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Alabama’s Blowout Win Over Tennessee Won’t Help “Permanent Rival” Cause

06-rivalry-pic_display_imageAlabama/Tennessee and Auburn/Georgia.  Two of the oldest, most-storied rivalries in the South and in the nation.

And if some SEC figures have their way — LSU AD Joe Alleva and football coach Les Miles — those rivalries will soon be nothing but history.

With the SEC expanding to 14 teams, there’s now a feeling among some that the scheduling rotation is not fair.  Now, we have written many times that there is no such thing as a “fair” schedule unless all 14 teams play one another both at home and away.  It’s unlikely a 26-game schedule is coming down the pike, so regardless of what new system is put in place, the rotation will always leave some moaning and some groaning about unfair shakes.

Those wanting to do away with permanent cross-division rivalries have focused in on the Alabama/Tennessee rivalry, mainly because the Volunteers have fallen on hard times of late.  Bama now owns a seven-game win streak over their old enemy.  Saturday’s 45-10 beatdown only serves as further proof — for some — that the league’s longtime premier rivalry should be nixed (as though college football needs more dead rivalries at this point).

“Tennessee stinks and Alabama should have to play Florida or Georgia more often!”

Question: Who in the SEC East would’ve beaten Alabama last Saturday?  A wounded Georgia team?  A Florida team that’s both beat-up and offensively deficient?  Perhaps Missouri or Carolina could have given Bama a better game, but at this point, there aren’t many schools in America who can stand toe-to-toe with a program barreling toward its third BCS title in a row and its fourth in five years.

Tennessee became just the second team to score a touchdown against Alabama since September 14th.  Rotating the schedule is supposed to change that kind of dominance?  Please.

The fact is, Tennessee/Alabama is an annual tilt between the two winningest teams in SEC history.  For those with short memories, the current seven-game Tide winning streak was preceded by a seven-game Vol winning streak from 1995 to 2001.  In between, Tennessee took another three out of five.

The “Third Saturday in October” rivalry has long been a series of streaks.  One team is often up while the other is down.  Alabama has had winning streaks of seven (2007-2013), seven (1986-1992), and 11 (1971-1981) in the last 45 years.  Tennessee has had winning streaks of seven (1995-2001), four (1982-1985) and four (1967-1970) over that span.

Still, you can be certain that Alabama’s blowout of Tennessee on Saturday will be brought up this offseason at the SEC meetings.  Once again, LSU will lead the charge to dump permanent cross-divisional rivalries so they can rid themselves of their annual Florida date, a game that has been played every year since 1971 and a game that’s become a favorite of the league’s broadcast partners.

But instead of tossing a century of SEC tradition (Alabama/Tennessee, Auburn/Georgia) because of one school’s fears and a seven-year win streak, the league would be better off doing what we’ve been suggesting it do since October 21st of 2011 — adopt a nine-game schedule with a 6-1-2 rotation.

With attendance dwindling for non-conference games, a new playoff selection panel focusing on strength of schedule, and a new television network to fill with good programming, we believe a move to a nine-game slate is likely.  The 6-1-2 rotation (six division foes, one permanent cross-division foe, two rotation cross-division opponents) would guarantee that schools in opposite divisions would face one another more often and it would protect old rivalries (Alabama/Tennessee, Auburn/Georgia, Ole Miss/Vanderbilt) as well as keep TV faves (LSU/Florida) alive.

There’s a good answer out there for those who want to make today’s Alabama team face tougher challenges from the East Division.  And it’s better than dumping a classic rivalry that — if history serves — will eventually see Tennessee rise and Alabama fall.  And so on.

Here’s hoping the SEC’s power brokers take a long-term view rather than a short-sighted one.  But we won’t be holding our breath.  The league’s current stewards haven’t proven to be as wise on scheduling issues as their predecessors.

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Alabama-Tennessee As A Non-Conference Game? Steve Spurrier Has A Schedule Suggestion

gfx - they said itIt’s no secret Alabama coach Nick Saban wants a nine-game SEC schedule.  South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has an idea on how he can get there – play Tennessee each year as a non-conference game. Here’s what Spurrier told Matt Hayes of The Sporting News.

 

“Nick Saban wants nine games, well he can have nine and be happy. Yep, nine games against conference opponents—but one of them won’t count, that’s all.

“Our commissioner seems to think if Alabama-Tennessee is not a conference game, no one will want to watch it. I told him, you think no one wants to watch South Carolina play Clemson? We’ve got North Carolina in the first game of the season; a border rival, our stadium will be full. You think no one will want to watch that?

“If the commissioner doesn’t think that’s a big game, he should come watch it. So there you go, Nick can have his nine (conference) games. I’m all for it.”

 

Spurrier’s idea could extend beyond Alabama-Tennessee and include other traditional rivalries such as Auburn-Georgia and Ole Miss-Vanderbilt.  He told Hayes he suggested the idea at last month’s meetings in Destin but it gained little traction.

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SEC Headlines 5/26/2013

headlines-sun3-150x150SEC Football

1. Expect nine-game conference schedule to be a hot topic of debate at the SEC spring meetings this week. Here are five things to watch.

2. Scott Rabalais: “For the sake of Alabama-Tennessee and Auburn-Georgia (but really just Alabama-Tennessee) the conference has forced permanent opponents down everyone else’s throats.”

3. Mark Wiedmar: “SEC championship game…arguably did as much to change college football as the forward pass.”

4. Nine of 14 SEC schools suffered attendance declines last year.  Georgia A.D. Greg McGarity: “It’s at the top of our list of concerns, and we talk about it constantly.”

5. JUCO defensive tackle Jarran Reed won’t be able to transfer and play at Florida this fall – not enough credits. Now planning a spring transfer.

6. Former Alabama offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland on Nick Saban: ”I improved as a coach in my two years at Alabama because of him and his knowledge of football and his willingness to share that with me.”

7. Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee on his wide receiving corps: “The best guys are going to play — I don’t care if you’re a freshman or a senior.”

8. Could Ole Miss backup quarterback Maikhail Miller emerge as a short-yardage option this fall?

9. Three of the top four most expensive opening weekend game tickets on StubHub involve SEC teams.

SEC Basketball

10. Both Alabama and LSU will participate in a tip-off event at American Airlines Center in Dallas in early November.  ”The plan is to generate a lot of excitement and hype about college basketball in the city that’s hosting the Final Four.”

Extras

11. Ever wonder how much of your cable bill is from ESPN? “Basic cable customers paid an average of $5.06 a month for ESPN in 2012, making ESPN… by far the most expensive product on basic cable.”

12. Starting quarterback Everett Golson no longer enrolled at Notre Dame. Academic violation reportedly the cause.

13. Could Gunner Kiel return to Notre Dame? Apparently not.

14. An incident from her past at Tennessee could return to haunt new Rutgers A.D. Julie Hermann.

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UT’s Sunseri Prepared To Go To Bat For Bama’s Sunseri

As we noted last week, the closer we get to football season — especially the Alabama-Tennessee game this October — the more you’ll be hearing about new Vol defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri and his relationship with his son, Tide linebacker Vinnie Sunseri.

Another dose of The Suneris was published today, this time with the father explaining just how difficult it was for him to leave his son in Tuscaloosa for a better job title in Knoxville:


“When I made this decision, I sat in that office down there, and both of us looked at each other, and we both cried.  And it was hard.  It was really hard.  But the bottom line is everybody has to go and do what they’re supposed to do in life and fulfill their dreams.  He’s fulfilling his dream, and I always wanted to be a coordinator, and I’m thankful that Derek Dooley gave me this opportunity to come up here…

(My son and I) love each other to death.  And it doesn’t matter whether you’re wearing orange or you’re wearing crimson and all that — that’s my son… I’m a parent first before I’m a coach on another team.  That’s what everybody has to understand.  That’s my son.  I will got to bat for him.  I’ll do everything I need to do.”


No fans on either side should hold one thing against either the father or the son in this case.  The son loves life at Bama.  The father got career advancement at Tennessee.

Life trumps football.

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UGA’s McGarity Says “Everything Is Still On The Table” For Scheduling

Georgia’s Greg McGarity was one of four SEC ADs to enter last week’s scheduling talks in Nashville hoping to save “permanent cross-divisional rivals” when the league adopts its new scheduling format.

He told The Chattanooga Times Free Press that he feels better about the odds of Georgia-Auburn and Alabama-Tennessee being preserved:


“I do feel better.  The tone of the conversations that everyone had sort of gave the impression that everyone had a sense, at least the majority had a sense, of liking the rivalry game with an opponent from the opposite division.  The tone led us to believe that this has a good opportunity moving forward…

I think everything is still on the table.  We spent one full day on it, and I’m sure we’ll spend one full day on it in New Orleans once everybody’s had a week to think about it.”


From what South Carolina president Harris Pastides says, it sounds like things are further along than McGarity wants to say.

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SEC A.D.s Will Discuss 9-Game Schedule; Slive Needs To Push It Past Cowards

If you’ve read MrSEC.com for anytime now, you know full well that we believe the SEC needs to go to a nine-game conference football schedule and that it eventually will do just that.

We’ve listed the reasons for such a move dozens of times:

1.  Another SEC game means more value for ticket-buying fans.

2.  The league’s television partners would prefer SEC versus SEC over SEC versus pansy any day of the week.

3.  A nine-game slate allows the best of both worlds — three of the league’s oldest rivalries (Auburn-Georgia, Alabama-Tennessee, Ole Miss-Vanderbilt) would be saved and teams would continue to rotate two cross-divisional foes per year… meaning schools would play each other more often.  (Again, that’s something TV execs would favor.)

4.  A nine-game schedule would decrease the chances of a school like Georgia in 2011 missing all three of the best teams from the other division.

5.  Such a plan would result in more inventory for a potential SEC television network down the road.

6.  Fears of “we’ll play four home games while they play five” have been wildy overstated.  The four/five, home/road advantage would flip every season.  And there are inadequacies in the current system anyway.  While everyone plays four home and four road games per year now, some play easier road schedules than others.  That’s part of any schedule rotation, so the move to a four-this-year, five-next-year plan is not that big of a change.

7.  Cries that schools might be forced to play just six home dates in a season are overblown as well.  Before the NCAA moved to a 12-game football schedule in the past decade, schools often played six or seven home games rather than the current seven or eight.  More importantly, the cash rolling in from CBS and ESPN — and that money which will go up with the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M would go up even further with more SEC versus SEC contests — easily covers the loss of one home date every other year.  Easily.

8.  Perhaps most importantly, the league would hurt itself rather than help itself by softening its schedule.  Other leagues are making their schedules tougher.  The Big 12 is playing a nine-game slate.  The ACC will move to a nine-game plan when Syracuse and Pittsburgh enter that league.  Big Ten and Pac-12 teams will begin playing on a yearly basis on top of their current in-conference schedules in 2017.  The other major conferences are all guaranteeing themselves more BCS-level opponents per season.  If the SEC sticks with an eight-game plan, all the anti-SEC’ers out there will finally have a reason to vote down the league in future polls.  No longer will the SEC be a mini-NFL.  Oh, coaches will tell you that eight SEC games are harder than nine BCS games in other leagues, but folks outside the South won’t buy it.  You can be sure of that.

Quite simply, the only reason not to go to a nine-game slate is pure cowardice.

And cowardice is not a word traditionally associated with the Southeastern Conference.  Mike Slive, it’s time to step up and lead.

Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News reports today that the SEC’s athletic directors — who will meet at both the women’s basketball tournament this week and the men’s tourney next week — will indeed discuss a nine-game plan.  But there’s no real support for such a plan from the ADs or the league’s football coaches at the moment.

Of course.

Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart — an Alabama grad and employee before joining the UT — is one of those ready to talk about a nine-game plan.  Naturally, he wants to save the Alabama-Tennessee rivalry.  And while some fans across the SEC don’t care that Tide-Vols is traditionally the league’s top game played between the two programs with the most SEC titles in history, Hart is right to fight for it.

“I think everything has to be on the table, including playing nine games, which I know terrifies some people when you say it.  I do want to talk about nine games.”

Georgia’s Greg McGarity — who no doubt wants to protect the Auburn-UGA game which is the oldest rivalry in the Deep South — is also in favor of discussing a nine-game plan.

“Many SEC fans have a decision whether to come to our game, or sit at home in front of their 60-inch HDTV.  Would they be more likely to come to a conference game as opposed to a guaranteed (nonconference) game?  I’d probably say yes.”

Solomon goes onto run through the various views of many anti-nine-game ADs as well.

Unfortunately, those ADs should not be allowed to have the final say.

Mississippi State’s Scott Stricklin admits that he’s against a nine-game plan because it might keep State out of a bowl game.  In other words, “We need a steady diet of creampuffs and cupcakes if we’re going to claim to be good.”  This fall, State’s nonconference slate is as follows: Jackson State, Troy, South Alabama and Middle Tennessee State.  In essence, MSU is already 4-0 and need only go 2-6 in the SEC — as it did last year — to reach a bowl.

Cowardice.

Kentucky has mastered the art of the weak nonconference slate as well.  Their recent rejuvenation under Rich Brooks was aided immensely by Louisville’s downturn and three lay-up nonconerence games per season.

Again, cowardice.

Just last season, in order to protest bowl eligibility, Tennessee bought its way out of a game at North Carolina and replaced the Tar Heels with a home date against Buffalo.

Sporting karma took effect and kept the Vols from going bowling even with a win over a miserable Buffalo squad on their resume.

Slive has shown in the past that he has the ability to steer the league’s presidents in the right direction.  When the coaches and ADs whined that they needed the ability to sign 37 players per season, Slive and his presidents unanimously overruled them and upped their league’s reputation nationally in the process.

When the coaches yelped over proposed multi-year scholarships, again it was Slive who convinced 3/4s of the league’s presidents to overrule their coaches and do what was right by the student-athlete.  Again, the SEC’s reputation was aided.

Now, Slive must act again.  This decision on scheduling is too big, too important, and worth way too much money to be left to coaches and athletic directors who have only their own self-interests at heart.  This isn’t about individual schools, it’s about the league as a whole.  And when the league rises, all the schools rise.

We’ve been down this road before in the Southeastern Conference.  In 1992, then-commissioner Roy Kramer and the SEC presidents voted to expand their league by two, increase the number of conference games from seven to eight, and to add a first-of-its-kind championship game.

Coaches moaned that the league would never win another national crown.  Proving the coaches’ inability to understand anything beyond the gridiron, Alabama won the national title in that very first year.  Florida followed in 1996.  Tennessee in ’98.  LSU in ’03.  And now the SEC is riding a six-title streak that’s unmatched in the history of college football.  Hell, two SEC teams played one another for the crown last month.

But if Kramer had allowed his coaches and ADs to decide the league’s fate in 1992, you can bet your hindquarters that there would have been no expansion, no eighth conference game and no SEC title game.

As a result, the SEC would not have not have gained the “toughest league in America” reputation that it now holds.  A reputation that has aided it repeatedly in the BCS era as team after team have landed in the national title game.  Unfortunately, that biggest, baddest reputation can be lost.

Acting selfishly and acting cowardly can cause it to disappear.

It’s time for Slive and the SEC to step up just as all the other major leagues are stepping up.

A nine-game schedule is what’s best for the league and, as a result, that’s what will be best for every program in the league.

And if a nine-game slate can’t pass muster, then the league must petition the NCAA for a divisionless format that protects 99% of all the league’s most important and oldest rivalries.

Slive has been viewed by many as a visionary.  To maintain that reputation, he must simply keep pace with the rest of the nation at this point.

He can’t afford nailbiting ADs influence by self-serving football coaches to make this call.  He just can’t.

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SEC Rep Talks Schedules, Divisions In Missouri

Former Mississippi State AD and current SEC transition team member Larry Templeton was in Columbia, Missouri yesterday to see the #5 Tigers knock off future SEC running mate Texas A&M on the hardwood.  The folks at PowerMizzou.com — the Rivals site covering Missouri — and The Kansas City Star caught up with Templeton and spoke with him about a number of SEC-related topics:

1.  Templeton said the SEC will continue to go with an eight-game football schedule, but that the future schedule format for 2013 and beyond will not be tied to the 2012 schedule.  “Everything you see in ’12 was done strictly to make it work.  Everything else is on the table for discussion.”

Of a nine-game schedule, Templeton said: “We’re not going to nine.  It would be an easier scheduling format, but I don’t think it would be fair to our players or our coaches.”

This has been known for a while.  SEC coaches and ADs do not want to go to a nine-game conference slate and it will be up to the league commissioner and school presidents to convince them otherwise.  Based on the SEC’s previous “bravery” when it came to adding league games and adding a championship contest, we continue to state that the SEC will eventually wind up with a nine-game schedule.  If not, then the SEC will harm itself (especially with all other leagues heading toward a nine-game schedule universe).

2.  Templeton said that one topic up for consideration is whether or not to continue having permanent cross-divisional rivalries.

If these games go away, the SEC will lose three of its oldest rivalries: Alabama-Tennessee, Auburn-Georgia, and Ole Miss-Vanderbilt.  Missouri would also lose Texas A&M and the recruiting grounds of the Lone Star State.

The Big 12 nuked its Oklahoma-Nebraska matchup when it absorbed four schools from the old SWC in the mid-90s.  The bad karma from that move has haunted the league to this day.

There is little chance that Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Vanderbilt would play each other as “non-conference” games in addition to their usual league slates, so you can stop emailing me that one.  That leaves realignment of the divisions as the only other option, but…

3.  Templeton said he did not foresee the divisional alignment changing “real quickly.”  He said: “I think we would have to have some sound reasoning as to why we would want to change that.”

4.  Templeton told the Missouri press that the SEC basketball schedule will be 16 games “next year and 18 thereafter” according to PowerMizzou.com.  He also said that Kansas City — clear across the state of Missouri — will be in play for landing an SEC Tournament at some point.

5.  Templeton said that he does not expect the SEC Championship Game to ever move from Atlanta.

6.  The SEC rep would not discuss the possibility of the league expanding further.

So what did we learn?  Not much that wasn’t already known.  Except for this: Templeton said, “Until the NCAA changes the championship game rules, it would be hard to anything but divisional play.  Now, we would like the NCAA to look at that because we feel pretty strongly — we have some crossover games division to division — (and) we would like to play more of them.”

That might be one way to open up scheduling and to save key rivalries like Alabama-Tennessee, Auburn-Georgia.  Presumably, the SEC could go without divisions and simply send its top two teams to Atlanta for the SEC title game.

But that’s pure speculation at this point.

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UT A.D. Hart Says Saving Vols-Tide Rivalry “Critically Important”

Dave Hart grew up in Alabama.  He played basketball at Alabama.  And now he’s the athletic director at Tennessee.  As someone who’s seen both sides of the Third Saturday in October rivalry, Hart says protecting that game needs to be a priority for the league:


“It’s one of those (rivalries) that literally gives you chill bumps.  Anyone who’s familiar with the Southeastern Conference can recite to you plays from you-name-the-year, plays that made a difference, great runs, great defensive plays, players who made a difference and went onto great careers in the NFL.

Just the tradition, and history and passion that exists in that rivalry is the reason I think it’s critically important that we do all we can to maintain that.”


The simplest way to save the Alabama-Tennessee rivalry — as well as 18 other SEC rivalries that have been played at least 60 times — is to place Missouri in the SEC’s East Division.

We discuss that option and several others in great detail here.

That is assuming, of course, that MU announces shortly that it wants to leave the Big 12 for the SEC.

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