For all of its success, for all of its 21st Century football dominance, the Southeastern Conference remains trapped in dusty old 20th Century thinking when it comes to football scheduling.
Early 20th Century. Single bar helmet and Wing-T days at best.
The SEC has expanded to 14 teams with Texas A&M and Missouri. It’s a virtual certainty that all Mike Slive would have to do is snap his fingers and a couple of more schools would come running for a chance to join in and make it 16.
But the SEC seems powerless or unwilling to make change, real substantial change, when it comes to football scheduling.
In bowing to the Masonic handshakes and ritiualism of traditional rivalries — I’m looking at you Alabama 44, Tennessee 13 and whatever score Georgia will crush Auburn by this season — the SEC has turned expansion into a 14-school pileup of a scheduling mess filled with inequities and geographic nonsense.
When A&M and Missouri joined the party, the SEC should have put Mizzou in the West, shipped Alabama and Auburn to the East and moved Vanderbilt (farther west than Kentucky) into the West as well. Alabama is west of Vandy, but in the interest of preserving its traditional rivalries with Auburn and Tennessee this lesser of two geographic evils could be pardoned.
But what happened? Missouri, whose campus lies farther west than any SEC school except Arkansas or A&M, was square-pegged into the SEC East. And a 6-1-1 schedule format was adopted to preserve permanent cross-divisional opponents.
Adding to the absurdity is a schedule format that still isn’t final. The SEC was supposed to employ only a temporary schedule for 2012, but it will do so again in 2013. A permanent (12-year) schedule format won’t come until at least 2014.
LSU got picked out of the SEC hat to travel to Georgia for its rotating SEC East game next season, while it hosts Florida, its permanent SEC East rival. Alabama, which will likely go off as an SEC West favorite over LSU in 2013, hosts downtrodden Tennessee and travels to even more hapless Kentucky.
You can say that everyone has to play someone, but there’s no denying that Alabama’s two SEC East games are easier by far than LSU’s. And if the current scheduling format holds, Alabama will continue to play Tennessee annually with no idea if/when the Volunteers will become relevant again.
LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva, who had no say in the 2013 SEC schedule, tried and failed to drum up enough support at May’s SEC Spring Meeting to end permanent opponents.
Next May, Alleva will try again. If there is a silver lining to this scheduling black hole, it’s that there is again time to lobby some sense into the SEC.
It may still be impossible to get a majority of SEC schools to do what is fair and equitable for the entire league, but at least there is a chance. Until then we’re all stuck with this mess.
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