The ongoing debate around the SEC schedule for 2014 and beyond revolves around a few coaches' concerns about the unbalanced schedule created by the permanent cross-division rival. To be blunt, LSU is tired of playing Florida while others in the West get a relative freebie with whomever. South Carolina is a bit miffed at having to play Texas A&M every year, too.
I've thought the schedule thing would be worked out by now. You did to. So is the hold up adding two teams (looking less likely), going to 9 games, or some sort of compromise revolving around 14 teams?
For my money, it is working a compromise around 14 teams and the 9 game schedule. Let me be upfront about my position: I think we should do whatever it takes to preserve 1)the conference, then 2) rivalries. I also am beginning to think we should play 9 conference games, even though that means one fewer home SEC games every other year.
Being reasonable, LSU has legitimate scheduling reasons for wanting to look at the process of SEC conference scheduling. I think they've been reasonable about the 9 game schedule, something that is growing on me. I also think there is a solution out there that I've hinted around, that And the Valley Shook blogger Billy Gomila put pretty succinctly:
Hell, for all I care, give teams an option regarding the locked inter-division game, and adjust the scheduling rotation around that. You'd still have some schedule imbalance, but at least then the schools would be making that choice for themselves, rather than having it dictated to them.
And that's the key word in this whole debate: choice. A program might not be able to choose the opponents on a conference schedule, but it's not too much to ask that those opponents aren't dictated by the choices of other programs.Basically, if Alabama/Tennessee and Georgia/Auburn want to keep playing, good on them. Let'em. That gives the other 10 teams opportunities to play each other in a round robin way or whatever. Essentially, those four teams are opting out of the opportunity to play the other division's opponents more often.
The SEC should look at the long term health of the conference. I'd even consider some sort of shuffling of the division, despite the current imbalance that'd create (think Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Florida, Tennesse, Kentucky and South Carolina in the East). With the exception of Sewannee leaving after eight years, the conference was the same for the first 30 years, until Georgia Tech and Tulane chickened out. It would remain the same for nearly 30 more until the addition of Arkansas and South Carolina.
At the conference founding, the football powers were Alabama, Tulane, Georgia Tech and LSU. In the 40's it was Georgia and Georgia Tech. In the 50s, it was Mississippi and Tennessee. In the 60s, it was Mississippi and Alabama. In the 70s, it was Alabama. In the 80s, it was Georgia and Auburn. In the 90s, it was Florida and Tennessee. Since 2000, it has been Florida, LSU, Alabama, Georgia and Auburn, with a scattering of the other schools putting together great seasons.
My point is a strong conference is built on the teams playing each other in compelling match ups. Georgia vs. Auburn is more compelling, to me and from a marketing stand point, due to how long they've been playing. If LSU doesn't want that kind of long term cross-division rivalry, that only hurts them in the long run, from my perspective.
Billy made another good point:
The faster we can stop pretending there's any nobility in a sports scheduling debate, the faster we can all talk about this like adults.He's right about that. There is no nobility in it. The money grab has meant money wins over rivalry discussions. I get that LSU doesn't like having two the East's big three on their schedule just because 'it is their' turn. I get South Carolina didn't like it when they got the short end of the stick last year. I get they don't care about the rivalries. I think they should some, but I don't think they are so sacrosanct that they should cause the conference to come apart.
If this were, say 1989, LSU current schedule would be far easier than any other West team, save Arkansas. Georgia and Florida were middling at best. Tennessee and Auburn were the only teams to threaten Alabama. Of course, LSU went 4-7 in 1989. And that is what I'd think everyone should remember in this: the sun doesn't shine on the same dog's ass every day. When there is a rotation that ends up with your team playing teams that are enjoying their heydays, that is just the way it is. So if we go to rotation, they let's go to it and be done with the discussion. That is also an adult way to look at things.
Unless, of course we want to discuss relegation, yearly competitively balanced schedules, and crap that the NFL has done to make schedules 'more fair.' Which I don't.