I think this plan will backfire on the SEC long term. While it might spread the wealth (UK) around, it does avoid home and home series between to two most successful men's basketball programs in the league. UK has the most titles, but what school is number 2? Tennessee. I remember when I was on campus. This was during the Wade Houston years. When Kentucky came to town, they called TBA - Rupp South. They would easily bring 15k+ plus every year though the game should be a slaughter. I have a hunch that within a couple of years, you will see them back off the 1-4-8 scheduling. All of the re-allignment focus was on football, and few worried about basketball and the other sports. Especially once the SEC network is launched - you will start to see a lot more focus on basketball.
When the SEC expanded, there were bound to be some lost rivalries and some lost traditions. But the best rivalries and traditions could have and should have been protected by the SEC presidents and athletic directors. Instead, they went down the easiest road… and perhaps the SEC’s best basketball rivalry is now suffering.
Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin confirmed yesterday that Kentucky will not be visiting Knoxville this year. It will mark the first time since 1952-53 that UK hasn’t visited UT. The two schools have met on the hardwood 216 times. In the SEC, only Ole Miss and Mississippi State have played more often (247 games).
But not only have the two schools played on a regular basis, Tennessee has traditionally been Kentucky’s best in-conference test. Vanderbilt has beaten UK 46 times in their series. Alabama has 37 wins against the Cats; Florida has 34. Tennessee has 67 wins — 20 more than any other school in the league — against Kentucky. Granted, the Wildcats have a “slight” lead in the series with 149 wins of their own, but no one has frustrated Kentucky over the years like Tennessee.
Those are saying that this is just a by-product of expansion, are totally and completely wrong.
In January of 2012, we posted a plan for SEC basketball scheduling that would have involved an 18-game slate, a divisionless set-up, and a 4-1-8 rotation. The four permanent opponents would be played twice each. One rotating foe would also be played twice. The remaining eight league teams would be played once each.
That plan would have protected many, many more rivalries than the SEC’s current 1-4-8 format. Under the current league plan, only one series is protected as a yearly home-and-home matchup. Four rotating opponents are also played twice.
In other words, the powers-that-be in the SEC got things completely, 100% backwards. Under our system, many more rivalries would have been protected and new geographical-based rivalries created:
* Four of Alabama’s five most-played series
* Two of Arkansas’ most-played SEC series would have been protected along with two games each against Missouri and Texas A&M
* Three of Auburn’s four most-played series
* Three of Florida’s five most-played series
* Georgia’s three most-played series
* Kentucky would have had two most-played series saved as well as two games per year against Missouri
* LSU would have had two most-played series protected as well as two games per year against Arkansas and Texas A&M
* Mississippi State’s three most-played series
* Ole Miss’ three most-played series
* Four of South Carolina’s five most-played series
* Four of Tennessee’s five most-played series
* Texas A&M would have had two games against Missouri, Arkansas and LSU
* Vanderbilt’s two most-played series
Classic rivalries in football (Auburn-Georgia, Alabama-Tennessee) and in basketball (Tennessee-Kentucky, Florida-Georgia) are part of the SEC’s very DNA. The stewards of the league must work as hard as possible to find a way to protect games with historical value.
In this case, very little work was required. We’d given them the best blueprint available for a 14-team, 18-game scheduling format, but they chose to gone in the complete opposite direction. When they did, we knew that a season would soon roll ’round when one or more of the SEC’s most-played basketball series were not scheduled for home-and-home matchups. That season is upon us.
Somewhere Adolph Rupp and Ray Mears are rolling over in their graves.
Shame on Mike Slive and the SEC schedule-makers. On this front, they have failed embarrassingly.