Realignment Isn’t All About TV Ratings, But Recruiting Too
By: Larry Burton
If you wonder why Mike Slive wanted Texas A&M and Missouri in the SEC so badly, the first thing that may have come to mind was the large Texas TV market as well as the St. Louis TV market. That would make the SEC Network a viable sell to television stations.
Well, that is perhaps one of the reasons, but the other is to tap into those recruiting regions. Not that the SEC really needed more recruits, but that it would tap into markets that were previously led by the Big 12 and to some extent, the Big 10. The thinking is that if you deprive your competitors of some great recruits, they remain weaker while you stay stronger.
That is not only why the SEC went into the midwest, but why the Big 10 went into the Atlantic area by adding Rutgers and Maryland. They wanted to deprive the ACC of some of their recruits because the Big 10 recruiting area overall just isn’t keeping pace with the big boys.
Take a look at this illustration from a Sports Illustrated article this month, and you will understand exactly what I’m saying.
So you see that while the author of this illustration, Nicole Zigmont of SI, shows that not only the Big 12, but the Big 10 and the Pac 10 are all three hurting when it comes to landing the elite recruits needed to fuel the machines that vie for national titles.
What makes it worse for team like Texas, USC, Ohio State and Michigan is that they have all gone through years where they simply weren’t involved in the national championship and other teams in their conferences or areas started getting all the glory, as in Texas A&M, Oregon and Michigan State. So if you’re conference is only getting 1/4 or less of the top recruits as the sec and you’re having to spread them around between a LOT of top tier teams in that area and conference, then you’re in trouble.
Look again at that illustration, and say the Pac 12 for example now has several schools in the “Upper Tier”, Oregon, UCLA, Arizona St. and Arizona. Let’s say that each of those teams get the lion’s share of the 39 recruits. Let’s say they get 5 each. That’s 20 of the 39 gone. That leaves 19 players to go the remaining 8 teams, or for argument’s sake, 2 each.
The same would go for the Big 1o and the Big 12.
Now look at the SEC, where there are 139 of the top recruits to spread around. Let’s say the big 4 there, Alabama, LSU, Georgia and South Carolina there. Let’s say those top teams get 15 each, that’s three times the conferences just mentioned get and that still leaves 79 others to be dispersed between the other 10 schools or about 8 each let’s say in a perfect world. But that isn’t so. Auburn, Texas Tech and Florida will get a few more and Vanderbilt and Kentucky will get several less.
And you wonder why the SEC is so dominate? Now you know the real reason.
While how these players are dispersed among the conferences is purely speculative, the numbers that go to the conferences are not.
And the sad but true fact is that as the move toward another college football division keeps creeping forward, more realignment is not only expected, but is almost a certainty. And now you know the reason isn’t all about television ratings, but tapping into the fertile recruiting grounds that keep the big teams big and the weak teams weak.
Larry is an award winning writer whose work has appeared in almost every college football venue. Now he primarily writes for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/LBSportswriter