Alabama AD doesn't see SEC expanding near term

LAS VEGAS -- Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne said Wednesday he doesn't expect the SEC to further expand "in the short term" while speaking at the Sports Business Journal's LEARFIELD Intercollegiate Athletics Forum.

"I sure think so," Byrne said when he was asked if the conference is done adding more teams. "I can tell you there's nothing that is out there that I foresee where there's going to be major disruption in the short term. And you never know down the road, each campus, the challenges, the pressures they face are different."

Last year, Texas and Oklahoma shocked the college football world by announcing they would be leaving the Big 12 for the SEC in 2025. There is an expectation that both programs could move sooner than that.

Byrne was part of a panel Wednesday that included Kansas State athletic director Gene Taylor, who spoke on the teams' departure to the SEC as well.

"We were caught by surprise when Texas and OU left," Taylor said. "We recovered nicely. Do I think it will settle? I hope it will settle. But we just don't ever know ... We did not see that coming, so don't lock your knees."

Expansion has been prevalent in college football over the past two seasons. As Taylor pointed out, the Pac-12 was also caught off guard when, earlier this year, USC and UCLA produced a similar landscape-altering move by announcing they would be leaving the Pac-12 and joining the Big Ten in 2024.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, also speaking at the conference Wednesday, said he echoed Byrne's comments regarding expansion.

"I'm not a recruiter," Sankey said. "We're focused on the growth to 16. We don't have a number in mind, we think we're really well-positioned ... but I won't predict what others will do."

When Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren was asked Wednesday on a separate panel at the conference whether the Big Ten was done expanding, he said: "For now."

ACC commissioner Jim Phillips said the conference is "always looking" when it comes to expanding.

"We're always assessing our institution and assessing to see if there are moves that would benefit the ACC in the long term," Phillips said. "But bigger is not necessarily always better."

Phillips also acknowledged a level of "envy" when it comes to media rights deals that the SEC and Big Ten have secured, but he added that he believes the ACC is positioned well heading forward.

Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff, meanwhile, said the conference is taking a wait-and-see approach to expansion.

"We don't feel any sense of urgency," Kliavkoff said Wednesday, later adding that the UC regents' decision on UCLA's Big Ten membership has "significantly impacted the timeline" of a new media deal, as has the hiring of Deion Sanders by Colorado because he "absolutely adds value."

According to Kliavkoff, the Pac-12 will first await a decision by the UC regents on the Bruins' move to the Big Ten before pursuing and closing on a new media rights deal (the board is set to make its decision at its Dec. 14 meeting). Following a deal, which Kliavkoff said will likely be done in the first quarter of 2023, the conference will focus on securing a grant of rights agreement before turning its attention to expansion.

For the Big 12, expansion is already coming soon. The conference is set to add UCF, BYU, Houston and Cincinnati next season in response to Texas and Oklahoma leaving for the SEC, but commissioner Brett Yormark said Wednesday the conference isn't done.

"Expansion is something we're still considering," Yormark said. "We are open for business when it comes to expansion."

As Yormark noted, next year's expansion will put the Big 12 in three time zones, but he's hoping that the conference will make its way into the fourth time zone (Pacific) as well.

Of expanding to the West, Yormark said confidently: "We will at some point."