Sunday, July 15, 2012

SEC Division alignment: Don’t try to fix what ain’t broke, y’all

image In a column today, the Birmingham News’ Jon Solomon reminds us that there’s really not much wrong with the current seven-team, two-division alignment of the country’s most competitive football conference. Will the addition of Texas A&M and Missouri upset what has become a respectable balance of power? Who knows. Time will tell. Yadda, yadda.

What we do know is that over the last two decades, nothing is broken so, why fix it?

Solomon revisits the toxic idea of moving Auburn to the SEC East and Missouri to the SEC West, a move that benefits Auburn only and hurts everyone else.

Ultimately, the majority of SEC presidents and chancellors supported Missouri, but divisions became a major sticking point. Auburn President Jay Gogue said last September he would be willing to have Auburn shift to the SEC East if that's what was necessary to make the SEC's expansion work.

The Birmingham News reported last fall that Alabama was among the minority that wanted the 14th school from the East Coast but would support Missouri if it joined the SEC East. Alabama's reasoning: Keep its annual cross-divisional rivalry game against Tennessee, and not watch Auburn move to the East and possibly grow its recruiting presence in talent-rich Florida and Georgia.

"Certainly there were a lot of discussions on a lot of different levels from the presidential level on down," Womack said without elaborating.

If you know anything about Alabama’s opposition to shifting Auburn to the East to make room for Mizzou, know this: It is all about the Third Saturday in October Rivalry and maintaining competitive balance in the conference. Worry about Auburn’s recruiting in Georgia and Florida? Not so much.

Auburn, like every other SEC school, already recruits the talent rich territory of the SEC East’s two most populous states. They do Ok.

Moving Auburn to the East division would have two devastating impacts on SEC tradition and therefore, SEC prestige.

First, it would end that storied, bitter rivalry game between Alabama and Tennessee. Make no mistake about it, folks. That is the marquee rivalry game in this conference and it’s been that way since the conference was founded.

Alabama vs. Tennessee is the annual Clash of the Titans in SEC football lore.

Tennessee has beaten Alabama 38 times. No other school in the country has beaten Alabama 38 times. Tennessee has 13 SEC Championships. No other school in the league is as close to Alabama’s 22. Beginning in 1995 with Peyton Manning as a sophomore in Knoxville, Tennessee ran off a streak of seven straight victories. No team in the SEC has ever beaten Alabama seven straight times and it may not ever happen again. Tennessee rightfully claims six National Championships. No other team in the SEC is as close as Alabama’s 14.

The games have meant more than any other matchup in the league because so many of these games have determined the SEC Championship, Sugar Bowl berths and whether either of the two would be in the National Championship race. Ten years before Alabama’s 2009 Return to Glory, Alabama won its 21st SEC Championship. Its only SEC loss that season was to Tennessee. During that 2009 run a decade later, Tennessee again tried to blemish Bama’s SEC title run and it took two blocked field goals from Terrence Cody to seal the 12-10 victory.

The average score in the series is Alabama 16, Tennessee 13.

Solomon says that Alabama was “in the minority” opposing Auburn’s move to the East. Also in that “minority” was Tennessee who, like Alabama, wants no part of ending the rivalry.

Auburn’s move to the East would almost certainly do so. Auburn would become Alabama’s permanent SEC East rival. In the 6-1-1 schedule format, Tennessee would have to move off of the Tide’s annual slate.

That, ladies and gentlemen, would be a unmitigated disaster for the league and an undeserved windfall for Auburn. No longer would they face the brutal SEC West schedule that includes Alabama, LSU and Arkansas. Instead, they’d trade up to cupcakes Kentucky and Vanderbilt, take our annual game vs. Tennessee and keep their rivalry with Georgia.

Secondly, as Solomon points out as well, Auburn would become one of four of the SEC’s Big Six in the new SEC East, joining Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. Beating two of those three is a virtual inside track to the SEC Championship Game, as no one else is even close to .500 in conference play.

How does that benefit anyone except Auburn, and exactly WTF makes them think they’re so special to deserve it? **** you and the horse you rode in on.

If Auburn is so intent on getting away from competing with Alabama, LSU and Arkansas in the SEC West, then they’re welcome to take the short bus to the ACC.

Don’t let the door hit ya where the Good Lord split ya.

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