If you missed it, the SEC announced on Sunday night that the conference would stick with the eight-game conference schedule it has been using since 2012. The SEC once used a six-game schedule to determine its champion until play started in the expanded SEC in 1992. South Carolina and Arkansas were in – and the SEC was about to take off in a way it never had before.
But Sunday's announcement kept the conference from getting too greedy (nine-game schedule) and crushing what the conference is most known for – tradition (more on that in a second). It also ensured that Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky at Georgia wouldn't be the only teams guaranteed to play a BCS-level foe sometime during the season. The SEC West became pretty notorious about playing four nobodies each season in the 1990s, but that's gone now (even though those institutions had done a better job scheduling).
Before reading further you should understand where I am coming from here. I don't think Missouri belongs in the SEC. I'm trying to get used to Texas A&M… but the SEC was just fine with 12 teams. I readily admit that there is a great reason to have both A&M and Mizzou in the conference – money.
I get that – I think everyone gets that.
But the little things about the new 14-team SEC get on my nerves. 14 teams takes away from how neat and easy 12 was in nearly every sport. In football, the five games in division play made things simple. Non-division opponents would play often. We had gotten used to seeing Georgia and Alabama playing more often than once a decade – that's probably not going to happen any more. Florida once had to travel to Oxford to be upset about every five years – now it's about every ten.
Again – the little things: Georgia no longer plays Florida and Kentucky twice a season in basketball. Florida… you know, Georgia's biggest conference rival in everything, didn't come to Athens for a basketball game for the first time since dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Now Georgia gets to play South Carolina twice – hurrah! SEC Media days used to be an event that was more of a sprint (two and a half days and done), this summer it will be a four-day marathon, and for what reason I can't figure out. The SEC Basketball Tournament used to be neat and easy – four days… no garbage Wednesday night session.
Again, the little things.
But ending Auburn-Georgia (in any scheduling form) would have been the conference saying: What we've stood for the last 80-plus years is a total lie. We've turned our back on what we are in favor of something, and that something isn't great. Perhaps the best way to put it is like this: Games like Georgia-Auburn are what built this conference… it certainly hasn't been Georgia's games at Mississippi State.
Ending Auburn-Georgia would have led to Georgia playing Missouri (I will type is slowly for effect)… M I S S O U R I more often than Auburn. Missouri.
Missouri – besides being in the US – is a place Georgia has nothing, nothing in common with. Those Tigers would have played the Dawgs more often than Auburn – Georgia's frenemy through the ages. Does that seem like an SEC that everyone would have really wanted? It sort of sounds like what happened to the Big East's basketball tradition – Syracuse-Georgetown died in favor of South Florida-Louisville.
I will gloss over the fact that Ole Miss and Georgia played one another for decades, and that Alabama, a natural big-game foe won't visit Athens for at least seven years (2015 at the earliest), or that Georgia won't visit Baton Rouge until probably the end of time at the current rate.
But I like to stay positive… that trip past the St. Louis Arch is on! And EVERY OTHER SEASON!
If it feels like I am picking on Missouri, trust me when I tell you I am not. Georgia fans have no feeling one way or the other about Missouri… they are irrelevant. Want passion and emotion (the things that make the SEC)? Ask a Georgia partisan about Florida, Auburn or even Tennessee.
You will get a response, and you might want to grab a sandwich because it's probably going to take a while.
"Tradition matters in the SEC, and there is no denying that tradition was a significant factor in this decision because it protects several long-standing cross-division conference rivalries," SEC commissioner Mike Slive said in a release Sunday night.
Preach it Brother Mike… Preach it.
Thankfully another mistake was avoided today with the conference making one of the most appropriate and significant decisions since signing a contract with CBS in the 1990s. Slive's decision – and don't joke with yourself… this has his handwriting all over it – to stick with the eight-game schedule with a permanent cross-division rival was absolutely the right thing to so.
Because Tennessee and Bama's annual love fest in October is the SEC; Missouri-Georgia isn't.
Because the LSU-Florida annual street fight is the SEC; Texas A&M-South Carolina isn't.
Because Georgia-Auburn's incestuous family reunion in November is the SEC; Arkansas-Kentucky isn't.
No matter how often we would have been force-fed how great the fact that Georgia and Alabama would play one another more often (and that would be great – just look at last year's LSU-Georgia game or the Bama-Georgia game in 2012 to see great cross-division games), it just wouldn't be the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry; it wouldn't be LSU-Florida; it certainly wouldn't be the Third Weekend in October.
Still, let's be clear… we had that – until the conference went to 14 schools… but, again, the money. "Always the dollars," as Nicky Santoro from Casino correctly observed.
At a minimum the traditional cross-division rivalries of the SEC didn't suffer the same fate that Santoro did after saying those words – face down in a shallow grave.