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EXPANSION AND DIVISIONS
The college sports world could be in for a major shake-up. The first tremor was the Big Ten's announcement in December that it would invite Penn State to join the conference. Next came Notre Dame's decision in February to break with the College Football Association (CFA) and cut a separate, five-year, $38 million deal with NBC for the rights to Fighting Irish home games starting in 1991. Then last week the presidents of the 10 SEC schools voted to expand their conference, probably to 12 members and perhaps to 14, as soon as suitable candidates can be found. Schools that might be courted include Miami, Florida State, South Carolina, Arkansas and Louisville.
Although the SEC set no timetable for expansion—"It could happen over a period of several months, or years, or more," says commissioner Roy Kramer—the eventual benefits are obvious. NCAA rules allow a Division I football conference with 12 or more members (no such conference yet exists) to split into divisions and hold a championship game that doesn't count against the regular-season limit of 11 games per team. Such a title game would be a huge money-maker for the SEC.
In addition, depending on which schools are added, an expanded SEC could appeal to a geographically broader audience and thereby command heftier TV contracts. The conference is locked into the CFA's five-year, $300 million deal with ABC and ESPN through 1995, but after that the SEC might well negotiate a combined football and basketball package for itself. Adding a couple more perennial Top 20 schools such as Miami and Florida State would only enhance the SEC's appeal.
There are drawbacks. The SEC already is strong in football, and the addition of the Hurricanes or the Seminoles would make schedules even more rigorous for conference members. Tough intraconference competition is one reason no SEC team since Georgia in 1980 has won a national football title.
And one might ask why, say, Florida State, a football independent that writes its own schedule and doesn't have to share its considerable gridiron revenues with anyone, would surrender those benefits to join the SEC. The answer: stability and shared revenues in all sports. "You don't just say no to a conference that's been as prestigious as the SEC," says Seminole athletic director Bob Goin. "The next move is the SEC's. If we're one of the teams they ask, then we'd definitely look into it."
The college landscape may soon be notably different. "The Penn State-Big Ten deal got everybody thinking about bigger conferences with division structure," says LSU chancellor Bud Davis. Predicts Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles, "There will be dramatic changes nationwide in conference alignment over the next 12 months."
REINVENTING THE WHEEL
Last year, while investigating possible race fixing and drug trafficking at Finger Lakes Race Track in Canandaigua, N.Y., the FBI spent nearly $5,000 to buy an undercover racehorse. The bureau sent in the horse and an agent posing as the horse's shady, high-rolling owner. "It was a way to give us a good look at the track and give us credibility there," says Robert Langford, special agent in charge of the FBI's Buffalo office. "We had good results."