There is a chance that SEC conference expansion will claim one significant victim: The Georgia-Auburn series.
Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said Wednesday that SEC athletic directors will meet near the end of the month to discuss future football scheduling. With the conference’s addition of Texas A&M and Missouri, the two biggest questions: 1) Will the SEC go to a nine-game conference schedule? 2) Will expansion force for the end of the SEC’s annual East-West rivalry games of Georgia-Auburn and Alabama-Tennessee?
Answer to No. 1: Probably not.
Answer to No. 2: Possibly.
Georgia-Auburn is known as the “Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry,” dating back to 1892. They have played every year since 1898, with three exceptions: 1917, 1918 and 1943. The reasons: World War I and World War II. It appears “Conference Armageddon” may have an equal impact.
The ACC recently announced that teams will begin playing nine-game conference schedules when Pittsburgh and Syracuse officially join the league. McGarity is against the SEC increasing from eight-game schedules and does not sense there’s any movement in that direction. He said nine conference games might necessitate schools dropping a traditional local rivalry. Examples: Georgia-Georgia Tech, Florida-Florida State and South-Carolina-Clemson.
The future of Georgia-Auburn is less certain. Expansion will lead to schools playing six games against division opponents and two against the opposite division. (The current breakdown is five-three.) But there are only two traditional East-West rivalries in the SEC, which could lead to schools rotating opponents from the opposite division.
“I think if you ask Alabama and Tennessee, like us and Auburn, we’d like to retain the games,” McGarity said. “But does that work? What do the other 10 schools think? Those four schools like having those games but there’s no other East-West match-up that has that piece of history to it. So I don’t where that fits in.”
He said athletic directors will study “numerous models” when they meet.
“With 14 teams, not everybody will be happy,” he said. “Some will have a problem with everything. But we’ll make decisions based on the best situation of the league.”
By Jeff Schultz