Auburn, Georgia and the SEC are nearing an agreement to move the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry to earlier in the 2020 season in an effort to alleviate scheduling burdens for both schools, industry sources tell Auburn Undercover.
The parties still have hurdles to overcome, but it is expected the 14 SEC schools and commissioner Greg Sankey will move forward to push the game to September or October, the sources said. The scheduling change would lift enormous weight from the Tigers’ difficult November schedule, which was set to feature away games at both Georgia and Alabama in the final three weeks of the regular season. Alabama won the SEC title in 2018 and Georgia defeated Auburn to win it in 2017.
It’s possible the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry could remain in September and October through 2024, one source said, but those details have not been finalized.
The move marks a massive change for the rivalry. The game has been played in November each time the Tigers and Bulldogs met since 1937.
Auburn is currently scheduled to face UMass on Nov. 14, 2020. The date is usually set aside for Auburn-Georgia.
That’s some cheeky scheduling there, Tigers. But I digress, at least a little.
My first reaction, one that’s no doubt shared by any Dawg fan who’s had a pulse over the last decade, is that once again Greg McGarity has rolled over in the face of a slight breeze. Then I remind myself that Kirby Smart isn’t in the rolling over business. So what’s his possible agenda here? Unleash the hounds of rank speculation!
Let’s started with this observation from intrepid reporter Seth Emerson.
I get why Auburn wants the game moved, but what’s Kirby’s reasoning? Well, let’s start with something he said last summer ($$):
It wasn’t that way until 2013, when because of expansion and scheduling concerns, the SEC asked Georgia to make a second straight trip to Auburn. Georgia agreed, but now Kirby Smart, who wasn’t around when the change was made, would like to see Georgia get two straight home games against the Tigers.
“Yeah, absolutely. If we can get a chance to fix that and return the favor that we paid to them. I hear about that a lot,” Smart said. “It would make it more consistent and balance that out. It would probably be helpful in the long run. But I’ve got a feeling there’s more to it than just us and them. It always affects so many other moving parts. But it would be nice to do that.”
Getting that second straight home game to restore the schedule to its previous balance would be, of course, the mother of quids to Auburn’s quo of moving the game to an earlier point in the schedule. Note that Marcello’s report says this whole deal in still in the negotiating stage. I’d like to think that means there are things on the table being floated besides the calendar. That trade makes sense and undoes a previous McGarity grovel in error. So good for Kirby if he’s fighting for that as a condition to accommodating Auburn’s wish to move earlier.
There may also be a secondary benefit. Obviously, Auburn finds it beneficial not to have a murderer’s row ending every season of Georgia and Alabama; from Georgia’s selfish standpoint, if such a move helps Auburn play a more competitive Iron Bowl, that’s a tactical benefit for the Dawgs.
Another consideration: to move Auburn to the middle part of Georgia’s schedule means another SEC game has to be displaced. The obvious candidate is Tennessee. (Before you go there, do you really think Boom would welcome a November playing Georgia and Clemson? Not gonna happen.) Fulmer’s Vols made a living coasting through November. That month hasn’t been nearly as friendly to UT as it once was (thanks, Vanderbilt!), but adding Georgia certainly wouldn’t help the Vols in that regard.
Granted, there are a lot of moving parts here. One other consideration, which, by the way, the SEC has graciously ignored this season, is that it doesn’t necessarily behoove Georgia to overload one month in the schedule with Western division opponents. Bringing in Notre Dame in late September may have been a factor in that, but you’d have to think in years when there isn’t a marquee non-conference opponent on the schedule, November is probably going to be a dreary home scheduling month.
Is getting the extra home game reset worth the trade off? My guess is that Kirby thinks so, and in the end, that’s what most likely matters. And if Georgia doesn’t get the reset and still rolls over on the schedule? Then we can all thank McGarity for another edition of Bulldog Profiles in Courage.
Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity had no official comment on the matter when contacted by DawgNation on Tuesday night.
Given his PR track record, that’s the most sensible tack he can take right now.