Let's say the Big Ten doesn't have all the leverage in expansion.
Let's say the conference has been warned. Warned beyond Mike Slive's cryptic threat last week in Phoenix.
Let's say that if the Big Ten gets too big, too quick it could be met with a crippling retaliatory strike from the SEC. Let's say that strike could vault the SEC past the Big Ten in the current revenue pecking order.
That's what this is all about in the first place -- the Big Ten pumping $22 million per year to its teams and keeping the SEC in second place ($17 million per team). If the Big Ten senses that it could lose its position in the marketplace then expansion could be off, or extremely limited.
For the sake of argument, let's assume that Notre Dame is out of play for the Big Ten. The question I've asked from the beginning still exists: What combination of teams bring at least $22 million a year to the table for the Big Ten? I can't think of a combo although the Chicago Tribune quoted a league source a while ago saying, "We can all get richer if we get the right team or teams."
Richer, maybe, but not richer than the SEC?
What that source didn't point out was the SEC may be able to call and raise the Big Ten in this high stakes game of Hold 'Em. Make that Texas Hold 'Em. If the SEC can potentially out-earn the Big Ten that tells me that Texas may be in play for the SEC. If not the Longhorns then certainly Miami and Florida State. Maybe Miami, Florida State and Texas.
Look at this way: If the SEC can get Miami, Florida State, Texas and Texas A&M that potentially brings the South Florida and state of Texas markets into the league. The SEC would own the South even more than it does now. It would reach from Texas to the Deep South to South Florida. Think a league that contained the Gators, Noles and Canes be any good?
According to industry sources, most television contracts in these cases can be re-opened and renegotiated in cases of such radical membership change.
Would such a move be enough to pass whatever expansion package the Big Ten can put together? Let's say the Big Ten has been warned. Facing that kind of uncertainty, the league might back off. Call it mutual disarmament.