There are multiple potential expansion candidates on this list that I personally believe the SEC should avoid that are among the best academic institutions that also have D1 athletic programs. The next up on this list that clearly fits into that bucket is the Duke Blue Devils.
Duke is one of the most highly regarded non-Ivy League academic institutions in the country, if not the entire world. The Blue Devils also boast one of the best men’s basketball programs in the country and a host of other smaller athletic programs that are consistently competitive on the national scene.
Baseball and softball have both improved dramatically in recent years at Duke. The men’s basketball and lacrosse programs also consistently compete for national titles year in and year out.
But Duke is limited by a clear ceiling on this football program. And it’s hard to imagine a situation where new head coach and former Texas A&M Aggies defensive coordinator Mike Elko lifts Duke to greater heights than at some points in the last decade under former head coach David Cutcliffe. The work that Cutcliffe did in the last decade or so lifted the program to heights it hadn’t seen since the 1930s and 40s. Cutcliffe even led Duke to its first double-digit win season in program history in 2013.
Elko will clearly have his work cut out for him at Duke trying to rebuild this program in the wake of Cutcliffe’s departure. And while Elko does have some SEC coaching experience under his belt from his time as Texas A&M’s defensive coordinator from 2018-2021, that’s not enough to warrant an invite as a priority expansion candidate from the SEC.