34.5, with FSU's 111 taking up the rear. The SEC's median is in the high 90s, with unranked Ole Miss and Mississippi State bringing up the rear. That isn't an insubstantial consideration for Duke's faculty and academic reputation.
Hey, I grant North Carolina has their own issues with the NCAA, something that would be the source of multiple jokes if they come to the SEC. I also grant this isn't the football marriage some might be dreaming of. But again, if the option is TAMU plus FSU/VaTech/Clemson or TAMU plus Duke/UNC/NCState, I am pretty sure I know which one Slive will have the public and private consensus for.
I'd also consider Louisville a nice backup contender if the conference only goes to 14 schools. Their basketball would help. The football isn't good again, but they could help push the brand into the Midwest some. Plus, Kentucky doesn't seem too upset over building a deeper rivalry with someone they can be a bit more competitive with. However, I think Louisville is one of those ask before we ask Directional Florida to balance the conference deals.
As a final point, I will say that there are significant psychological downsides to taking in three ACC schools. But if Slive can't convince Texas and the Oklahoma schools to join, these three make the most sense to me to get to 16 members. If it is Va Tech and Louisville, you just about have to get a Texas or Oklahoma with TAMU (which I just don't think will happen without Okie State) to build out to 16.
What if TAMU decides to stay? Can the SEC move on VaTech and the three North Carolina schools and make it work? I don't know.
I guess the real question is will the SEC be the first to make a move to 16 teams.