“So it just made a lot of sense.”

When the SEC expanded in 1992, it was a football-driven move.  Roy Kramer knew what he wanted, personally drove the train and pushed it through.  I don’t think anyone questions that it worked brilliantly.

Fast forward to the present round of expansion.  My impression has been that Mike Slive saw (or, just as likely, heard from his constituents) that the groundbreaking TV contracts he’d negotiated just a few seasons ago had lost some of their shine and the conference needed a reason to reopen them.  Moving to do so, Slive didn’t control the process as Kramer saw fit to do.  Instead, he operated more as a collaborator.

But according to Slive, that’s not what drove this round of expansion at all.  Instead, it was about something completely different.

But Slive and the school presidents were also interested in their reputation.

They know that nationally there is still the perception of the SEC as a conference that doesn’t take academics seriously. They are aware that some in other conferences, such as the Big Ten, Pac-12 or ACC, look down on the SEC’s reputation.

“Often times this league is under-appreciated for the quality of our institutions academically,” Slive said.

Only two of the 12 schools — Florida and Vanderbilt — are members of the prestigious Association of American Universities, a research consortium. By adding Texas A&M and Missouri, the SEC doubled its membership in the 61-member AAU.

The hope for SEC presidents is that by adding two good schools, the larger image of the conference improves. It may sound silly to fans, but to school presidents who sit in rooms and make decisions, it is a major factor. [Emphasis added.]

“I think at the core of it it’s the most important thing,” Missouri athletics director Mike Alden said. “From the surface of that many people see that window of athletics and in particular football. But I think once you get down to the core of it, and what you’re trying to do as an institution to really raise the awareness of your brand, academically and research-wise.”

Slive was asked if he hopes this helps improve the image of the SEC.

“Yes, the answer is yes,” he said. “But I would put it more in context. We weren’t really gonna expand. And we were not out looking to expand. But when institutions of these quality come, and they bring the outstanding academic institutions, they have commitment to broad-based athletic programs …”

It’s not that it sounds silly to fans.  It’s that the conference has essentially butchered its football and basketball scheduling over an ill-conceived move (given all the angst leading up to and through the spring meetings, there’s really no other way to characterize it) that was driven by little more than the collective egos of the SEC presidents.  You can already hear the peals of “I’ve left the SEC in better shape than I found it when I became Georgia’s president” in Michael Adams’ farewell speech, can’t you?

I’m so glad it’s made them feel better.  Because if we fans don’t share their satisfaction by continuing to support the game in the way we have since 1992, at least they’ll have their enhanced academic reputation and new TV moneys to keep them warm at nights.

It’s a helluva way to run an athletic conference.

11 Comments

Filed under SEC Football

11 responses to ““So it just made a lot of sense.”

  1. I understand that the AAU is big deal to some (especially presidents of big state schools on the outside looking in.) But do they really think that adding A&M and Missouri suddenly makes the SEC the Ivy League of the South.?Next time they try that move, they might look for a target that isn’t the butt of countless jokes. I’m looking at you, Aggies.

  2. Mayor of Dawgtown

    UGA needs to join the AAU. The University of Georgia ought to be a member of that body.

  3. watcher16

    I’ve always wondered why UGA isn’t a member. What do we need to do?

    • NCT

      We need a medical school. Most of it is about the research dollars, and we compare favorably to current AAU members — when you include the money going to Augusta but not so much without it. When you’re a big state university, but your engineering is over here and your medicine is over there, the money is simply too spread out for AAU types to be impressed.

      • Bulldog Joe

        I agree.

        Say what you want about our current leadership, but overcoming the political obstacles which kept UGA from establishing a medical school and reestablising its engineering school was a huge step.

        Being the only SEC East institution without a local medical and enginneering school does severely limit the amount of private funding an institution can raise relative to its peers.

        The state has grown to a point where consolidating these programs into one primary location no longer makes sense.

        The Athens / Gainesville / Gwinnett area has grown significantly over the past 40 years and can now provide enough of a patient population to support a competitive local medical school. UGA has a lot going for it with its strong BioMed and Pharmacy schools and can grow its new Health Sciences campus rapidly with the right leadership.

        Given enough momentum, I anticipate a Nursing school will follow.

  4. Cojones

    I’m sure we don’t belong according to our perception of what belonging there would suddenly confer to our school. It certainly doesn’t make FU better academically than UGA, in fact, just the opposite is true. Have to believe it isn’t from being invited. How could any school overcome the lead UGA has in many scholastic fields, including Science, where we were selected as Biological Centers of Excellence (along with Stanford and a New York U) for the U.S.? By the N.I.H.. Certainly many on here are aware of their differing depts’s comparisons to various schools (Law, Journalism, etc.) such that we never have that country bumbling status that many (including the NATS) have tried to pin/pen on us.

    What does our Administration say about joining in light of these shining examples who are joining our Conference?

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      My point exactly. We’re more like Vandy than Auburn.

    • Governor Milledge

      Who cares what the SEC’s legacy is while Adams was President… his only pertinent audience is UGA.

      I’ve been the first to criticize Adams, but if he left the school with an AAU membership, I might begin to rethink some of the more choice words I’ve said about him.

    • NCT

      We haven’t been invited. The powers that be in Athens would jump all over an invitation.

  5. Mayor of Dawgtown

    I looked it up. Georgia Yech is a member–and it has no med school. It doesn’t have a law school either (we do). There are some notable others missing, as well (Dartmouth, for one; I don’t recall seeing Cornell either). This looks like academic politics of the worst sort to me.

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      Strike that–Cornell is a member and so is Emory. Interestingly, some others that are members: University of Arizona, University of Kansas, University of Maryland, Ohio State–colleges that while they are good schools do not strike me as being superior to UGA. There are several others, too.