Auburn officials really want to get a discussion going about realigning the divisions in the SEC.
Both Auburn coach Gus Malzahn and Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs have made comments about the conference’s East and West divisions following former Auburn coach Pat Dye’s ideas about changing the divisions. Thursday, Jacobs said the school was “open” to the possibility of moving to the East. From AL.com:
“It makes sense,” Jacobs said on WNSP-FM 105.5. “If we ever had the opportunity to geographically realign, it makes sense. It really makes sense for Missouri, because of the travel or other things like that.”
It also makes sense for the Big 12 to have 12 teams (it has 10) and for the Big Ten to have 10 teams (it has 14), but welcome to the college football landscape in 2017. Not everything makes sense.
When Missouri and Texas A&M joined the SEC before the 2012 football season, none of the SEC’s current teams switched divisions. The Aggies were added to the West while Missouri — located further to the east than A&M — was added to the East. Geographically, the spot should have gone to Auburn, which was the eastern-most West division team at the time.
If the SEC was to realign, expansion would have been the appropriate time to do it. That way both Missouri and A&M could have slotted into the West. The move has worked out pretty well for the (Missouri) Tigers, who won the SEC East in 2013 and 2014. After the 2013 season, Auburn beat Missouri in the SEC Championship Game.
But here we are five years later and, somewhat curiously, Auburn is still the only school publicly championing the idea. Maybe it’s because of the SEC West dominance by Alabama and coach Nick Saban. The Tide have won the division in five of the last six seasons.
“You look at the map and obviously it makes sense,” Malzahn said at the Regions Pro-Am golf tournament via SEC Country. “There’s a lot more to it than just the map and all that. But that’s [Dye’s] opinion and he’s been around a long time. But there’s a lot more to it.”
Malzahn is right — there is a hell of a lot more to a move than simply swapping Missouri and Auburn. And that’s strictly from a football sense.
The SEC’s eight-game schedule includes six division games, an annual rivalry game with the same non-division opponent and a rotating game with a non-division opponent. Alabama’s rivalry game is against Tennessee and Auburn’s is against Georgia.
In an Auburn-to-the-East scenario the Georgia game becomes a division game and the Iron Bowl undoubtedly would become the annual East-West game for Alabama and Auburn. But while that would work out nicely for Auburn, it deprives Tennessee of a tradition and forces the SEC to establish a “rivalry” between the Volunteers and Missouri.
And given the current football climate in the conference, how are SEC East teams going to feel about Auburn replacing Missouri? The Tigers from Alabama are a better program than the Tigers from Missouri.
Auburn brought up the realignment idea a year ago. Malzahn said last spring that he expected it to be a discussion at the league’s meetings and there was never any summer traction about realignment. If we had to guess, we’d assume the same scenario will be repeated in 2017. But hey, it’s the Friday before Memorial Day weekend and Auburn apparently wants to give SEC fans something to discuss over drinks at the lake.
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