DESTIN, Fla. — Friday’s final day of meetings between the SEC’s presidents and athletics directors finally focused heavily on the hottest topic of the week, but even after the stakes appeared to get higher around the country, commissioner Mike Slive still wasn’t changing his tune on expansion.
“We discussed it as you would expect us to discuss it, and we’re not going to say anything more than I’ve said all along, so there’s really nothing more I can add,” Slive said.
What Slive has maintained for weeks is that the SEC will watch what happens around the country and isn’t likely to act proactively by pursuing expansion, remaining — as Slive reiterated often — “strategic and thoughtful.”
That means the SEC could move to add teams should the Pac-10 or Big Ten make significant additions in the coming days or weeks, or, Slive said, it could mean the SEC does nothing at all.
“It’s just designed to say that we have maximum flexibility to how we approach this issue,” he said.
Reports surfaced this week that the Pac-10 could extend invitations to as many as six Big 12 schools, with Texas A&M also reportedly having some interest in moving to the SEC. E-mails from Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee revealed this week by the Columbus Dispatch seemed to indicate the Big Ten was wooing Texas, and Missouri’s president said he wouldn’t rule out a move — either to the Pac-10 or Big Ten. Several other athletics directors and presidents in the Pac-10 and Big 12 went on record indicating they believed discussion on expansion were ongoing.
All of that remains speculation, however, and Slive said he has been hearing rumors for weeks and has no idea of a potential timetable on expansion in any conference.
Should expansion talks ignite, however, Slive said it would require the approval of nine of the SEC’s school presidents to admit a new institution, and in doing so, there could be the potential of also renegotiating some of the league’s media contracts.
But while large-scale expansion — including potential 16-team superconferences — remains the hottest topic in college football among fans and media, Slive said he doesn’t have reason to believe things are moving so quickly behind the scenes.
“It’s a concept I think comes more from outside,” Slive said. “I’ve never heard the conversation that there was a need or a drive to get a bunch of superconferences.”
Without exception, the SEC’s presidents and athletics directors seemed to tow the company line on expansion.
“If it’s moving forward and expanding what we’re doing as far as adding new members, if that’s the way to maintain where we are, I think the commissioner will have a keen sense of what the right time is on that,” said Mississippi State athletics director Scott Stricklin. “If it’s standing pat, I think we’re all pretty comfortable with what we have as a league right now.”
Georgia president Michael Adams declined comment on the issue completely Friday, saying he had agreed with other presidents that only Slive would discuss expansion publicly. A day earlier, however, Adams expressed his hope that the league would be patient in its approach.
“There’s a pretty strong sense among the 12 presidents and the commissioner right now that the SEC is in the best shape it’s ever been,” Adams said. “So we feel pretty good about things. If the landscape changes then we’ll analyze it, but I don’t believe we have to do anything.”