LSU’s membership in the Southeastern Conference has hardly been a perfect marriage, especially in recent years amid growing inequities in football scheduling.
But there are plenty of reasons to stay put in the SEC. Here are five of them:
1 THE prestige can’t be matched
College football fans outside the SEC may loathe the conference for its six straight BCS championships — to the point where a lightning rod program like Notre Dame looks like a sentimental favorite in next month’s title bout against Alabama. But make no mistake: Respect for the SEC is at an all-time high.
Sports fans may be sick of SEC dominance, but as Gen. George S. Patton said, Americans love a winner.
For that, the SEC has earned unprecedented, if grudging, respect.
2 Equal revenue sharing
If LSU were to leave the SEC, its best and perhaps only viable option would be the Big 12. One of the biggest factors that drove Texas A&M out of the Big 12 and into the SEC’s waiting arms was the issue of unequal revenue spurred by Texas’ $300 million Longhorn Network deal with ESPN.
The Big 12 used to have revenue sharing based in large part on the number of TV appearances a school makes in football and men’s basketball. While that has been eliminated, the specter of Texas rolling in ESPN-printed cash that the other Big 12 members can’t access is an unpalatable prospect.
3 History? Not with Big 12 teams
LSU has been in the SEC since it was founded in 1933. Over that time, and even before that, LSU built deep ties and rivalries with schools like Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and even Kentucky, which LSU played annually from 1952 to 2002.
But teams in the Big 12? Little history there at all. LSU has played Texas the most (17 times) but only twice in the past 50 years and not at all in the regular season since 1954. TCU has been an LSU opponent just eight times, with the 2013 opener in Cowboys Stadium looming.
Oklahoma? LSU has played the Sooners in two bowls (although a home-and-home series is on the horizon). Kansas State? Once. Iowa State? Once. Kansas? Please.
4 Geography is critical
LSU fans are loyal and creative — amazingly, more than 7,000 of them turned up in Fayetteville for the season finale at Arkansas the day after Thanksgiving last month.
But how hard will it be to get to Ames, Iowa? How treacherous is a November game at West Virginia? What about a March baseball series at K-State? Would they be chipping ice off the infield?
In the SEC, LSU has three road trips that are more than 700 miles: Kentucky (801), Missouri (776) and South Carolina (736). The Tigers would have four such trips in the Big 12, topping out at 1,076 miles to Morgantown, W.Va.
One game there in 2011 was a novelty. Going there every other year? Not as much.
5 Better the devil you know
The SEC is far from a perfect home for LSU, but it is home. In the SEC, the school has traditional and close rivals, unmatched respect as a powerful member of the power conference and, despite persistently inequitable football scheduling, the even more important reality of equal revenue sharing.
It wouldn’t hurt one bit for LSU to do a little saber-rattling to get the SEC’s attention, to give greater voice to its concerns.
But in the end, the SEC is where LSU will stay.