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.
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?