When all the conference realignment was taking place at the beginning of this current decade, the SEC had several options when looking for teams to add to their 12-team conference. The conference wasn't looking to add two big-time schools like Florida State or Texas, but they weren't going to settle for some run-of-the-mill programs either. Ultimately, they chose to add Missouri and Texas A&M, expanding the conference out west and opening up new recruiting channels, especially in Texas for football.
But how have these two teams fared since joining the SEC in 2012? And what if the SEC had decided to add two different teams? How do Missouri and Texas A&M compare to other teams that could've been added to the SEC over the last three years?
Each program will be judged by the success of the three major men's athletics: Football, basketball, and baseball. Since all these programs have these teams, they will serve as an accurate barometer of their success.
The Missouri Tigers have been an interesting mixed bag since joining the SEC. They were added because they were thought to bring a mix of a stellar basketball program and a football program what had found itself in the 2000's. Missouri also brought along with it a strong baseball history marked by seven straight NCAA Tournament appearances from 2003-10.
Missouri's debut season in the SEC, however, did not go as planned. The Tigers football team was plagued by injuries and finished 5-7, the team's first losing record since 2004. The baseball team posted their worst record since 1995 by going 18-32 and finishing with their worst conference winning percentage since 2002. The basketball team was the only team to have even marginal success, going 23-11 and earning a bid to the NCAA Tournament where they were eliminated in the 1st round.
Since their first season in the conference, Missouri has shown major improvement in football, wining the SEC East for two consecutive seasons. But the football team has been the only program that's shown substantial improvement for the Tigers.
The basketball team more or less stayed the same in their second season, posting a 24-12 record and making the NIT Tournament. The 2014-15 season, however, saw new head coach Kim Anderson take a depleted roster to a mere 9-23 record, finishing last in the SEC with a 3-15 conference record. The baseball team has shown minor improvement since the 2013 season. 2014 saw the Tigers earn a better overall record (20-33) but a worse SEC record (6-24), but the Tigers bounced back in 2015 with a 30-28 record and a 15-15 conference record. While mediocre, it's still a step in the right direction for the Tigers.
Luckily for Missouri, football is the name of the game in the SEC. The Tigers have flourished the last two seasons in football despite the floundering of their other two major sports.
Texas A&M Aggies
Unlike Missouri, Texas A&M has been quite consistent in all three sports and has become better in both basketball and baseball since joining the conference. The Aggies were added to give a direct link to recruits in Texas for football and open up those television markets as well. It helped that Texas A&M had a strong history in football as well, along with a strong fan following.
The Aggies hit the ground running in 2012 on the football field with quarterback Johnny Manziel at the helm, soaring to an 11-2 overall record and Cotton Bowl victory. Since then, the Aggies have trailed off a bit, going 9-4 and 8-5 the last two seasons. But they've won all three bowl games they've made it to since joining the SEC, and after hiring John Chavis as their defensive coordinator, the Aggies have finally addressed the one aspect of their football team that has plagued them since joining the SEC.
Texas A&M's basketball team was stagnant in its first two seasons, going a mediocre 18-15 and 18-16 in their first two years. Last season, however, saw them make a strong push for the NCAA Tournament. They fell just short, though, and ended up getting bounced in the 2nd round of the NIT and finishing 21-12.
As successful as the football team has been, Texas A&M's baseball team has actually been the most successful of the three Aggies teams. The baseball team has made the NCAA Tournament all three years since joining the SEC, and this last season is proving to be their best so far. After finishing the regular season 43-10, the Aggies advanced to the NCAA Super Regional Monday night after defeating California. The Aggies have a chance to have their best season since a College World Series appearance in 2011.
The Aggies have been no slouch since joining the SEC, as all three of their major teams have proven they can compete in the conference.
But, what if...
What if the SEC had looked in a different direction and decided to add a different combination of teams before the 2012 season? Here are a few teams that could've been added to the SEC instead of Missouri and Texas A&M and how they've done in their respective conferences since 2012.
Note: This is purely based on speculation. None of these teams are known to have been in conversations with the SEC about being added to the conference during the expansion in 2012.
When conferences were expanding in 2012, West Virginia would've been a logical choice for the SEC to add to their conference. The Big East team offered a solid basketball program that also had a rich history in football. Even their baseball team had garnered success over the years.
Instead, West Virginia joined the Big 12 in 2012, and they've had mixed results. Their first season in the Big 12 was a rocky one, as the basketball team finished 13-19 and the football team stumbled to a 7-6 record. The baseball team was the only team with some success, finishing tied for third in the conference and earning a 33-26 record.
The next two seasons saw both the football and baseball team revel in mediocrity, but the basketball team improved every season. The Mountaineers went 17-16 in their second Big 12 season, making it to the NIT. Last season, however, saw them return to form and reach the Sweet Sixteen before getting demolished by Kentucky, finishing the season with a 25-10 record.
West Virginia proved in the Big East that it was a power in both football and basketball. And while it has trailed off significantly in football, their basketball program has finally gotten back to where they once were. SEC basketball could've used the Mountaineers, but the other sports would have fallen short.
The main reason Virginia Tech would've been looked at to join the SEC would've been football, and that's completely understandable given their history. Before 2012, the Hokies were an ACC power, winning 10 or more games in eight straight seasons and reaching that mark in 11 of the last 13 seasons before 2012.
Since then, however, the Hokies have hit a rough patch in football. Virginia Tech has failed to win more than 8 games in a single season since 2012 despite beating eventual National Champions Ohio State in 2014. The basketball and baseball teams haven't fared much better either.
The Hokies have been dreadful in basketball over the last three years, posting records of 13-19, 9-22, and 11-22. The baseball team had a strong 2013 campaign, going 40-22 that season and making the NCAA Tournament. Since then, however, the Hokies have failed to breach the .500 mark since head coach Pete Hughes left after the 2013 season.
Virginia Tech has a strong football history, but they've dwindled over the last few seasons. And with that as their only solid offering at this point, they likely wouldn't have fit in well with the SEC.
Getting a pipeline to both Carolinas would've been a good addition for the SEC, but nabbing North Carolina or Duke would've been all but impossible for the conference since those two teams are so tied to the ACC in basketball. But NC State could've been that link had the SEC chosen them.
The Wolfpack have had mild success in football over the last few years, but they have a stronger offering in the other two major sports. The football team has gone 7-6, 3-9, and 8-5 over the last three seasons. Not exactly the most stellar track record, but the 2014 campaign was impressive considering NC State won 8 games after a 3-win 2013 season.
However, NC State boasts one of the more consistent basketball programs in the ACC, at least over the last three seasons. The Wolfpack have won at least 22 games in each of the last three seasons and have made the NCAA Tournament in every one of those seasons as well. They even topped off the 2014-15 season with a Sweet Sixteen appearance.
Not only has NC State had success in basketball, but their baseball team hasn't been too shabby either. The Wolfpack made it to the College World Series in 2013 and ended with a 50-16 overall record. The next season saw them dip back down to 32-23, but 2015 saw them return to form with a 36-22 record and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Overall, NC State offers a solid package and opens up a pipeline to a fertile recruiting ground in North Carolina. But their shaky performance in college's biggest sport, football, is their biggest knock against them.
The Louisville Cardinals have been in flux for the last few seasons when it comes to conference affiliation, going from the Big East in 2012 to the Athletic Conference in 2013 to the ACC in 2014-15. All that movement, however, didn't detract from Louisville's success.
While it's unlikely the SEC would've added Louisville in 2012 or 2013, the Cardinals would've been a huge addition to the conference. They're a rare triple threat when it comes to their three major sports, as they've had massive success in all three major sports the last three years.
The Cardinals football team went 11-2 in 2012 and followed that up with a 12-1 2013 campaign, making it the best season for Louisville since a 12-1 season in 2006. While 2014 saw them dip down to 9-4, the Cardinals have still had an impressive run in football the last few seasons.
But as impressive as the football team has been, the basketball team has been even better. The Cardinals won the National Championship to cap off the 2012-13 season and have made deep runs in the two postseasons since. Louisville reached the Sweet Sixteen in 2014 and the Elite Eight in 2015, totaling 93 wins in those three seasons.
Even Louisville's baseball team has had resounding success over the last three years. The Cardinals made back-to-back College World Series appearances in 2013 and 2014, and they have a chance to make it back this season after advancing to the Super Regionals by downing Michigan on Monday.
Louisville likely was too difficult of a pull for the SEC, and considering they likely were looking for more football powers, Louisville wasn't their top choice. Throw in the fact that they already occupy a state with an SEC team in it (Kentucky), and that made the Cardinals a less enticing addition. But no doubt about it; Louisville has the pedigree to fit in the SEC.
Did the SEC make the right choice?
It's hard to argue against the two teams the SEC brought in considering the kind of success both Texas A&M and Missouri have had. Missouri's depth of success may not be as strong, but they've shown an ability to compete on the biggest stage in the biggest sport. The Aggies have certainly shown their mettle as well.
But cases can be made that the SEC should've brought in other teams as well. The success of other schools over the last three years can justify those arguments. But it's also hard to argue with the growth and success of the SEC over the last three years since bringing in Missouri and Texas A&M.
Did the SEC get it right? Give us your feedback and let us know in the comments.