Conference Realignment Is Not All About Football: Academics Matter Too

by Michigan Grad
(Tallahassee, FL)

I think you may have gotten a little carried away. The SEC is the best conference in football right now; however, there are NO members of the B1G interested in joining the SEC. Not because B1G football is necessarily better, but because SEC academics are so poor. This is the reason Missouri does not want to join the SEC, and Oklahoma approached the PAC-12 first.

Mizzou is a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU), and wishes to be a member of the Consortium for Inter-University Cooperation (CIC). (The CIC is an "academic conference" that includes the B1G schools and the University of Chicago, all of which are AAU schools.) Students and faculty at any CIC school have access to academic resources at any other CIC school. This is why Missouri is so desperately trying to get into the B1G over the SEC. (There is sharing among AAU schools, but not to the same extent as the AAU.) As for why Maryland prefers the B1G over the SEC, Maryland is also an AAU school.

Why is this interesting? Because Florida State and Oklahoma have aspirations to join the AAU. One of the top priorities for the FSU President search in 2009, was to locate an academic leader with AAU experience to guide the process. Boren, the Pres. at OU, has publicly stated multiple times that linking OU's law school and PhD programs to UCLA, Stanford, and the rest of the PAC-12 is a top goal for the school.

Why does this matter to the SEC? The application process to the AAU, assuming initial academic standards are met, requires a vote among the existing AAU members. A relatively small block of schools can blackball a university. For example, the 12 CIC (B1G plus Chicago) members were not able to protect Nebraska's membership from the jilted Big XII schools. As such, Nebraska's membership has been put on hold. If FSU wants to get into the AAU, they will certainly not abandon a conference with 7 AAU members to enter a conference with only 2 AAU members (Vandy and Florida). (3 when TAMU officially enters.)

Oklahoma could make the move with Boren as president if certain things fall into place. Texas A&M was recently added to the AAU. If the SEC manages to take TAMU and Missouri, then Oklahoma would be leaving a conference with only 3 AAU schools for a conference with 4 AAU schools. It would be a risky, but doable move.

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