Conference realignment is all that anyone is talking about in the college football world these days. The Big East is basically imploding on itself and everyone in (or who recently left) the conference is turning on one another. The Big 12 is even worse, with Oklahoma and Texas recently deciding to stick it out after the PAC-12 decided not to expand. Oklahoma demanded that Dan Beebe, commissioner of the conference, be forced out in order for them to stay. Originally they acted like they would bolt to the PAC-12 if he wasn’t fired but then people found out that apparently Oklahoma saw that they weren’t getting in anyway and had simply seen an opportunity to oust the controversial commissioner.
It’s like watching one of your mom’s afternoon soap operas when you used to stay home sick from school. But what would college football be without all the backstabbing and double-dealing? If there’s one thing I’ve always hated about college football, it’s the hypocrisy. This conference realignment issue is right at the heart of the hypocrisy of the higher ups in the sport. They talk about the welfare of their student-athletes but don’t seem to think it’s a problem to make the volleyball team travel 2,300 miles for an in-conference game during the season if it will make them more money during football season.
One of the big issues at the center of all this talk, is what will the SEC do in the event of massive conference realignment? Who the SEC would add as it’s 13th, 14th and possibly 15th and 16th members, is the talk of the league right now. Rumors are swirling around several teams, from West Virginia supposedly being rejected to whether the conference could still potentially steal Virginia Tech or Florida State despite the ACC recently adding two new teams in Pitt and Syracuse. Will Missouri be added after Texas A&M and force the league to move one team (most likely Auburn) to the East? These are all questions that are being asked and it seems that the majority of fans are for the conference expanding. But I have to ask the question: is expansion/realignment really what’s best for the sport or the SEC?
I understand that if other conferences continue on their path of adding teams and expanding, the SEC can’t be reactionary in adding new members. I get that it is in the conferences’ best interest to look into what options they have before the dominoes start falling. If the Big 12 implodes in a year and conference realignment soon follows, the SEC doesn’t want to be unprepared and end up with Memphis and Louisville as their final members. I completely get that and if expansion happens, I will adapt and so will every other fan of the game. We will keep watching and the people in charge of these decisions know that.
I do, however, have my doubts about how the decisions currently being made will change the game and I don’t think they’re for the best. One of the biggest scenarios being mentioned is the addition of Missouri and the subsequent move of Auburn to the SEC East. I firmly believe that this would be a huge mistake for the conference. Some of the greatest traditions in the conference would be thrown out the window to make room for Missouri?
Alabama would most likely have to choose between Auburn and Tennessee as their permanent SEC East rival. They of course would choose Auburn, ending a rivalry with Tennessee that has been played every year since 1928 and the Iron Bowl would most likely be moved up from the final conference game of the year to earlier in the season. LSU would no longer play Auburn every year, a game that has become one of the most exciting rivalries in the conference in recent years. The list goes on and on of games that the conference would lose because of these decisions.
A friend recently said to me that fans of the SEC fought the idea of an SEC Championship Game when it was first introduced to the league, saying that it would kill traditions, and this is true. People got used to the change and now the SEC Championship Game is annually one of the most anticipated games in college football. Alabama fans may have to get used to watching the team travel to Columbia, Missouri every other year on the Third Saturday in October. Florida fans may have to start finding a way to make the long trip to College Station, Texas every few years when A&M rotates their way onto the schedule. And I realize that if these things happen I will (and you will) get used to them and life as an SEC fan will go on. I’m just not really sure I want to.