I won’t say it rises to the level of pure shock, but I am a little startled to find Pat Dye’s suggestion that Auburn should be allowed to change divisions turns out not to be just a casual thought tossed out there, but a stalking horse for what the athletic department wants.
The idea of Auburn moving divisions for football apparently isn’t that farfetched.
Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs indicated on Wednesday that he would like to begin a dialogue with other members of the Southeastern Conference that could send his school to the SEC East. Speaking with reporters at the 2017 SEC spring meetings at the Sandestin Hilton, Jacobs said SEC officials and athletics directors will meet later this year to discuss scheduling, and that “everything will be on the table.”
That includes, theoretically, eliminating divisions to help ensure a team from the SEC is selected for the College Football Playoff every year. Currently, the winners of the SEC East and West meet in Atlanta for the SEC championship game. There have been informal talks about adding an extra SEC game to regular season schedules, scrapping the divisional format and pitting the top teams in the conference against each other at the end of the season.
“I think all that would be on the table when we talk about football,” Jacobs said. “Because when we established the SEC championship, the NCAA rules were you had to have two divisions. Well, that’s no longer the case.”
For the past three years at SEC spring meetings there have been rumblings of Auburn wanting to move to the East. While SEC commissioner Greg Sankey seemed to shoot down the idea Tuesday, the drumbeat is getting louder. Earlier in the day, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said Auburn moving to the East was “common sense.”
If, by “common sense” you mean “we’re tired of Nick Saban blocking our path to the SECCG”, then sure. But if you’re trying to make some tired argument based on geography, get out of here. First of all, look at a map and you’ll find that Nashville lies west of Auburn. If we’re going to be all about geographic order, why aren’t Jacobs and Malzahn asking for Alabama to accompany them Eastward and to ship the Commodores out West with Mizzou? Secondly, if this is such an obvious thing, why didn’t Auburn raise holy hell about it when it was assigned to the SEC West way back when?
What’s really pissing me off isn’t so much that Auburn’s whining about this as that some ordinarily sensible people seem to be taking this as an overture to discuss conference realignment and the path to the SECCG. Take this laughable bit from Andy Staples:
Perhaps Jacobs is playing the long game and hoping the SEC eventually moves to nine conference games, which would create the flexibility for the Auburn-to-the-East-Missouri-to-the-West arrangement. Among the league’s power brokers, Saban is the only person who has been a vocal proponent for this. The league’s TV partners would love it as well, but the majority of the decision-makers want to stay at eight. This also could be a idea the Tigers keep planting so it remains top of mind if the league winds up expanding should more radical realignment hit in the middle of the next decade when the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 media rights deals expire.
C’mon, man. If Jacobs got his way and Auburn moved to the East, only to see the divisional balance of power shift in a few years (perhaps because of Saban’s retirement), would Staples or anyone else be even slightly surprised if Auburn started talking about the common sense of moving back to the West to be in the same division as Alabama again? Of course not.
As far as a nine-game conference schedule goes, get back to me when Jacobs and Malzahn state for the record they’re in favor of it.
These assholes (more accurately, these assholes’ boss and his peers) made a mess of things, not because the fans were clamoring for change, but because Mike Slive and his presidents were unhappy that the Big Ten had struck a better TV deal for itself than the SEC enjoyed and conference expansion was the ticket to getting an SEC Network. If the fourteen-team conference that resulted has shown itself to be every bit the round peg in the square hole challenge many anticipated, well, that’s our tough luck.
And now, Jay Jacobs thinks moving Auburn to the SEC East will fix things, or, at least, will lead to a process that will fix things. Seth Emerson outlines the reasons that’s nonsense, although even he thinks ultimately realignment should be on the table.
Auburn’s wish to avoid Saban aside, much of the self-inflicted wound caused by conference expansion could be healed with one simple move, embracing the nine-game conference schedule to which Staples alludes. Alas, that’s never been on the table and, according to Greg Sankey, still isn’t.
A nine-game conference schedule is also not on the agenda, Sankey added…
“The 2013-14 year, this conference spent a great deal of time at every level of leadership, our presidents and chancellors, our athletics directors, really looking across the landscape of options, from a football scheduling standpoint, and landed where we are currently: Eight conference games, with the expectation of a ninth game played against a colleague conference institution, with the divisional alignment that’s in place. And it’s worked well.”
Sure it has. Just ask Jay Jacobs.