Texas A&M’s addition to the Southeastern Conference is a great opportunity for the SEC to expand its footprint, grow in new markets and add a school with tradition.
It’s also a chance for the SEC to right a great inequity.
As many SEC fans know, the conference uses a 5-1-2 scheduling format for football. A school plays the five teams from its division every year, one permanent opponent from the opposite division and rotates the remaining five teams on a home-and-home basis. LSU’s permanent opponent from the SEC East for the past 10 years has been Florida.
The SEC says this format exists to preserve traditional cross-divisional rivalries. It’s given us great showdowns like South Carolina-Arkansas and Ole Miss-Vanderbilt.
We’re picking, of course. The format basically exists to make sure Alabama and Tennessee play each other. Apparently, the Earth is in danger of spinning off into the icy reaches of outer space if Alabama and Tennessee don’t play football the Third Saturday in October.
The SEC will argue its format also keeps Auburn and Georgia playing each other every year. It also has set up lots of weighty LSU-Florida battles over the years, teams that to be fair have been playing each other annually since 1971.
But this permanent opponent thing also sets up a great scheduling inequity. To wit: while LSU has to go hammer and tong with Florida every fall, Mississippi State plays Kentucky. Traditionally, this makes for a much easier road to the SEC Championship game for a school like MSU, except of course for those minor speed bumps known as LSU, Bama, Auburn and Arkansas.
What would be more fair, more equitable, more just, is to do it this way:
Assuming one day relatively soon there will be two seven-team SEC divisions without realignment, you play all six teams in your division and play two teams from the other division on a home-and-home basis, one team rotating off and a new one rotating on each year.
Example: LSU plays Florida and Georgia in 2012. In 2013, Florida rotates off and LSU plays Georgia and Kentucky. In 2014, LSU plays Kentucky and Mystery SEC Member No. 14, etc.
Otherwise, assuming you keep an eight-game SEC schedule, teams could play everyone in their division, one permanent opponent from the other side annually and have a 10-year gap between the other six teams rotating on your schedule (again assuming they play back-to-back years).
Say LSU plays Florida every year and Georgia in 2012 and 2013. LSU and Georgia wouldn’t play again until 2024.
If you’re going to do that, you might as well have two separate conferences.
SEC athletic directors will convene Oct. 5 in Birmingham, Ala., to discuss expansion-related issues like football scheduling. Revamping it is sure to be addressed.
It’s an idea from the future that’s well past due.