Do Slive Comments Signal the End of Auburn-Georgia?
If you are of a certain age, you remember how big the Oklahoma-Nebraska rivalry used to be in the Midwest. Once thought untouchable, the game is now a distant memory. Like that series, conference realignment threatens to kill the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive made headlines on Monday when he announced that a decision would be made next month on whether the league would move to a nine-game conference schedule. Such a move could potentially mean the end of rivalries like Auburn-Georgia and Alabama-Tennessee.
“Last spring in Destin (Fla.), our presidents said to us, ‘Study the formats and we want a decision in time for the 2016 season,’ which is now,” Slive said. “So we’ve been working on that since then.”
The formats being studied include:
Eight-game league schedule with permanent crossover rivalries
Eight-game league schedule without permanent crossover rivalries
Nine-game league schedule with permanent crossover rivalries
Nine-game league schedule without permanent crossover rivalries
While nothing is certain, most believe a nine-game slate is likely. With the college football playoff beginning this year, there is pressure on schools to play quality opponents.
Adding an extra conference game would accomplish that for most teams. The discussion centers on how to fairly schedule the three out-of-division games. While Auburn falls in the group pushing for a permanent crossover opponent, others like LSU favor a round-robin approach.
Conventional wisdom says that Auburn, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee should have enough clout to maintain the one permanent game. But don’t be so sure. With 14 teams now involved in the decision, anything is possible. There has been a lot of talk about an unbalanced schedule rotation if these traditional rivalries are left in place.
“We tell them that all of the formats — every one of them — has a series of advantages and disadvantages,” Slive said. “There’s no one that lines up with all advantages and there’s no one that lines up with all disadvantages. So people are going to have to make a decision knowing that whatever decision they make is going to have some advantages and some disadvantages.”
The Pac-12 and Big 12 have already moved to a nine-game conference schedule and the Big 10 will do so in 2016. Another factor in moving to the new format is the formation of conference television networks. The SEC Network is launching in August and the idea of one extra league game is appealing to both ESPN and the conference.
Another option on the table is to stick with the current eight-game format and enter into an agreement with another conference to match up schools from those leagues. The ACC has already floated the idea with the SEC.
Slive said a decision will be made no later than the end of May. Let’s hope Georgia doesn’t go the way of Tennessee and Florida on Auburn’s schedule.