Collins: Great divide in SEC


Published: Sunday, June 24, 2012 at 8:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, June 23, 2012 at 10:24 p.m.

As long as we are burning to the ground the college football landscape, and rebuilding it again, let's go ahead and get one thing right.

Facts

SEC membership through the years

Sewanee: 1932-40
Georgia Tech: 1932-64
Tulane: 1932-66
Alabama: 1932-present
Auburn: 1932-present
Florida: 1932-present
Georgia: 1932-present
Kentucky: 1932-present
LSU: 1932-present
Mississippi: 1932-present
Miss. St.: 1932-present
Tennessee: 1932-present
Vanderbilt: 1932-present
Arkansas: 1991-present
South Carolina: 1991-present
Texas A&M: 2012
Missouri: 2012

People will argue bowls over playoffs or vice versa until they're a nice LSU shade of purple in the face. Some will actually speak with great affection of programs carrying the “Legends” and “Leaders,” or the “Atlantic” and “Coastal” banners in their respective — and respected — conferences.




A few will even convince you it's no big deal that the Big Ten has 12 members and the Big 12 has exchanged two in the offseason to remain at, uhh, 10. Or that the Big East now includes Idaho.

The spoiled alumni, boosters, fans and just generally caught-up-in-the-title-wave sort of people who have hitched their wagons to the star of the Southeastern Conference have always been able to sit back and watch the chaos unfold.

It seemed like enough to count onto a second hand the number of consecutive national championships the SEC has produced since a kid named Tebow signed and kept a kid named Newton on the University of Florida bench. But that wasn't all. There was that perfect modular feel of East vs. West with champions of the SEC's two divisions playing in Atlanta for an automatic BCS berth.

There was.

Before ...

There was before the latest round of league expansion gave the SEC a 14-team paunch, and no clear way to solve its new geographic dilemma without putting Missouri in the East Division as Texas A&M falls into its predictable spot in the West.

And finally — unwittingly — the strongest athletic conference in the history of the NCAA, at its period of greatest strength, has shown a chink in the armor.

Let the laughs begin.

Taunts lobbed at fans of math-challenged conferences can now be returned with an “F” in geography pinned to the SEC.

But it doesn't have to be that way, not when there's a simple answer to the problem that suddenly has landed a Florida program which has one all-time meeting with Missouri — in a mid '60s Sugar Bowl — onto the Tigers' schedule in perpetuity.

The answer?

Exchange East and West divisions for North and South.

Everything else in college football is being turned upside down. Why not strike while the iron's hot and make things right?

The NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers were born in 1976 and resided in the AFC West. I guess Tampa's on the West Coast of Florida, but it didn't take a nuclear scientist to finally corral the Bucs first into the NFC, and then into a proper division after years of slugging things out with unnatural Midwestern rivals.

Plans in every walk of life have been blown up and recreated over something less than Missouri being in the SEC East.

Check certain traditions and familiar mindsets at the door, and visualize this for a moment.

An SEC North with seven teams: Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.

An SEC South with another seven teams: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Mississippi State and Texas A&M.

The plan is clean, simple, pleasing to the eyes, and makes further sense when you consider permanent inter-division opponents fall into place like the final five minutes of a “Seinfeld” episode.

Arkansas, South Carolina and Mississippi are naturally tethered to LSU, Georgia and Mississippi State, respectively, and the league's new Big 12 refugees — Missouri and Texas A&M — can play on an annual basis. Auburn looks like a winner, drawing Vanderbilt, until you see that the all-time series is tied at 20-20-1. Alabama's border war with Tennessee skates through.

And while Florida-Tennessee is a casualty, the Gators renew an annual series with Auburn, the SEC school within the easiest driving distance of Gainesville.

Has UF vs. Tennessee been a spotlight game since it was Spurrier vs. Fulmer, anyway?

The Gators have played Auburn more than twice as many times as they've taken the field opposite Tennessee, and the Vols have taken about as much flesh off the Gators as Kentucky — UF's Northern match — during their SEC histories.

Southern-heavy? Yeah, at the moment. But who knows when Tennessee turns the inevitable corner, or how long the Head Ball Coach's imprint on South Carolina will last?

A cakewalk to Atlanta for Arkansas? No one believes that any more than anyone could predict which of the South Division members could successfully navigate a schedule that would wildly please television networks and season-ticket-holders alike.

What we know is the power atop the SEC ebbs and flows in cycles, and two programs would have their hands full in Atlanta the first Saturday every December.

Just like now.

Just like 20 years ago.

Just like 20 years from now.

What if we got this right?

Dwight Collins can be reached at dwight.collins@starbanner.com

CURRENT SEC CONFIGURATION AND YEARLY OPPONENTS

East

Florida

Georgia

Kentucky

Missouri

South Carolina

Tennessee

Vanderbilt

West

Alabama

Arkansas

Auburn

LSU

Ole Miss

Mississippi State

PROPOSED SEC CONFIGURATION AND YEARLY OPPONENTS

South vs. North

Florida vs. Kentucky

Texas A&M vs. Missouri

LSU vs. Arkansas

Alabama vs. Tennessee

Georgia vs. South Carolina

Mississippi State vs. Ole Miss

Auburn vs. Vanderbilt

ABOUT THE AGGIES

Stadium: Kyle Field (capacity 82,600)

What's an Aggie?: An Aggie is a Texas A&M student. Until 1963, the “A” and “M” stood for “Agricultural” and “Mechanical”, this is how the term Aggie came to be.

12th Man: Texas A&M is known as the home of the 12th Man. In 1922, Texas A&M played Centre College, and the Aggies suffered so many injuries in the first half that Coach Dana X. Bible had only 11 players and called student E. King Gill out of the stands to suit up and stand ready to play if needed. Although Gill didn't play, he was the 12th man standing on the sideline.

Midnight Yell: Aggies don't have “cheers”, they have ‘yells' and yell leaders. The night before every home game, Aggies hold Midnight Yell at Kyle Field and it is regularly attended by more than 25,000 people.

— Source: Texas A&M

MORE ON MIZZOU

Stadium: Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field (capacity 71,004)

What is a Missouri Tiger?: The nickname traces its origin to before the Civil War. Around 1854, it was rumored that a guerilla band intended to sack the town of Columbia. Quickly organized was an armed guard of citizens, who built a blockhouse and fortified the old courthouse in the center of town. This company was called “The Missouri Tigers.”

Trophy games: Missouri has trophy games with four schools (Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Iowa State), none of which the Tigers play this season.

— Source: Missouri

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