More Lesmentum

There’s something inherent in the argument that the SEC needs to ditch its permanent cross-division rivalry games that leaves me shaking my head.  It’s the presumption that some conference games will always be inferior.  Take this:

College athletics is nothing without its traditions. But there is such a thing as clinging to your traditions too hard.

What would anyone say about a conference that for the sake of keeping a couple of football rivalries going (really one) gerrymanders its divisions and sets up a scheduling plan that keeps schools from playing each other for years and forces competitive imbalances on most of its members? Any logical person would be hard-pressed to think that conference would be as successful and proactive as the SEC.

But that is exactly what the SEC has become. For the sake of Alabama-Tennessee and Auburn-Georgia (but really just Alabama-Tennessee) the conference has forced permanent opponents down everyone else’s throats.

That’s the LSU beat writer parroting the company line.  It’s a violation of Marketing 101 – you never crap on your own product.  Besides that, if you’re really convinced of the inequity of the situation, how do you turn around and in the same breath crow to the selection committee about how tough your conference is to get that extra team in the playoff field?

And it’s not just the local guy drinking his AD’s Kool-Aid.  Here’s the usually sensible Bruce Feldman on the subject:

The issue to me is at what cost should the league go to try to preserve a few big rivalries? Keeping in mind, Bama’s arch-rival is Auburn, not the Vols, and where would the Tigers rank on the Bulldogs’ list of rivals? I know the latter two have played seemingly forever, but the game for UGA fans probably ranks behind the rivalry with Georgia Tech and the one with the Gators. And we know South Carolina’s arch-rival is Clemson, not Arkansas.

Oy.

Some of this argument is fueled by a misperception Miles has been happy to trumpet that these games have been lopsided series that have worked against LSU’s interests.

Les Miles made the case to CBS this week that the current SEC scheduling gives certain teams “unintended and unearned advantages” in the pursuit of a conference title. He said he would like to see the end of the permanent crossover rivalry game, allowing more rotation in the cross-division matchups.

How does facing Florida work out for the Tigers (and vice versa)? In the past 10 years, both teams have been ranked in the Top 25 nine times. Compare that to Arkansas-South Carolina (a combined one time both were ranked in 10 meetings); Bama-Tennessee (one time); Vandy-Ole Miss (zero) or Miss State-UK (zero).

In reality, things haven’t played out that way over the last ten years.  No SEC team has won more than seven games in one of these series.  And one of those series – Georgia/Auburn – has seen the Dawgs’ seven wins forge a tie in the overall win-loss record between the two schools.  I can’t think of a better example about how all of this is nothing more than the natural ebb and flow between rival schools in a tough football conference.  Too bad Miles can’t see that.

Then again, that’s not his agenda here.  This isn’t about fairness.  If it were, then Miles shouldn’t have a problem with the conference adding a ninth game to the schedule.  But he’s opposed to that out of concern that it would make LSU’s path to the postseason a more difficult one.  And, again, he’s a coach, so I understand why he’s taken the stance he has.  There’s a lot at stake for him with scheduling.  What’s everybody else’s excuse?

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25 Comments

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25 responses to “More Lesmentum

  1. I think someone doesn’t want to be 37Fd is Baton Rouge. The powers that be seem hellbent on destroying the game we all love. Don’t we all know we should trade the South’s Oldest Rivalry for more trips to Fayetteville and Starkville and more helpings of cupcakes?

  2. JN

    Someone ask Bruce Feldman why a win over Tennessee was the only win where Bear Bryant would pass around victory cigars to the entire team in the locker room after the game.

    • Bear loved Cigars. My Papa had him on an Eastern Flight and he lit one up in First Class. People were mad as hell. The flight attendants could not get him to put it out. Papa was the Captain and he went back and told him he really enjoyed a good Cigar every now and then, but people were getting nauseated. When they landed, Bear and Papa had a Cigar in the Private Mens quarters in the Airport. Bear was a very self involved man. He loved to reward his boys with Whiskey and Cigars.

  3. hassan

    “[Auburn] for UGA fans probably ranks behind the rivalry with Georgia Tech and the one with the Gators”

    I don’t think that anyone not connected with a particular rivalry should be allowed to speculate on its importance. If you are a team that doesn’t have a big cross divisional rivalry then I can see your point from your perspective. But for those of us with multiple rivals, the importance of the game is ours to determine.

    For most Dawg fans, you can rank the importance of the rivalry by your generation. For me, Tech is not as big a deal as Auburn. For the older guys, the reverse is true. For the younger guys, it seems that South Carolina is creeping into rivalry status (but I would argue it’s not a rivalry yet – to quote SOS himself, “You gotta beat ‘em a whole bunch to make them mad at ya’. Georgia ain’t mad at us yet.”). Oh, and for sure Florida is always hated.

    My point being, there is definitely an ebb and flow to things, and in 10 years Tech may again be the team that gets under that generation’s skin (quit laughing). Auburn at some point will bounce back and be the team to beat. You can’t say that because it’s not a big game right now this season, that it should be canceled.

    • The irony behind Feldman’s assessment there is that the Georgia-Georgia Tech series is lopsided. If that’s a factor for the anti-crossdivisional set, I don’t see how he can ignore it in the OOC context.

      • A linguistic analysis needs to be done with these clowns. It is all semantics. Right now we have a cluster f#ck.

      • hassan

        Exactly. All personal feelings aside regarding the status of traditional rivalry games, Feldman’s logic doesn’t seem to be applied universally. Somehow in state rivalries (be that in conference or OOC) seem to be exempt from the litmus test by nature of not being mentioned. Since the Iron Bowl and the Egg Bowl are in the same division, I wonder if his stance would change if one of those two teams were moved to the East in a divisional realignment scenario?

  4. It does not matter what the importance is to you. It matters that we keep the rivalries that are important to all generations of Georgia Alumni. CMR what do you think? We want what you want for our DAWGS. Keeping with tradition is very important for all universities. You guys need to think of what is best for the entire SEC.

  5. Dog in Fla

    All Hat is saying is give NFL feeder-programs a chance to be like the NFL
    (except for draft rules and salary caps).

  6. Joe Schmoe

    Don’t forget that this whole can of worms has been opened by the conference expansion that I don’t think most fans give a shit about. I can’t believe these clowns want UGA fans to happily trade auburn for Missouri. Anyone who was at the original blackout should rage against this proposal.

    • Connor

      That really is the worst part of this. It was fine 2 years ago. Now we’re going to play Missouri every year and not Auburn? That should be the talking point. Sadly the number of well-connected pundits taking the others side of this issue makes me think the decision has been made and they are just trying to win the hearts and minds in advance of the official announcement.

  7. Short-sighted decisions chasing the current big buck are going to kill college football. Anybody remember Alabama’s record versus Tennessee in the decade prior to Nick Saban?

  8. Macallanlover

    Getting a little tired of a coach born in the North explaining how we should feel about rivalries in SEC country. If he wants to change scheduling in CFB, go back to the Big Whatever conference and add some real challenges to their schedules. For as long as I can remember if those teams can beat 1 good team, and two average teams per year, they have a walkover. We ‘uns ain’t interested in that style of football, but thanks for trying. It is an honor to win the SEC EVERY year, and no one has to back up to the awards table because you will have earned it (except Auburn 2010.)

  9. Chodawg

    These great rivalry games are worth protecting, but why should some games like UGA v. Kent, or UGA v. Mizz, or Scar v. Ark be played every year? I want the good rivalries and also more variety in the schedule, so here’s my proposal to have my cake and eat it too (yes I know everyone has a different proposal and that this will never happen):

    It keeps an 8 game schedule, it protects the essential rivalries, and it also allows a team to see every other SEC team bi-annually (I don’t want to wait 6+ years to see every West team).

    First, get rid of the divisions and just have a 14 team pool. There would be 3 protected rivalries for each team that are played every year, and then you play 5 of the remaining 10 SEC teams in odd years and the other 5 in even years. The SEC Champ game is just the two best teams from the entire pool. Here’s a stab at the protected rivalries:

    UGA: UF, Aub, SC
    UF: UGA, TN, SC
    SC: UGA, UF, UK
    TN: Bam, UF, Van
    Van: TN, UK, Ole
    UK: SC, Van, Miz
    Miz: UK, A&M, Ark
    Aub: UGA, Bama, MSU
    Bama: Aub, TN, MSU
    LSU: Ark, A&M, Ole
    A&M: LSU, Miz, Ark
    MSU: Aub, Bama, Ole
    Ole: Van, MSU, LSU
    Ark: Miz, A&M, LSU

    • That would require a waiver from the NCAA, and that ain’t happening. To have a championship game, you have to have two divisions, and I believe play round robin within that division.

      • Besides that, in the absence of divisions why would you need a playoff game? Aside from the money, that is. ;)

        Only reason I could think of would be to break a tie between two teams. But that doesn’t happen every year.

    • Dante

      This is a great proposal, but it would require an NCAA rules change to do this and still play a conference championship game. NCAA rules require two division and at least 12 teams to allow for a championship game. But I really like the idea of an old school SEC schedule where each team values some games enough to want to play them yearly and the rest is left to scheduling randomness.

      I personally think the worst decision ever made in college football was for pollsters to leapfrog Georgia and let LSU play in a national title game. Sorry… that’s not where I wanted to go with that one. I personally think the SECOND worst decision ever made in college football was to drop the yearly Oklahoma vs. Nebraska rivalry. What makes the SEC great is that our teams are just too big to have a single rival. 5 games make up the core of my college football universe: Florida, Auburn, South Carolina, Tech, and Tennessee. Sure, I could probably rank how important I see those games. In fact, I think I inadvertently just did. But I would be sad to see any of those games disappear off Georgia’s schedule and that’s even with Tennessee and South Carolina being recent annual additions in the grand scheme of things. And who wants to break up those games? A coach for a team not even on the list.

  10. What would anyone say about a conference that for the sake of keeping a couple of football rivalries going (really one) gerrymanders its divisions and sets up a scheduling plan that keeps schools from playing each other for years and forces competitive imbalances on most of its members?

    Wouldn’t they say that’s exactly what the Big 10 is doing, but for an even less compelling reason? They are creating competitive imbalances in the name of tv product by having the best teams play each other more frequently, but they at least are going to the nine game schedule to help offset that imbalance. Lessy-poo wants to do the opposite. He wants to play weaker competition more often, and keep eight games.

    • Dog in Fla

      “What would anyone say…”

      If it’s good enough for congressional districts, it’s good enough for the SEC?

  11. Can Miles point to a single season in which LSU missed out on playing in the conference title game because they played Florida? Maybe 2006? That’s all I have in 21 years of divisional play. Conversely, LSU made the title game in 2007 over a number of other two-loss teams because of their strength of schedule. Florida was one of their best wins that year.

  12. stoopnagle

    Forgive me if someone has already pointed this out, but:

    I’m sure the SEC broadcast partners would be thrilled at the prospect of losing the guarantee of an annual game between LSU and Florida.

    • Let the SEC set a base of tv revenue to be shared equally among the 14 teams. Then, let the teams that play the top three games (based on share audience) for the year get a $1M bonus (or some figure) per game on top of their base share. Would the LSU AD be willing to give up the guaranteed bonus money that the Florida game would bring each year for a date with Missouri?

      And, for crying out loud, beating Florida on national television is a bigger boost to your national perception than losing to Florida is a negative. The reward far outweighs the risk. (Conversely, beating Missouri on ESPN2 as the late game carries little reward, while losing to them is a near firing offense.) Plus, LSU can lose to Florida and still win the division by beating its division opponents. In fact, the 2003 LSU team won the BCS title despite a loss to Florida. So, if the real beef here is that Bama has it easier, focus on beating Bama. Beat them, and you control your path to the national title game. The cross-divisional matchups are largely irrelevant at that point.