Almost 76 years ago, a group of 13 universities decided to form a new conference named the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Of the 12 current members of the SEC, 10 of them were part of the original 13. Tech is one of three schools that have left the SEC, including Sewanee and Tulane.
It is undeniable that the history of Tech athletics and the SEC are heavily intertwined. Tech has played 429 football games against SEC schools, which accounts for almost 38 percent all games played in the history of Tech. Tech’s biggest rival, the University of Georgia, is a member of the SEC.
Auburn is still a traditional rival whom we have played 92 times. Over 2,000 more fans showed up to watch Tech play a bottom-of-the-barrel SEC team, Mississippi State, than did to watch Tech play a bottom-of-the-barrel ACC team, Duke. The upcoming nonconference games in the near future against Ole Miss and Alabama will likely follow suit.
Geographically, the SEC is situated much more favorably than the ACC, with schools within a one-day drive and the SEC Conference Championships in football and basketball most often played just over a mile away from campus at the Georgia Dome.
So with all of the obvious reasons, why has Tech not rejoined the SEC?
Although the SEC said it didn’t want us back about 30 years ago, I think it is ready to bury the hatchet. The SEC is probably not in the market to pick up a 13th team, so let’s get rid of one of the SEC teams. I propose Arkansas. Arkansas is the de facto reject of the SEC. It joined the conference after jumping from the sinking ship of the old Southwestern Conference.
Logically, Arkansas would move to the Big 12, but that is monkey wrenched by, again, the 12-team conference setup. So Baylor, or maybe Iowa State, would need to get kicked out of the Big 12, and go to…I don’t care. One of them just needs to go.
Next of course you will get people complaining about weakening the basketball schedule with the move to the SEC, but let’s not forget Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky and even an occasional spurt of greatness from LSU that would help the loss of Duke and North Carolina on the schedule. Besides, as last year showed, you can go out of conference to make a ridiculously impossible basketball schedule.
Then out of the woodwork come the irrational people who will say the SEC is academically inferior to the ACC, and we fit better into the ACC for that reason. I will concede that a significant portion of public high schools would probably be considered academically rigorous by SEC standards. However, I believe we should play them in football and basketball games, not adopt their core curricula.
Next comes the big question: can we be competitive? All in all, Tech has a pretty impressive lineup of sports. Baseball, golf, tennis and men’s basketball are all well established programs which would likely compete toward the top of the SEC.
Women’s basketball, softball, volleyball and track and field, along with swimming and diving, have all risen through the ranks in their respective leagues and would most likely also be competitive. Tech would also probably need to get a gymnastics team, but who is going to actually say that we couldn’t use a few more girls on campus?
That leaves football. With the reputation of the SEC, recruiting would most likely improve since publicity for the SEC, with new long-term contracts with CBS and ESPN, greatly outweighs that of the ACC’s, which consists of getting regional coverage on ABC or dealing with the Einsteins on Raycom who cannot figure out Roddy Jones’s name.
The football team would also have the advantage of playing for real bowl games. The team as a whole would continue to improve, and Tech would probably contend for a conference, and maybe even a National Championship, every couple of years.
The advantages of rejoining the conference we helped to found greatly outweigh the losses of leaving the ACC. Who knows, maybe we could even sell out more than two football games per year. But the only way this could happen is if Tech took more than just a passive role in the process.
The Athletic Association would need to start shaking things up and probably step on some toes, but the ends would truly justify the means.