Auburn to the SEC East? It’s a cushy move – for the moment

Howdy there, Tiger folks. Welcome back to the neighborhood. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Howdy there, folks. Welcome back to the neighborhood. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Provided Kenneth Starr and Baylor don’t get litigious again, Missouri is expected to become the SEC’s 14th member at any moment. And with Missouri and Texas A&M arriving as Nos. 14 and 13, somebody from the current SEC West will have to move to the East for the sake of balance. Most folks expect the mover to be Auburn — although Alabama, being its selfish self, is making noises about preferring that its arch-enemy stay put — and how would Auburn feel about upping sticks?

Pretty darn good.

Auburn is based in the Central Time Zone by the grace of 25 miles. It’s almost as close to Atlanta’s southern suburbs as to the capital of Alabama. The Tigers’ greatest rival has always been the school in Tuscaloosa, duh, but for most of Auburn’s existence its next-biggest rivals were Georgia and Florida and Tennessee. (And don’t forget Georgia Tech, which is now out of reach in the ACC, which will require some realignment of its own. Auburn students would hold a Wreck Tech parade — I once covered it — before that annual game.)

Auburn-Georgia remains an annual fixture — it’s the Oldest Rivalry in the Deep South and, in my view, the best game of most every year — but Auburn-Tennessee and Auburn-Florida were lost to the realities of divisional scheduling. They’d return with Auburn’s move to the East, and the Tigers wouldn’t be displeased.

Back in September, both Auburn president Jay Gogue and AD Jay Jacobs said they’d have no problem with moving, and in saying “no problem” they sounded almost giddy. As Jacobs told Jon Solomon of the Birmingham News: “We have so many students come from Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, they come on campus and say, ‘Why aren’t we playing Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina?’ ”

What Gogue and Jacobs didn’t say was what seems rather blatant: As it stands, the SEC East would be easier to win than the West. (Arkansas, the third-best team in the six-team West, is ranked ninth in the BCS standings.) But here we need to say, “Whoa.”

When the SEC split into divisions, the East became Beverly Hills and remained so until Steve Spurrier left for the NFL and Tennessee began to wobble. Of the first 11 SEC championship games, the East won eight. Only after Nick Saban planted his flag at LSU did the West begin to rise, and only after Saban returned from his own NFL misfire to reconfigure Alabama did the West become the cutthroat division we see now.

Alabama and LSU are two of the three best teams in the country. Arkansas is nuzzling into the Top 10. Auburn won the 2010 BCS title. Mississippi State, which was either the fourth- or fifth-best team in the six-team division, was ranked No. 20 nationally in preseason. (That was before anybody realized the maroon Bulldogs couldn’t beat any of its Western brethren save Ole Miss.) The winner of the SEC West has won not just three of the past four SEC titles but three of the past four national championships. That said …

These things are, as things tend to be, cyclical. From 1994 through 2003, every SEC East winner — meaning Florida, Tennessee or Georgia — was ranked No. 6 or higher in the Associated Press poll entering the league championship game. Over that span, only two SEC West champs — Alabama in 1994 and LSU in 2003 — were ranked as high as No. 6.

But Florida is on its third coach since Spurrier and Tennessee on its second since Phillip Fulmer and South Carolina, which for a century stood as a case study in never-won-anything, took the SEC East last year with three conference losses. (And got beaten by 39 points by Auburn in the title game.) Georgia is scrambling to bleed out another division title to prove it’s still relevant. Add all that together, and … why wouldn’t the Tigers be thrilled at the prospects of relocation?

Just as Florida and Tennessee weren’t impervious to time and tide (pun intended), Alabama and LSU and Arkansas won’t be, either. What if Saban takes $10 million to go rescue Texas? What if Les Miles gets a similar offer from Ohio State? What if Derek Dooley loses to Vanderbilt and Tennessee looks to Bobby Petrino, ever-ready to relocate?

For all the homage we pay to college football’s traditions, the cold truth is that the sport’s greatest determinant is the head coach. Alabama won a national championship under Gene Stallings in the first season of SEC divisional play, but didn’t sniff another until Saban worked his dark magic. Florida ruled the SEC under Spurrier but became a punch line under Ron Zook; then it hired Urban Meyer, who won twice as many national titles as the Evil Genius.

So long as Saban and Miles and Petrino remain in the SEC West, any opponent would find the going softer anywhere else. But that’s the catch with coaches. Eventually they leave, and everything changes.

By Mark Bradley

336 comments Add your comment

Columbus Dawg

October 19th, 2011
10:14 am

Saban will be at the University of Texas next year with brand new 100,000,000 dollar contract.

Swarles Barkley

October 19th, 2011
10:16 am

Sounds good to me

just sayin'

October 19th, 2011
10:16 am

let’em come…cheetnik won’t be there long anyway…

juvenal

October 19th, 2011
10:16 am

uga should pull for Tech so we could be an easy sec win……

Swarles Barkley

October 19th, 2011
10:17 am

Hahaha. Make that an eleventy billion dollar contract. It’s how much they’re making from the Longhorn Network.

Swarles Barkley

October 19th, 2011
10:19 am

juvenal….tech doesn’t deserve a spot on the SEC. they left and they have to live with it.

Pesch Master Flex

October 19th, 2011
10:21 am

Why not go get two teams from the ACC to round out the East? Va Tech and NC State would both be wonderful additions that expand the SEC market.

Swarles Barkley

October 19th, 2011
10:21 am

Oh, and it’s about time the AJC shut the f up about Todd Grantham. Y’all are as giddy as a little kid at Christmas any time someone from UGA does something controversial.

Swarles Barkley

October 19th, 2011
10:23 am

Pesch, I don’t think anyone really wants a 16 team conference. Especially as strong as each division would be, it would be a nightmare to try and win the conference. Each school would see an SEC championship once every ten years. And that’s just assuming of the 16, 10 would be competitive.

Dawgs97

October 19th, 2011
10:23 am

C’mon. Alabama would MATCH anything Texas offers, please. Alabama has just as many deep pockets supporting the football program as Texas and no way they let Nick leave.

I’m all for Auburn coming to the East. The competitive balance and travel aspects make more sense. What’s tiresome is all the Alabama fans who whine & moan about losing the annual Tennessee game and talk about the rivalry’s history. Exactly – history. They’re not breaking up the Iron Bowl and Bama-LSU is a much better rivalry now than Tennessee, which is a shell of itself and an automatic win for Bama the next 10 years.

NC Dawg

October 19th, 2011
10:24 am

First to say “First!”

Mark Bradley

October 19th, 2011
10:25 am

Kudos, NC. For … something or other.

Desert Dawg

October 19th, 2011
10:26 am

The reason the East has fallen on lean times is that there is a pay freeze in effect, so Auburn might not fare as well as they think

Tiger1992

October 19th, 2011
10:27 am

Mark, have you not been paying attention? They won’t get the votes for approval of Missouri with Auburn going East. That would mean UAT and UT not playing every year, because they won’t stop the Iron Bowl under any circumstances. Unless they go back to two permanent opponents from the other division, expect Missouri to end up in the East.

Oleballfan

October 19th, 2011
10:30 am

SEC Re-alignment Problem solved: Mizzou to SEC East. Check your geography. Mizzou is closer to most SEC East teams than SEC West teams. http://mizzou2sec.com/

http://mizzou2sec.com/

Alaska Dawg

October 19th, 2011
10:30 am

Swarles Barkley, I ama lifetime Dawg fan and I find Grantham’s actions disgusting. Thanks AJC for calling it like it is.

rabundog

October 19th, 2011
10:30 am

Read where bama wanted Mizzo in the east for it’s vote – doesn’t matter Auby or Mizzo to the east – UGA will not be competative till they make a lot of changes

Tider58

October 19th, 2011
10:31 am

Saban to TX, you have gotta be kiddiing, Mack Brown is not gone yet. CNS isn’t going anywhere, except to the North Georgia mountains when he finally decides to hang itup!

Aaron

October 19th, 2011
10:32 am

I agree with ole Swarley.

vdunkndunk

October 19th, 2011
10:33 am

It seems to me that Auburn coming to the East would help Georgia; we were already playing Auburn every year anyway, but Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee weren’t – and now Auburn will likely play Alabama every year, whereas Georgia won’t. It seems to me that this could mean more SEC losses to go around for Eastern division rivals.

SSG Desert Dawg

October 19th, 2011
10:33 am

When is someone in the media going to mention how childish coach Franklin acted? I don’t condone coach Grantham’s actions, but I don’t think he should get all of the blame either. Why is coach Franklin the victim when he seemed to start it? I’m just sayin.

DC

October 19th, 2011
10:35 am

I so hope that AU goes over to the east! Jay Jacobs said it best..AU’s recruiting fits best with the east. We lose 2 games in the east and it still wouldn’t matter! Please make this happen Slive!

Mark Bradley

October 19th, 2011
10:36 am

I understand that Alabama doesn’t want Auburn to move to the East. But Auburn seems fine with it, and I can’t believe anyone else would object.

DC

October 19th, 2011
10:37 am

Plus Mark you could write more hateful articles on how obnoxious us AU fans are…but I think these past two days..your opinion might be slighted to something closer to home..

D Fence

October 19th, 2011
10:41 am

AU has always been a second rate school in their own state so moving to a second rate divison (at such time) in their own conference shouldnt be an issue. I mean they are used to it.
And I cant wait to pay them back on Nov 12 for all the cheap shots on Murray last year..talk about suspensions.

richie rich

October 19th, 2011
10:41 am

Grantham and Franklin are at fault. An overlooked or not mentioned tidbit is Hubert Owens referee and crew. Did they let the game get out of hand ? I’m asking beacuse I did not see the game. Hubert and his crew let Nick Fairley get away with assault on Aaron Murray last year and were suspended for making Alabama national Champs the year before with fantom calls(against Arkansas?).
Maybe there is a common thread in officiating crews?

SSG Desert Dawg

October 19th, 2011
10:42 am

I’m sure the Alabama/Auburn game will still happen every year. I shouldn’t matter to Alabama if Auburn comes to the East. It shouldn’t make a difference to UGA fans either. Auburn is a good team most years, but they are no Alabama or LSU. They would not have even played for a NC if they were without Cam or Nick Fairley.

Oleballfan

October 19th, 2011
10:45 am

Why are you dumba$$es changing the subject matter? This is thread is about Auburn moving to the East. All some of you do is take pot shots at other posters. and try and get vendettas off your chest.

S GA AU FAN

October 19th, 2011
10:45 am

Too many Tigers in the West as it is.

WDE

October 19th, 2011
10:46 am

uga doesn’t want any more competition in the east. if they couldn’t feast on vandy and kentucky every year they would’ve fired their coach by now. even south carolina has gotten into the fun the florida has.

we’d be going to atlanta this year if we were in the east

Otis

October 19th, 2011
10:47 am

Jeff FYI

Alabama won the SEC beating Florida in ‘99 with Mike Dubose.

DC

October 19th, 2011
10:47 am

D Fence, second rate? I mean if we go back to when bear bryant was a coach and going to movies cost a nickle..then yeah…AU was bama’s little brother…

but lets look over this since the late 80s to present…

The series record is bama leading 40-34-1

DC

October 19th, 2011
10:49 am

SSG Desert Dawg…you say that back in 2004 too?

RunningDog

October 19th, 2011
10:50 am

Mark, Tennessee people will likely object to the Auburn move because of the potential loss of the Bama rivalry if Auburn and the Tide become permanent crossovers. Missouri will likely end up in the East.

blazerdawg

October 19th, 2011
10:51 am

Welcome East Auburn! Do not really get the Mizzou thing outside of TV, but looking forward to my first visit to Columbia – hope it is close to KC – I want some of that BBQ!

bitter knock your block off

October 19th, 2011
10:51 am

GRANTHAM——————————RULES————————go dawgs———–

ps —–add tech to sec west

Spike

October 19th, 2011
10:52 am

Missiouri ? In the SEC? What the hell?

David "D-Day" Housel

October 19th, 2011
10:53 am

WDE – We Deny Everything

NorthStarsDave

October 19th, 2011
10:54 am

OK….Auburn moves to the East….

Would the Iron Bowl game be moved from being played during Thanksgiving Weekend?

You surely can NOT have Alabama-Auburn play the Iron Bowl and then play the next weekend for the SEC Championship?

There currently are no other cross-divisional games that late in the SEC season….

This may be why Alabama really wants to keep Auburn in the West…..

Mark Bradley

October 19th, 2011
10:56 am

Well, Georgia and Florida and South Carolina all finish their regular seasons with out-of-conference games. Not sure why Alabama couldn’t finish with an out-of-division game.

To MarkB

October 19th, 2011
11:01 am

Yea, Maybe Alabama and Texas since A&M is no longer there.

SSG Desert Dawg

October 19th, 2011
11:01 am

I don’t recall Auburn playing for a NC is 2004…oh, that’s because they didn’t. They probably should have, but didn’t. Auburn will not dominate the East. They will contend for it every year, like Georgia, Florida, and SC (for a couple of years atleast), but they will not win it year in and year out. Moving to the East is not something they should be giddy or overly excited about.

Not so Fast My Friend

October 19th, 2011
11:02 am

if AU comes east who will be GA,s new perm. apponent?

GeoffDawg

October 19th, 2011
11:03 am

Don’t forget that there’s been plenty of talk about Mizzou moving to the East. Geographically, it’s not as big of a leap in logic as you might think.

Also, Auburn to the East would be a scheduling boon for Georgia. One more quality opponent for UF, UT, SC that Georgia plays every year anyway.

Big Albany Dawg

October 19th, 2011
11:03 am

Everyone’s got a little brother. And sometimes they need to go prove themselves. I say bring it so that Vandy, KY and Sc won’t be so lonely.

bitter knock your block off

October 19th, 2011
11:04 am

if these pu$$_ keep writing about being weak and disliking someone who can be

—————————————- NASTY——YAAAAW————IM GOING TO GIVE THE CHOKE SIGN

———–HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

Mark Bradley

October 19th, 2011
11:04 am

That’s a good question. There really wouldn’t be a great natural rival for UGA in the West, would there?

Texas A&M? They played in the Independence Bowl.

To Not So Fast My Friend

October 19th, 2011
11:04 am

Alabama? Roll Tide

D Fence

October 19th, 2011
11:05 am

All you AU folks who think you arent second fiddle in your own state ….well like my old pal OReilly sez ‘the spin does stop here”….

DC

October 19th, 2011
11:05 am

SSG Desert…not saying they will win the east year in year out..but if this move happens it will be a lot easier for them to get to SEC Championship..

MB states that everything is cyclical…i agree..but i feel this cycle is going to go on for several more years..

SSG how many undefeated seasons has UGA had over past 10 years? now refer to AU..