SEC baseball dominates College World Series. How to turn up heat? Raid the ACC | Toppmeyer

Greg Sankey bragged about the SEC’s baseball performance to anybody who’d listen throughout the conference’s spring meetings late last month.

And why not?

Since Sankey became commissioner, the SEC strengthened its grip on baseball supremacy.

SEC baseball produced five of the past six NCAA champions. Most impressively, five different schools accounted for those titles, showing the league’s depth. The SEC also supplied the national runner-up four times during that span, and it qualified 11 teams for this season’s NCAA Tournament.

That success rivals the league’s football dominance.

Just imagine what might be around the corner. There’s a future in which SEC baseball becomes even stronger. How? Peep the ACC.

SEC, ACC fill College World Series

The SEC accounts for four of the eight teams in Omaha at this year’s College World Series. The ACC supplied the other four. If the SEC expands beyond 16 teams, raiding the ACC is likely where it would turn, and some of the ACC’s best baseball schools could interest the SEC.

The SEC, although content with 16 members, keeps the door cracked to further expansion.

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Realignment paused after the Pac-12 fell into ruin last summer, but the carousel would regain motion if ACC schools find an escape hatch from the conference’s sticky grant of rights deal. That media rights contract runs through 2036. So far, that agreement has glued the ACC’s membership together, but FSU and Clemson are suing the conference.

If the ACC fractures, I would expect the SEC to have some level of interest in at least four schools: North Carolina, Florida State, Clemson and Virginia.

Three of those schools – UNC, FSU and Virginia – join the SEC’s quartet in Omaha. North Carolina State completes the CWS field.

Football, media rights deals and money drive realignment, and, from that perspective, Virginia wouldn’t move the needle much as the other three ACC schools I’ve highlighted as potential expansion targets. FSU and Clemson, especially, would mesh with the SEC’s geography, identity, brand and football backbone.

However, consider past SEC expansions. The conference’s track record shows a preference to grow its footprint into neighboring terrain with schools that unite with the league’s Southern identity. North Carolina and Virginia are booming states in the South. Snapping UNC and Virginia into place would complete the SEC’s Southern puzzle, extending the league’s footprint to encompass the entire region.

Plus, UNC and Virginia join FSU in boasting well-rounded athletic departments – not unlike Texas and Oklahoma.

SEC does well in Directors’ Cup. So does the ACC

Ever heard of the Learfield Directors’ Cup? If not, that’s probably because you don’t work for Learfield, and you’re not an athletics director.

The Directors’ Cup measures schools’ success across all sports.

The Directors’ Cup also is a means to pad athletic directors’ paychecks. Many ADs receive contracted bonuses depending on their school’s Directors’ Cup finish. For instance, Tennessee AD Danny White will earn a $194,000 bonus for the Vols’ Directors’ Cup performance. The Vols are third in the standings ahead of the CWS.

Bonuses aside, the award quantifies an athletic department’s overall health. More than one or two good teams are needed for a school to fare well in the Directors' Cup.

Texas just won the Directors’ Cup for the third time in the past four years. Pop the champagne in Austin?

No fan enters an athletic season dreaming of the Directors’ Cup. Better chance a Texas fan raises Hook ‘em after a four-star recruit commits than in honor of another cup capture. But, the standings reflect whether a school enjoyed a strong year of performance, including postseason qualifications across a variety of sports.

As you’d expect, the SEC stands tall in the Directors’ Cup standings. So does the ACC. In fact, the ACC compares favorably to the Big Ten in these standings.

Five SEC schools are ranked within the cup’s top 15: Tennessee (third), Florida (fourth), Alabama (eighth), Texas A&M (12th) and LSU (14th). Tennessee, Florida and Texas A&M join Kentucky as the SEC’s four teams in Omaha, so more Directors’ Cup points await.

Virginia, North Carolina and FSU also rank in the top 15 of the Director’s Cup standings.

Interesting, huh?

(Clemson is 35th.)

Where does SEC expansion go from here?

I’m not suggesting the SEC would pursue an expansion target purely because of its Directors’ Cup standings, but the overall athletics health of some top ACC schools would tease the SEC.

The SEC likes money. It likes winning trophies, too – and not just in football.

ACC schools like UNC, FSU, Virginia and Clemson would hold up in the SEC in many sports. That includes baseball.

Sending four teams to Omaha is darn good, but having seven of eight would give the SEC even more reason to peacock, while administrators counted their cup bonuses.

Blake Toppmeyer is the USA TODAY Network's SEC Columnist. Email him at BToppmeyer@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer.

Also, check out his podcast, SEC Football Unfilteredand newsletter, SEC Football UnfilteredSubscribe to read all of his columns.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: SEC dominates College World Series. What if it raids ACC for FSU, UNC?

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