DESTIN, Fla. — It’s the biggest story that’s not a story at this year’s SEC Spring Meeting — but it should be.
The talk this week above the roaring surf and clinking of glasses bearing overpriced cocktails has been dominated by satellite camps and collaborative instant replay.
Both important issues, but as a whole, both kind of a yawn.
An issue that would have truly moved the needle was floated a couple of months ago, when Auburn coach Gus Malzahn told an ESPN reporter that he thought the possibility of his school moving from the SEC West to the SEC East would be discussed here.
It hasn’t, as far as any of us media folks hungry for a juicy story — or those of us dying to write about something other than satellite camps — can tell. Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey has good-naturedly but firmly stated that the subject of conference realignment hasn’t come up.
One reporter asked Sankey if conference realignment was a dead story.
“I don’t know that it was ever a live story,” Sankey shot back, grinning. “The only time I’ve talked about it in Destin, Florida, was here in this (news conference) room.
“Since I have been commissioner I have never once talked to our football coaches about any team moving to a different division,” he said.
Conspiracy theorists will note Sankey didn’t say he didn’t talk to SEC athletic directors or presidents or costumed mascots about not moving any teams. He also didn’t say he didn’t hold a séance on the subject with the late Bernie Moore, the former SEC commissioner and LSU football coach.
So, unless someone sees an Auburn logo mysteriously appear in a corn field in a state within the SEC East geographic footprint, we can consider this story moot.
Unfortunately, Auburn moving to the SEC East, or a move like it, is something that should be happening.
When it comes to football scheduling and football divisions, the SEC has jury-rigged itself into a couple of ridiculous pretzels. Missouri was added to the SEC East when it joined the conference when it and Texas A&M were admitted to the union in 2012, even though only two SEC campuses (Texas A&M and Arkansas) actually sit farther west than Mizzou. Even though Mizzou and A&M both joining the SEC West and retaining their former Big 12 rivalry (such as it is) kind of makes sense.
Then there is the matter of permanent cross-divisional opponents. The SEC says these exist for a number of reasons — LSU-Florida is a fine rivalry, as is Auburn-Georgia — but it’s basically because the Earth might crack to its core if Alabama and Tennessee don’t play in football every October.
If you look at the SEC on a map, a simple solution emerges. The seven westernmost schools — LSU, Alabama, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Texas A&M and Missouri — should be in the West. The rest — Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt — should be in the East.
If you want to retain cross-divisional rivalries, Alabama and Auburn could be each other’s annual opponent. In a particularly virulent year of their rivalry, there could even be the possibility they could meet the following week in a rematch in the SEC Championship Game.
How cool might that be?
Auburn Athletic Director Jay Jacobs told an AL.com reporter that demographically his school is better suited to being in the East because most of its out-of-state students come from SEC East states. Auburn is only a couple of Chris Davis Kick Six returns (sorry, Bama) away from the Georgia line.
Still, by the end of the week all that “Look East, young man” talk had simmered down. Or, more accurately, failed to transpire. At all.
“There wasn’t any discussion on that,” Malzahn said Wednesday. “I feel the same way — I’m happy the way it is.”
So, apparently, is the rest of the SEC.
But it doesn’t mean that divisional realignment, in some form, doesn’t make sense.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.