"Ahhhh! Ahhhhhhhh! O-AHHHHH!"
--shady movie producer in "The Godfather"
The funniest thing we've heard about the coming re-alignment of the Southeastern Conference is that, should any Arkansas official vote against it, he'll find a feral hog head under his bedsheets the next morning.
But that assumes this is really such an easy call. Do fans of Arkansas athletics really want the two powerhouses in the Big 12 to come a-calling every year in the SEC?
A done deal, this may be. But should it be such an easy vote for University of Arkansas fans/athletes/officials?
Texas and Oklahoma made it semi-official this past week when both schools told the Big 12 that they would leave the conference in the coming years. (How soon depends on lawyers and payouts.) This week's formal notifications were required by the conference's bylaws. From multiple media accounts, both schools want to join the SEC. Which, around here, is pronounced SEC! SEC! SEC!
What this will do to the SEC and the Big 12 is a lot. The SEC has been the top sports conference for years. And not just in football--but football is a big part of that. Texas and Oklahoma have long sports histories in their own rights. Now the Beatles have got Elvis and Frank Sinatra. The two newcomers might have to agree to sing backup. And they seem fine with that.
The Big 12 could collapse. Are Baylor and Kansas State going to hold it together?
But the SEC is going to change as well. Bigly.
Member schools will have less opportunity to schedule non-conference teams. Alabama and Auburn might have to switch to the Eastern Division. (What do Georgia, Florida and Tennessee have to say about that?) There will be a lot more marquee matchups during the various sports seasons. SEC schools already have the reputation of beating up on each other during regular seasons, and this change--if it happens--will only add to that.
Word around the campfire is that Texas A&M might be the only current SEC school to vote no to the Texas-Oklahoma invitations. Which wouldn't be enough to keep the schools out. Another no vote wouldn't be enough, either--but why is Arkansas' vote considered preordained?
Even if Alabama and Auburn are pushed off to the Eastern Division (hallelujah!), the schedule for Arkansas in most sports wouldn't get much easier. In football, the Razorbacks would be trading the Tide for the Sooners and Auburn for Texas. In most years, that's not an easier draw.
On top of everything, recruiting to Fayetteville would likely take a hit. The Razorbacks recruit both Oklahoma and Baja Oklahoma. With "Come to the SEC" as a recruiting tool. That would disappear as an advantage.
Of course, we've buried the lede. By inviting Texas and Oklahoma to join its ranks, the SEC is looking at a lot more money for member schools. Millions more. Per school. Per year. How much money is anybody's guess at this point. It depends on how much TV revenue comes in, or is anticipated. (In December, before Texas and Oklahoma were heard from, the SEC announced a deal with ESPN valued at $300 million--a year.)
So has money won out? And what does this do to Arkansas' ability to compete year in, year out? And in all sports, men and women?
We are gratified to be able to answer promptly. We don't know. (Twain, Mark.)
Or as Arkansas' most-read sports reporter put it in his column Tuesday: "In the days and weeks to come, there will be great speculation and discussion about Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC. It will be years before we know how it affects teams such as the University of Arkansas."--Wally Hall
This expansion in the SEC--getting Elvis and Frank--may be a done deal. But fans of the University of Arkansas might still have many questions. And might even want some answers.