A plan for a fairer SEC schedule
By JIM ENGSTER
Tiger Rag Featured Columnist
SEC honchos cling to their contention that the current 14-school alignment is balanced, and each week provides an opportunity for a low echelon member to knock off one of the championship caliber teams competing for BCS honors. Despite the luxury of each school swimming in television rights revenue and new facilities springing up in places like Starkville and Nashville, the Southeastern Conference remains a league of haves and have nots.
Only seven current members of the SEC have won more than two conference football championships. The remaining seven members (Kentucky, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, South Carolina, Texas A&M and Missouri) have combined for just three SEC football titles in the 80 years the league has been in existence.
Two members did not join until 1992 (Arkansas and South Carolina) while Texas A&M and Missouri joined in 2012, but it is notable that the league is so top heavy that a half dozen schools (Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia , LSU, Florida and Auburn) have combined for 77 SEC crowns compared to a paltry 7 for the remaining eight schools.
Georgia Tech left the SEC in 1964 and has five SEC football titles on its shelf. Tulane captured league honors three times before departing the conference in 1966. It is curious that Georgia Tech and Tulane have more SEC football hardware than Ole Miss, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, South Carolina, Texas A&M and Missouri put together.
It is the opinion of this column that SEC Commissioner Mike Slive should court Tulane and Georgia Tech as prospects to rejoin the lodge. Put Tulane in the SEC West and install Georgia Tech in the SEC East and play seven SEC games to determine the division title. Other rivalries such as LSU vs. Florida and Alabama vs. Tennessee would not count in the SEC standings. As a result of this strategy, there would be a remedy to the current disparity in strength of schedule.
If Alabama captures another BCS trophy next month, skeptics will note the Crimson Tide faced Tennessee and Missouri from the East while LSU tangled with Florida and South Carolina. The Alabama honors will be partially tainted because of the weakness of its league opponents.
The insertion of the Greenies and Yellow Jackets in the SEC would also give the SEC more of a presence in two Southern cities synonymous with the league. New Orleans and Atlanta are more vital than the St. Louis market which triggered an invitation to Missouri to join the conference this year.
For purists who may gripe about games against SEC brothers not being tabulated in the league standings, there should be a reminder that the conference has a history of adjusting for anomalies. In 1968, LSU played TCU, a Southwest Conference member, and the game was included as an SEC date for the Tigers.
In other years, some league members played six conference games while others had only five league dates. Seven game slates in the East and West would enhance the value of division titles and make the SEC Championship Game even more appealing. It also would leave more room on the schedule for attractive matchups against other teams around the nation. Gone are the days of 1979 when LSU battled USC, Florida State, Colorado and Tulane as non-conference foes.
Some LSU fans would not relish the idea of elevating a competitor located 70 miles from campus. For those who fear a resurgent Tulane, remember that Alabama is comparable to Louisiana in population (4,802,740 for Alabama and 4,574,836 for Louisiana), and both Alabama and Auburn have collected BCS titles in the last three years.
There is ample room for LSU and Tulane to be in the same league at the same time, and the Tigers to gain rather than lose power. Tulane’s return to the SEC would provide LSU with more of a presence in the state’s flagship city. New Orleans remains the location that has appeal worldwide. Former Gov. Buddy Roemer once noted that he asked a Japanese official if he had ever traveled to Louisiana and the answer was “No.” Gov. Roemer then asked the same official if he had ever been to New Orleans. The answer was “Yes, many times.”
Tulane President Scott Cowen executed a deft maneuver in landing the Greenies a home in the Big East. Nonetheless, it is time for Tulane to return to the SEC and resume its role as a consistent punching bag for LSU. The Wave has defeated LSU only four times since 1948 and is winless vs. Tigers on the gridiron since 1982. But with three league crowns, Tulane is more worthy of SEC admission than Mississippi State with one conference title in 1941.Vanderbilt is an even more putrid program with zero football championships.
The SEC should either contract or expand to account for scheduling challenges. A ten-team league with LSU, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Auburn, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, South Carolina and Texas A&M would feature nine rugged conference games each season for each team. This scenario would produce the fiercest competition and create an environment in which SEC cohorts killed off each other on a regular basis.
The divisional strategy makes more sense, and would enable conference members to compete more fairly for league and national stature.
SEC teams and the bowls
School Bowl Record Percent SEC titles
Alabama 33-22-3 .594 23
Georgia 26-19-3 .578 12
Tennessee 25-24-0 .510 13
Auburn 22-13-2 .622 8
LSU 22-20-1 .523 11
Ole Miss 21-12-0 .636 6
Florida 20-19-0 .513 8
Texas A&M 14-19-0 .424 0
Missouri 13-16-0 .448 0
Arkansas 13-23-3 .372 0
Mississippi State 9-6-0 .600 1
Kentucky 8-7-0 .533 2
South Carolina 5-12-0 .294 0
Vanderbilt 2-2-1 .500 0
Jim Engster is the president of Louisiana Radio Network and Tiger Rag. Reach him at email@example.com.