As I’m sure you’ve seen, UGA athletic director Greg McGarity talked with reporters Wednesday about the possibility of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry between Georgia and Auburn falling victim to the revised schedule the expanded SEC is likely to undertake after this coming season.
Basically, what it comes down to is this: The permanent cross-divisional rivalries could easily be maintained if the SEC went to a nine-game conference schedule as other conferences, including the ACC, are doing. But SEC athletic directors prefer to stick with eight conference games in order to maintain more scheduling flexibility (meaning they can schedule the occasional nonconference BCS game and still feast on at least two cupcakes per season).
That’s an even bigger factor for teams like Georgia, Florida and South Carolina that have BCS in-state rivals permanently locked in on their schedule.
The future of the Georgia-Auburn rivalry is endangered because, with that game and Alabama-Tennessee being the only east-west permanent rivalries that historically mean a whole lot to the schools involved, there’s little incentive for the athletic directors of the remaining 10 SEC schools to maintain them.
This is one instance in which what the fans clearly would prefer runs completely counter to what the business-minded athletic directors desire. There’s no question fans would rather give up a cupcake game than a traditional yearly rivalry.
But the fans and athletic directors are on separate pages here.
McGarity admitted as much when he told the Macon Telegraph that he opposed going to nine conference games because, in UGA’s case, with Georgia Tech “that makes 10 games. If you ever wanted to schedule Clemson or Ohio State, like we have, then that only leaves one guarantee game. That’s a pretty tough schedule. Fans would love it. But I don’t know if your coaches or players [would]. That’s strapping it up 11 of 12 weeks there. You have to have some time where some players play who never get a chance to be on the field. That’s why you schedule some of the I-AAs, and some of the other games, to let some of those kids grow, let those kids get their experience.”
OK, first of all, most of us know that those cupcake games really are primarily scheduled for financial reasons, not to give the kids riding the bench a chance at playing time.
But even if you accept the athletic directors’ argument for not going to nine conference games, asking fans at Georgia, Auburn, Alabama and Tennessee to accept the loss of a traditional rivalry game with a storied history in exchange for a glorified scrimmage against a 1-AA team or some nobody school with a directional name is simply not in the best interests of college football.
That may be old-fashioned thinking, I know, but if the SEC starts throwing away those longstanding traditions that have engendered the fanatical fan support that has provided the foundation of its success, what you end up with is just a feeder league for the NFL.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg