August 28, 2007

A Quick Rant About Something That's Wrong

We went to Texas, and are proud fans of the Longhorns and the Big XII Conference. But we also grew up in the Deep South, which means that our roots are in SEC country. We can remember going to our first Texas home conference game and noticing how little all our burnt-orange brethren seemed to hate Oklahoma State. This was confusing to us, since every game in the SEC (except when you're playing Vanderbilt) has the atmosphere of a rivalry game. But we got used to it. In fact, there is even one area in which we believe the SEC could--and should--learn a lot from the Big XII. The area in question is inter-divisional scheduling.

In both leagues, each team plays 3 teams from the other division each year. In the Big XII, whom everyone plays in a given year is determined by a straightforward rotating schedule. For example: In 2004, Texas played Missouri in Austin, at Colorado, and at Kansas. In
2005, Texas played the same 3 schools but with home-and-home flipped, i.e. at Mizzou and against Colorado and Kansas at home. Then, in 2006, the opponents rotated--so Texas played at home against Iowa State, at Nebraska, and at K-State. This season, the Horns play at Iowa State and at home against Nebraska and Kansas State. In 2008, the process will start over again. So, you get the idea--in a four-year college career, every Big XII football player gets the opportunity to play every team in the other division twice.

Now consider the Southeastern Conference. In an attempt to preserve traditional rivalries that existed well before the conference was divided into an Eastern and a Western division, each team in the SEC has one permanent opponent from the other side and the other 2 in a given year are determined on a rotationg home-and-home basis. The only problem is that there are only 2 such rivalries that the system is intended to protect: Alabama-Tennessee and Georgia-Auburn. The other 8 teams in the league have no serious cross-divisional rivalries. But because those 4 schools insist upon playing one another every year, everyone else has to have a permanent opponent as well. This means that there are years in which the competitive balance of the league is badly skewed. LSU's permanent Eastern opponent is Florida. Compare that to Mississippi State (permanent opponent: Kentucky), Arkansas (South Carolina), and Ole Miss (Vanderbilt). This means that there will often be years in which LSU, Auburn, and/or Bama have to play 2 of the Big Three (i.e., Florida, Georgia and Tennessee), and there will also be years in which State, Ole Miss, and/or Arkansas have to play none of them. For example, Mississippi State won the SEC West in 1998 with an Eastern schedule of South Carolina, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt. This can only be described as a joke. As proof that State was not, in fact, the best team in the SEC West that year, look no further than their 38-11 Cotton Bowl thrashing at the hands of the Longhorns.

We certainly understand that rivalries are a big part of what makes college football fun. But we would also argue that it is a conference's duty to do right by its student-athletes in terms of fair competition. The SEC scheduling system right now doesn't do that. It is important to note that Oklahoma-Nebraska is every bit as big and traditional a rivalry as either Auburn-Georgia or Bama-Tennessee--and that playing OU-NU two years on, two years off for the past 11 years has not caused the world to crumble. It would not crumble if the 2 SEC rivalries played under the same system, either.

But, Southerners hate a change...


JBRATER said...

This is actually a common misconception. Since the SEC has the best 12 teams in the country every season, there's no need to balance the schedule, since each team will be running the guantlet against the best teams in the country. In other news, the United States Government is considering dispatching the SEC to quell the wildfires in Greece, since the SEC is the only thing that can stop them, because it's so great.

WAO said...

See, what you're doing there, is you're exaggerating what we always say about the SEC just because of your Big Ten inferiority complex. It's cool; we understand passive aggressive behavior down here in the illiterate South too.

JBRATER said...

RKO Pictures is working on Godzilla vs. the SEC for summer 2009. Godzilla finally loses!