While it's become clear that the SEC has become the dominant football conference, the depths of Commissioner Mike Slive's ambition for his league were not completely clear. Not until now.
Sources in both Lexington and Birmingham have confirmed to DBRÂ what's next on the Commissioner's agenda. Sources at Duke have also confirmed the following, but requested anonymity because of the delicacy of the situation.
The Southeastern Conference is deep into negotiations with Duke and UNC and "expects to extend an invitation to both within days," according to both SEC sources.
The SEC is only interested in the pair together for several compelling reasons.
- the SEC can expand its Atlantic footprint from Florida toÂ Â the Virginia border with a presence in every state
- the addition of the ACC juggernauts will put basketball on a similar plane to where SEC football already is
- the SEC will gut the ACC's crown jewel, basketball ("Swive learned something from Johnny Swofford has done to the Big East," our Â Â Â Lexington source told us. "But he's vastly more patient and more Â Â Â strategic. He's playing chess while Swofford is playing checkers. And he's moving the ACC into checkmate.")
- The SEC is promising Duke and UNC home-and-home with Kentucky and Florida, which will probably mean a return to divisions in someÂ as yet undeterminedÂ way.
- The SEC also gets a better academic beard, as Duke, UNC andÂ Â Vanderbilt are all superb academic institutitions.
What's in it for Duke and UNC? Well, aside from the SEC's financial allure, both schools were disillusioned by the first round of expansion, which brought in BC, Miami and Virginia Tech ("UNC hates having Tech in the ACC," our Birmingham source told us, "because they recruit the Tidewater region so well. UNC has really had to work harder to recruit there lately.")
They did support the second round, but as a way to address problems from the first, primarily the dilution of basketball.
"But," says a Duke source, "we didn't realize the problems Syracuse has. Who wants to be associated with pedophilia allegations? And then the other problems - the drug use, players saying they slept with Bernie Fine's wife - who needs it? We used to make fun of the SEC but when everything is said and done at Syracuse, people will be completely shocked at what comes out. The SEC will look fine by comparison. And we'll be part of it."
The ACC, needless to say, is panicked and, according to all sources, trying to salvage the situation. But says one," it's just about too late. The deal is all but done. Mike Slive is 71 and ready to step down. But he wants toÂ leave the SEC as the dominant force in college athletics before he goes. This will be the capstone to his career."
Duke Basketball Blue Book
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