Cast Southern College Football Tradition to the Wind?
By War Eagle Atlanta
A writer for the Knoxville News Sentinel, John Adams, (not related to the HBO miniseries by the same name) recently wrote a column laying out an attempt to make the SEC more fair. Or to put it in other words, to try and carve the tradition out of the conference with a rusty spoon. Here he proposes that the SEC abandon it’s current divisional format (once again, mind you) and rather than have each team play one permanent school from the other division, go with a three rotators every year, thus killing off quite a few perennial rivalries right in their tracks.
Wait a minute, you say! Does he mean to end Auburn-Georgia, the longest continuous rivalry in the Deep South, or to strike the Third Saturday in October completely off the calendar every other year (and twice on leap year)? Why yes, he does mean that. Not to mention ending some other emerging rivalries, like Florida-LSU.
And why in the name of General Neyland does he propose to do this? Well, actually, I don’t really know. I read the article four times and I still can’t figure it out. He says it’s because the schedule is too tough, playing all these SEC games. What he fails to logically deduce is that he wants to replace these supposedly hard SEC games with other SEC games, and to wreck some storied rivalries all in the same fail swoop. Huh?
Just wait a minute here. Let’s look at this from an Auburn perspective. They want to take yet another one of our traditional rivals away from us? Isn’t it not bad enough that they forced us into the Western Division, where we weren’t exactly what you’d call indigenous? Where only two of our long-time rivals, Alabama and Miss State resided, and made us choose best-two-out-of-three between Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida in the east? Actually, they originally only wanted to have one permanent opposite-division team, but I think we complained so much that they pacified us for eleven years, making us drop Florida after 2002.
If you look at long-time rivals (and a map) you can clearly see that Auburn belongs in the east, but we had to take a bullet for the conference to promote that whole balance thing. As it stands now, looking at all-time SEC winning percentage, the West has the #1 team (Alabama) #4 (Us) and #6 (LSU) while the East has the #2 (Tennessee) #3 (Georgia) and #5 (Florida).
And look at the history of the SEC. Most of it’s teams have been sharing a conference and a schedule since the advent of the very first athletic conference, the Southern Inter-Collegiate Athletic Association (SIAA), back in 1895. Then most of our current schools defected together and went on to form the Southern Conference and eventually the SEC.
It’s worth noting that it’s no coincidence that the name of each of these conferences start with some derivative of the word SOUTH. It ain’t like Robert E. Lee furloughed the boys, they started playing football instead of shooting, then suddenly added Boston College into the club. We all got history together, see???
There’s deep tradition and history in the SEC. We need to keep the storied rivalries going. We’re not like the Big 12, which basically was created using a welder’s torch, the body of a Big 8, and a few spare parts from the Southwest Conference. All their opposite-division games are rotators, and that’s fine with them since the two divisions virtually mirror the old conferences from which they were formed. Most of their traditional rivalries were left intact inside the division, with the exception of Oklahoma-Nebraska, which is a nauseating aberration.
Even the new and improved ACC allows for one permanent game from the opposite side, and their makeup is probably more diverse than any of the other BCS conferences. Their current lineup resembles what I created as a child when I mixed all the different cans of Play-Doh together and rolled it around on the carpet–something motley, diverse, and a just a little hairy. But actually, I think they’ll be okay once they figure out where to stage their championship game in a city that’s not called Atlanta.
Sorry, but I think the SEC has the right formula going for it right now. We’re the trailblazers for all of college football. There’s no way that the teams of the SEC ever agree to allow to lapse some of the most storied rivalries in all of CFB. It simply won’t be allowed to happen, lest Southern tradition be gone with the wind, and frankly, I do give a damn! (Cue that music!)
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