The Future of SEC and College Football
The SEC Riviera Roundup
By Chris Warner, Author "Tailgater's Guide to SEC Football Vol. V / 2020"
April 12, 2020
These past few months have been challenging. One strange thing after another has been the trite “new norm.” In a matter of weeks our cultural lives have been upended, leaving us hollow, vapid and unfulfilled. No live music. No bars. No restaurants. No entertainment. No travel. Somehow, we have survived the tumult. However, for devout college football fans, the chaotic notion of a fall season without football is blasphemy; particularly in the South—where it's a bona fide religion. Therefore, the show must go on—after all, for normalcy's sake. It's time to again entertain ourselves in the best way we know how...with good ole American College Football...that elusive, lasting, truly American rite of passage. In the following weeks, the game we have all—black and white, grown to love since birth, will change irreparably. Coming out of this dull epoch, whether or not we recognize college football, in its newest form, will be the paramount question, as societal, political and economic forces continue to transform the revered national pastime.
A Changing Landscape
I live in Perdido Key, Florida, just over the Alabama-Florida State Line. In the fall I attend the Gulf Coast Athletic Club Meetings at Craft Farms in Gulf Shores, Alabama with Joe Gilchrist, an Auburn grad who happens to be founder of the World-Famous Flora-Bama. I wrote a book with Joe about his amazing, fun life titled, “Bushwhacked at the Flora-Bama.” You may be lucky enough to have visited the iconic haunt and tried the signature bushwhacker. Nevertheless, three years ago one of our keynote speakers was Jackie Sherrill, the long-time coach of Pitt, A&M and Mississippi State. His topic: The Future of College Football. In that stirring address Coach Sherrill, who remains in contact with all of the College Football Playoff Committee members, outlined the future of college football. The prospect was as exciting for those in attendance as it was dim for some.
An Eight Team Playoff
Sherrill stated firmly there would in the near future be an Eight-Team Playoff, falling short of giving a starting date or a precipitating event, except for the following: He stated, “When the Big Ten gets screwed out of the Four-Team Playoff.” Sherrill added, strikingly, that the Big 12 would eventually be dissolved, and it would leave the PAC, SEC, Big 10, and ACC, or a Power Four, instead of the existing, Power Five, making ample playoff room for multiple teams from a single conference. This, Sherrill said, would result in most of the Big 12 members ending football, except for Oklahoma and Texas, which he said would likely land in the PAC, for geography, TV, conference revenue sharing and other incentives.
An End to Football for Some
This was several months ago. No one was talking about this. I recall many were shocked at Sherrill's insistence this would happen. You could see it in his conviction, however. What made us reel all the more was that Sherrill had spoken to us two years before—and had outlined correctly the College Football Playoff Committee and Playoff Format they would enact. He was spot on in his predictions, which made it all the more concerning. This leads me to believe that an All-Conference slate this fall will set the stage for major reorganizations across the college football playing landscape. Many schools will be forced to quit football, as it will no longer be monetarily feasible, and the resulting Power 4 will have available only a finite number of football-playing members.
The Big 12 Dissolved
An all-conference slate means no more cupcakes; and if the wannabes can't get their check, well, the party's over for them. These decisions have already been made for many of the following schools. Their fans just don't know it yet. Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech and West Virginia all have uncertain near futures. Texas and Oklahoma will head West. The others—who knows, as the fate of the lesser conferences simultaneously hangs in the precarious balance. Coach Sherrill said two of the teams might wind up in the SEC, as he believed the league, along with the other three, would go to 16-team super conferences. Oklahoma State and West Virginia are candidates, while the argument for ending football for the rest would be persuasive, if not a necessity, given the current circumstances and trends.
The Remaining Power Four
SEC football fans have nothing to worry about. In fact, this year's all-conference slate is a peek into the future—and what one can expect from the brand as conference alignments shift and the game continues to change for the better. The league remains the preeminent football conference, and it will continue to dictate policy on its own terms. The games, and the on-field competition, will only get better, in time, as waging wars against the little sisters of the poor become as forgotten as the dropkick, interlocked interference, the flying wedge; and the league once known as The Big 12.
*Until next time...
Chris Warner is the author of over 20 books, including "Tailgater's Guide to SEC Football Volume V - 2020" and "Bushwhacked at the Flora-Bama."
Visit his webpage: http://chriswarnerauthor.com to learn more about Chris and his many different books.
In case you missed it:
SEC Eastern/Western Division Previews
(Subject to change with the impending schedule change):