Over at SB Nation, Bill Connelly and Jason Kirk put forth a proposal to do away with divisions within the SEC. They argue it will be better and offer four reasons. I disagree.
1. Every major SEC rivalry will be protected.
Well, yes, so long as you define major rivalry as the ones that are actually protected. In particular, the plan keeps Tennessee-Alabama, Alabama-Auburn and Auburn-Georgia. Those three are important and are the sticking point with some plans, notably moving Auburn to the East. However, the plan ignores one particular long standing rivalry, Auburn-Florida. That rivalry was arguably the biggest casualty of the 12 team conference. I’d argue that’s a pretty big rivalry, and if we are protecting “every major rivalry” you need to make allowances for that.
A better plan would be to move Auburn to the East, Missouri to the west, go to 9 conference games and have two permanent rivalry games. Then you really could protect all rivals.
2. Every SEC team would play every other every two years.
This is admittedly a nice feature. The way the SB Nation proposal accomplishes it is that teams don’t play home and home series each year. Rather if a team plays another in 2016, they may not play in 2017. This is nice, but it isn’t so important that I’d want to see divisions scrapped.
3. The schedules are really balanced.
They are … now. We can assume year in year out that Alabama will be good, so long as Saban is there. We can assume Vanderbilt’s great years will be few and far between, but we can’t set up a schedule matrix that will remain balanced in the long term. It’s the nature of sports for one team to get better and others to regress. Nebraska and Miami were once undisputed national powers. Ohio State had a losing season within recent memory. Things change. Trying to schedule for parity with today’s strength is a fool’s errand.
4. Without Divisions the SEC championship would pair the best two teams.
This is my biggest objection. Without divisions the SEC Championship would be a farce. It would only make sense in years when two teams, and only two teams, tied for first and didn’t play each other. If more than two tied, you’re leaving someone out. If only one team wins, they have nothing to gain from having to win again. You could even have the nightmare scenario where say, LSU beats Alabama to go 8-0 in conference. Alabama then finished 7-1. Alabama gets another shot at LSU in the title game. That’s not fair to LSU or wise.
Also, although the schedules look to be pretty balanced now, they may not be in practice this season or any season. Without divisions you exacerbate that possibility. At least with divisions a champion has played all the teams on that side.
This is a solution in search of a problem. But, it’s the off-season. We should be talking about this stuff. Bill Connelly and Jason Kirk write great stuff, but I disagree with them here.