LSU Chancellor Michael Martin talks about SEC expansion possibilities in this question and answer session:
On the meeting of SEC chancellors and presidents Tuesday night:
“There was a letter we received dated Sept. 2 that said there was a solid commitment from all the Big 12 members that we could add Texas A&M without the threat of legal sanction.
“While most of us were in transit (to the meeting), the commissioner (Mike Slive) got a call saying there was one school (Baylor) not endorsing the commitment to let A&M join another conference.
“We got stuck saying we would have voted unanimously if the conditions existed as we understood them from the Sept. 2 letter. We said if there were no legal entanglements that Texas A&M would be unanimously invited into the SEC.
“Now we’re waiting it out. It will sort itself out, but I don’t think it (the process with A&M) is over by any means.”
Do you think despite the current snag that A&M will eventually find its way into the SEC?
“I think A&M has gone an awful long way down this road. It’s hard for me to conceive of a set of circumstances that will cause A&M to turn back. It may get delayed for some period, but I don’t see them turning back.
“I think it will happen. We may play a year with 13 then 14 at some point, then who goes for 16 and when.”
Assuming Texas A&M becomes the SEC’s 13th member, where does the conference go from there?
“Obviously at some point you’re not going to have an odd number. At some point we will have further conversation for who would be appropriate to be No. 14 and be a member of the best athletic conference in America. We have talked about criteria.”
What type of schools do you think the SEC is looking for to be No. 14?
“It would surprise me if we would add a team that is in our current geographic footprint. The consensus is the teams within our current geographic footprint have the right mix of schools in it, and to add schools within that footprint wouldn’t be best.
“I think we would start by looking at schools contiguous to our area but not in it. It has to be Southeast-ish.
“One of the things we like about Texas A&M is it’s an AAU (American Association of Universities) school, a Land Grant school, and is about the same size as most of our schools except for Vanderbilt. They have very long athletic traditions that are special to its alumni and fans.”
Would Texas A&M become a major rival, if not the biggest rival, for LSU?
“I don’t think there’s any question about it. Part of the reason is we have a huge alumni base in Texas. That helps create that sense of rivalry when you have people in Texas walking around wearing purple and gold.
“And we have a history of playing them. The Cotton Bowl was our 50th meeting (in football). It’s a great opportunity for us.”
If you add Texas A&M and another school from the west side of the SEC you’re also talking about divisional realignment. Is that impacting the thinking about a potential 14th team?
“I think the conversation probably tilts toward the east for that reason, among others.”
It seems the SEC has tried to be careful about making sure it’s not taking an active member away from a conference that hasn’t already said it’s leaving.
“We don’t want to look like jerks. We don’t want to look like the conference that’s trying to maul the other conferences, including the Big 12. It (expansion) won’t be initiated by the SEC. We want to maintain our integrity in that regard.”
What is your position on realignment in general?
“I don’t know if realignment is good or bad for college athletics. But the nature of the game now is to cluster programs that compliment each other academically and athletically, and crassly, so we can generate enough money to support big-time athletic programs. That is the equation that we’re living with. It is what it is.”
It must be a very weighty thing to be among the people considering the future of where this conference and college athletics is going.
“It is. What helps is the board members of the SEC are all really good folks who get along with each other. There is a shared wisdom. If you left it to us individually it would boggle the mind. We have a superb commissioner in Mike Slive. We never come to a meeting unprepared.
“Even if I weren’t involved, it would be fun to come to these meetings. It is a fascinating time to be sitting in the room.”