If I can return to the scene of Les Miles’ cri de coeur for a minute… it seems that Matt Hayes has Lester’s back. Here’s his case:
“All I want,” says Miles, “is a fair and equitable deal for all involved.”
Right now, it’s anything but. No matter how you look at it, Auburn, LSU and Florida are impacted most by the SEC’s standing scheduling rule of one permanent opponent from the opposite division.
LSU and Florida play each other; Auburn plays Georgia. Meanwhile, SEC kingpin Alabama plays Tennessee.
Why, you ask? Tradition, Mike Slive says.
Considering how far the SEC has come under Slive’s watch, and how he has set up the conference for the future, it’s hard to argue with that decision. That is, until you look at the numbers.
In the last 10 years, LSU and Florida have both been ranked in their game nine times. In the last 10 years, Alabama and Tennessee have both been ranked in their game once.
Wait, it gets much more compelling.
Since 2000, Auburn has played Florida and Georgia—clearly the East Division’s heavyweight programs—a total of 19 times. LSU has played Florida and Georgia 17 times, and Florida has played LSU and Alabama 17 times.
Meanwhile, Alabama has played Florida and Georgia eight times—the lowest total of any West Division team. Alabama’s argument is it plays Tennessee, which started the BCS era with a national title but has recently fallen on hard times. [Emphasis added.]
Now Hayes is being a wee bit disingenuous here – at the start of the cycle he cites, Georgia was not one of the East’s heavyweights – but he gets at what’s really eating up Les twice in that passage. Quite simply, every year Alabama plays Tennessee and LSU plays Florida. Right now, that’s a lousy tradeoff for the Tigers. And in the here and now, nobody should have the time for trivialities like tradition.
That’s assuming that this is even about tradition. Hayes isn’t even willing to credit that as a motive.
At the mercy of Slive, who said earlier this month that he’s “willing to look at all scheduling models” at the SEC’s annual spring meetings next week in Destin, Fla. The hurdle for LSU, Florida and Auburn: the remaining 11 teams are happy with their permanent partners because the series (from each point of view) is winnable.
I feel kinda dirty now for wanting to preserve a series that’s more than a century old. And eleven SEC teams all think their permanent rivalry games are winnable? Hmm… maybe Big Game Bob is right about the conference.