In the past few days since it became apparent that Texas A&M was spurning the future of the Big 12 for the SEC, we've heard rumblings of the SEC potentially extending an invitation for membership to Virginia Tech. Much conjecture and commentary has been offered up about this potential move, and most of it has been wholeheartedly in favor. I am wholeheartedly AGAINST Virginia Tech joining the SEC, IF such an invitation were to be extended. In this post I will explain how the potential move to the SEC is selfish, football-centric, short-sided and not a fit for Virginia Tech. Go inside to find out...
Who are these guys!?: Frittering away our meaningful rivalries
One of the biggest negatives of a move to the SEC would be the inevitable leaving behind of some of our most meaningful foes on the schedule. We have history (and a LONG one at that) with almost every school in the ACC. Going to a 14 or 16-team SEC would doom the chances to play those teams in football (as well as some other sports, but for the moment we're talking football) as it would likely be a 9-game conference schedule. Although there are reports that the NCAA is seeking a 13-game schedule in the future, a 13 game-schedule would still only allow us to schedule four out of conference (OOC) teams. Is our athletic department willing to schedule four of our rivals or former conference rivals every year? No. Nor should they be. When a schedule is the EXACT same every year, it kind of takes the fun out of it.
So who would we sacrifice? Obviously the Virginia rivalry would continue. Miami would probably be next on the list. Boston College could possibly be squeezed in just based on our recent history with them. Georgia Tech would be fourth on this list and after BC in that line of teams in the ACC teams that we have had mini-rivalries with. But again, there's no way we'd be scheduling the likes of four ACC teams OOC, or pending a conference breakdown if the ACC is raided, four teams of that caliber. One, the SEC schedule would provide so many rigors for us that we would need a couple of cream-puffs the likes of which we always schedule even now to get us through. And two, BOTH teams would have to agree to it. For Georgia Tech who already plays stiff SEC foe Georgia it would be doubtful that they'd like to add ANOTHER good SEC team (and yes this time I'm talking about us, hypothetically...it's eerie to say that though) to their non-conference slate. For BC, it's also doubtful they'd trek the 698 miles every other year to play a quasi-rival from two decades of the Big East and ACC days.
Granted, I'm the guy who sees it as silly that a team can have 4-5 legitimate "rivals" and think the term is pretty loosely applied. Therefore the BC and GT "rivalries" don't hold much water to me. The triple option annoys and bewilders me and I will never forget that Matt Ryan touchdown pass with :07 left. But, I can live without playing BC and GT if it puts our program in a better place. I'm just not 100% sure that's the case here.
Basketball: From the Cardiac Kids of the ACC to the Cardiac Arrest of the program
A move to the SEC would kill the basketball program. I know we're not world beaters (or at least not more than one or two times every couple of years), but every bit of legitimacy the ACC and having success in it has provided would go down the drain. Yes the SEC has Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt and Tennessee who was a product of Bruce Pearl and is likely not to have nearly as much success without him. But what else do they have? Folks, it's just NOT a basketball conference (well duh).
While I think that, yes, in the short-term going to the SEC would provide us with basketball splendor and success, it's not a feasible thing long-term. Plus, how many spots are we really going to ascend on the SEC totem pole? Like I said it's those four teams annually and that's pretty much it (I know there are flashes by teams like Georgia, Ole Miss, Miss St. and Alabama) but those are four pretty good teams. Teams the likes of which, in my honest opinion, we're not better than at the moment.
Just look at recruiting for a moment. If I need to back up my short-term success prediction I can easily do it here. Our team features six players from North Carolina, four players from The Commonwealth, one player from Maryland, one from Florida, one from Pennsylvania and one from the Netherlands. For the most part (especially the North Carolina part) that spells Tobacco Road. That's where we recruit, and that's where we SHOULD recruit for the most part. We've just been able to break in to that area and ride the coattails of UNC and Duke by parasitically picking up the recruits that they sifted through and are just under their radar. That might not sound glamorous to some, but those recruits are still the cream of the crop nationally, and many a team would do anything to land these guys.
The point is these guys go to Tobacco Road or ACC schools. Period. They come to the ACC because in the ACC, basketball is king. They are aware that at least historically, the ACC has always been the best basketball conference in the nation. The kids from that area come to the ACC to either play for Duke and UNC, or to play against Duke or UNC. How many North Carolinians, Virginians or Marylanders do you see bolting for the SEC? That's my point. If we go to the SEC, we're leaving that resource behind. ACC kids don't want to go play basketball in the SEC, and that's just how it is. The same is true for Women's Basketball at Tech. Duke and UNC are still powerhouses of women's landscape (though yes a few teams the likes of UConn, Tennessee and Stanford are possibly better year in and year out). Tobacco Road kids go to play for Tobacco Road/ACC schools. And although that's recruiting in general, where proximity is usually the biggest factor, this is even more so the case with ACC basketball.
Olympic and Non-Revenue Sports: Swimming and Diving team plane to College Station, TX now boarding
The title kind of makes the argument for me, but I'll delve into it a little more (Furrer4heisman alluded to this in his original FanShot about speculation of us joining the SEC). Granted there will be an increase in revenue from our football program if we join the SEC, and it's possible that it would be a significant one. But the question is, would we be losing more money from the Olympic and Non-Revenue sports? It's certainly possible. Whereas now we are traveling up and down the Atlantic Coast to play foes in the ACC (and as Jim Weaver suggested in a late interview on Friday, most of it by bus), we would now be expected to travel to Fayetteville, Baton Rouge, and College Station amongst others.
Although playing those teams on the road may not be a regularity for every sport or even every year (I don't know this answer, and really no one does until the new mega-SEC comes to fruition), this definitely would turn us into a "by-air" school for most every sport, including Olympic and Non-Revenue sports. So the question is, if we're leaving to turn more of a profit for the athletic department, we should examine the figures very carefully, because they could be tricky. There is a lot more to this potential decision than a lot of speculators are giving it credit for, and both fans and those speculators shouldn't just be wowed of the aesthetics of this. Just like everything in life, there are a lot of moving parts behind the scenes that should be considered.
The Football Question: Can we succeed in the all-powerful SEC?
This is the granddaddy of them all. The thought that's been on the collective minds of Tech fans, SEC fans and the national media alike since the possibility of Tech joining the SEC arose: Can we win? The Tech fans think the proof is in the pudding. We've won 10-games for seven seasons in a row and are the only team in the nation to do that. We've been to 18 consecutive bowl games. We've won 4 of 7 ACC crowns since joining the league (a league that fans of ACC teams and the national media alike at the time thought would demolish the Hokies), and we've played for a national championship. A compelling argument can be made for Tech succeeding in the SEC.
However, the ACC and the SEC are worlds apart. Not that I need to build up their résumé for anyone, but they have won SIX consecutive BCS national titles as a conference! SIX! That's just silly. But, for any of us who know a lot of SEC fans, they think Virginia Tech joining the conference would wipe us off the face of the Earth. And that is equally as silly. We are a Top-25 caliber football team no matter what conference we play in, including God's conference: The SEC.
If the question were could we compete in the SEC? I think the answer is a definitive yes. If the question is can we win 10-games in the SEC year in and year out? That's pretty hard to do, so probably not. Could we win an SEC title? I think that we could be in contention for that, even if maybe not originally. If the question is could we be a national championship contender in the SEC? I'll answer that question with another question: Are we now? And if so how serious of a contender are we?
I hate to be the guy who sits on the fence, but that's really what is required of a thoughtful analysis of Tech's chances in football in the SEC. We won't win them all, and we won't lose them all. Those who say that's the case are "Living in a bubble Tech fans" or "Overcompensating SEC supremacists." If we were to join the SEC, we could help our football program and we could hurt it. But as long as Beamer is at Tech, then the Hokies will continue to field a competitive team independent of what conference they play in.
We ARE Virginia Tech: Aren't we?
As Joe from TKP (The Key Play) says in his argument for Tech to accept an SEC bid should it come "As it stands, the ACC is the best fit for Virginia Tech. I cannot disagree with that." That's my biggest argument. The ACC SUITS us. We are exactly where we should be in the ACC (at least for right now), and I think that it would be incredibly hard to argue with that.
We (the school, the administration and boosters and fans alike) were giddy at the chances of joining the ACC. We begged at their doorstep in Greensboro for years to let us in to no avail. We hoped against hope that when the ACC announced expansion plans that we were in the mix, only to find out that the ACC preferred Syracuse for their NYC market. We required the services of one former Governor Mark Warner, who prodded UVA hard until they insisted on our inclusion. And ever since it's hard for one of us to say that we haven't felt constant joy and exuberance with our situation. It's PERFECT for us. PERFECT. The relationship the Tech and the ACC have cultivated is just budding, and to be honest I still feel like we're on our honeymoon.
Even though there are plenty who would try to dispel this notion, the Hokies are still very much underdogs, or at least on the national scene. I embrace our underdog mentality. I want to maintain it. We can still reach our goals being the underdog. Going to the SEC would make us an underdog of sorts, yes, in that we would now be underdogs in the SEC. But then to everybody else, we're still the SEC. The perception of our program changes. We join the conference that is holier than thou. We give in to the bullies who taunted us for so long and in a way we admit "You were right, we needed you. You guys are the best!" To me, that seems like an uncomfortable situation and a hierarchy of power that we will never crack that the true Hokie fans I know would be unnerved by. We would be the new money in a conference of old money, and that doesn't ever go over well. It just wouldn't be a fit, and that is important and telling. We wouldn't fit geographically, regionally, historically, or academically. In the ACC, we're 4 for 4.
We should relish the opportunity to be the exception to the rule and buck an invitation to the SEC should it come. We should, as so many have put it, politely say "No, thank you. We like where we are, but we appreciate the offer." We should make a statement to the rest of the college football world that is caught up in conference expansion that there are factors, when combined, that outweigh money. We are in the perfect conference for us right now, and that's all that SHOULD matter.
So in the end, yes, the SEC can flash dollar bills at us. Yes, they can offer us the chance to put our name in stone and forge a deeper football history. But we can do that all by ourselves. We ARE Virginia Tech, and we don't NEED the SEC any more than we need that beautiful delicious looking slice of pie, enticing us, calling out to us after a wonderful dinner that left us full. It may look good and leave our mouth watering, but we're full as it is after our wonderful dinner.