If SEC expands again, consider 4 ACC teams. But what about Notre Dame football? | Toppmeyer (2024)

  • Greg Sankey isn't rabidly eyeing more SEC expansion, but he didn't close the door on the idea. With that in mind, monitor a few ACC schools. What of Notre Dame?
  • Would Notre Dame be a shoo-in for the College Football Playoff as a two-loss team? Nope. Not with the Irish's schedule.
  • Kalen DeBoer will be a different type of coach and personality than Nick Saban.

MIRAMAR BEACH, Fla. — Greg Sankey could have said: We're not interested in further expansion.

He didn't say that.

When I asked the SEC commissioner this week about the conference’s appetite for additional growth beyond 16 teams, Sankey kept the door cracked to the idea.

I should add, he didn’t express a rabid desire to expand immediately. But I exited SEC spring meetings thinking that if the right schools were available and not bound by media rights agreements with their current conference, the SEC might have interest.

“Our focus has been on our 16,” Sankey said, “but I pay attention (to the landscape).”

The question is: Which schools would pique the SEC’s interest? This conference doesn’t expand for the sake of expansion. There’s no Rutgers in the SEC’s membership.

A few ACC members, though, might intrigue the SEC, if those schools can unlock an escape hatch within the ACC’s sticky media rights deal that so far has prevented defections.

Conference realignment lingers on the mind of my devoted readers.

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Also, I touched a nerve recently by suggesting Notre Dame — and its accommodating schedule — looms as the top threat to the SEC qualifying more than four teams for the 12-team College Football Playoff.

Let’s answer some mail.

Nolen writes: There’s only four possible teams (for SEC expansion). FSU; Clemson; N Carolina, & the Red Sox of CFB (Notre Dame).

Miami? I’d rather have UCF. Miami has “no” fans. Yes, they can buy a team, but some DII schools have more loyal fans.

My response: I agree with three of your four: Florida State, Clemson and North Carolina.

Notre Dame remains an unlikely fit for the SEC. If the Irish ever surrender their independence, I expect the Big Ten to become their home. I agree Miami doesn’t mesh with the SEC’s vibe. That’s a beach-party city, not a college football town.

I think North Carolina would most appeal to the SEC. A big brand, and UNC would expand the footprint into bordering terrain. The Tar Heels would deliver the growing Charlotte market, where the SEC Network is based.

FSU and Clemson fit the league's culture. They’d enter with natural rivals and solidify the SEC as a football behemoth.

I'd add one more to the list of FSU, Clemson and UNC: Virginia. Although Virginia doesn't move the needle from where I sit, the SEC could view Virginia more favorably. Adding a school with a Southern identity in a neighboring state would fit previous rounds of SEC expansion.

Would the SEC add four ACC schools? Adding two and growing to 18 is a better bet. Previous rounds of SEC expansion included only two teams.

Donald writes: Hey, nimrod. Saban is a LEADER. Your point is poorly taken, and unsubstantiated.

My response: Here we have a Saban acolyte protecting his king from a slight that didn’t occur. I didn’t write that Saban wasn’t a leader. Nice use of "nimrod," though.

I opined that Saban’s replacement, Kalen DeBoer, will be different in style and personality from his predecessor. DeBoer passed on the chance for a self-righteous lecture this week on a topic that almost certainly would’ve gotten Saban worked up.

Multiple things can be true: Saban is the GOAT. DeBoer will be a different type of coach. And DeBoer can be a winner despite not being a Saban clone.

I find it refreshing that Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne didn't force the hire of a Saban imitation. DeBoer is his own man. His composure, confidence and humility will serve him well as he embarks on the monumental task of replacing Saban.

Anthony writes (in response to me highlighting Notre Dame’s forgiving schedule): Texas A&M, Louisville, Florida State, USC. You are just a (expletive) hating clown!

Notre Dame will definitely be one of the best teams in the country in 2024. I didn’t hear you crowing about Michigan’s easy-ass schedule last year idiot! You have lost ALL credibility.

My response: Notre Dame must play Southern Cal (the Big Ten’s fifth-best team) and Louisville, when they’re not facing Northern Illinois, Miami (Ohio), Stanford, Virginia and the service academies?!?

My goodness! Katy, bar the door.

Michigan went undefeated. If the Irish go undefeated, they should be in the playoff. But, if they lose two games, their résumé will warrant scrutiny.

John writes: Notre Dane has had a candy-ass schedule for years. They play Army & Navy every year. I would kill for Alabama to have that schedule.

My response: I'm thinking the Irish might have stolen a copy of Kentucky's schedule. Northern Illinois, Purdue and Miami (Ohio) to open the season . . . that's Mark Stoops' theme music!

David writes: I'm a ND fan, but I'm not here to rant or rave. You were 100% correct. I am not for sure how good FSU or USC will be. I think ND could sneak in with one loss, maybe. But two losses, no way. I know it will be a difficult game against A&M.

My response: I appreciate the level-headed note, but you missed the chance to call me a "nimrod."

Blake Toppmeyeris the USA TODAY Network's SEC Columnist. Email him atBToppmeyer@gannett.comand follow him on Twitter@btoppmeyer.

Also, check out his podcast,SEC Football Unfiltered,and newsletter,SEC Football Unfiltered.Subscribeto read all of his columns.

If SEC expands again, consider 4 ACC teams. But what about Notre Dame football? | Toppmeyer (2024)
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