Rabalais: Joe Alleva’s right — SEC’s schedule format simply isn’t fair

Associated Press file photo by BUTCH DILL -- Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive Show caption
Associated Press file photo by BUTCH DILL -- Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive

The Southeastern Conference really made us wait three years for this?

The SEC released a long-, long-, long-awaited football scheduling format Sunday night that is merely a warmed-over, shot-for-shot remake of its old 6-1-1 schedule format. Oh, yes, there is that revolutionary proviso that schools play at least one nonconference opponent per year that actually has a pulse.

Three years to say, “Play a tougher nonconference slate,” ostensibly to present a tougher strength of schedule to the new College Football Playoff selection committee. How long would it take the SEC to come up with a solution to a truly knotty issue, like immigration reform or paper versus plastic?

Look, no criticism of making teams schedule better nonconference opponents. Amen to that. That’s better for everyone, especially (for a change) you fans.

But in the long term it took for the SEC to conjure up a long-term scheduling format, we still know what we always knew: When it comes to this conference, there is a first among equals.

The scheduling format may remove the lingering doubt that hung over the SEC’s football schedules, but it does nothing to change the impression that this is an Alabama-centric conference.

The first “1” in the 6-1-1 scheduling format is the permanent opponent, the one that dictates that each team will have a permanent opponent from the opposite division.

In LSU’s case, that means Florida, which the Tigers have played every year since 1971. But what we’re really talking about preserving here, the real No. 1, is the Alabama versus Tennessee rivalry, the sine qua non (indispensable ingredient) and high holy grail of the SEC football schedule.

There will be talk — there will always be talk — about a series like Auburn-Georgia and its cross-divisional importance. Fine. But if it was so important that these schools play, why not move Alabama and Auburn to the SEC East and put newcomer Missouri in the West, where it geographically belongs (along with Vanderbilt or Kentucky)?

Oh, no. We can’t have that much logic. Apparently we’ll never have that. Instead we will have, for the foreseeable future and a couple of seasons beyond that, a rigged election of a conference with a west-side member like Missouri (only Texas A&M and Arkansas lie farther west) and permanent opponents and the reality of the rest of the SEC members playing each other only once every six years at best.

Is this what’s best? Is this what’s fair? Is this what everyone really wants?

Apparently the answer to the last question is yes. Or, at least, it’s the majority opinion.

Despite all the lobbying and urging from people like LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva and football coach Les Miles, this format is what most of the conference wanted.

Alleva has argued, literally for years, but he was never able to convince anyone beyond South Carolina, Texas A&M and Missouri that the equitable way was the better way. Heck, LSU was never able to even convince Florida, which has just as tough a challenge playing the Tigers most years as the Tigers have playing the Gators.

In the end, Alleva said, everyone voted for their best interests. For what they wanted. LSU included. Majority definitely ruled.

But that doesn’t mean the majority is right. Not this time.