It seems this is an annual debate at this point, but Auburn is once again pushing to switch divisions with Missouri.
The SEC’s spring meetings are taking place this week in Destin, Fla., and Auburn’s athletic director Jay Jacobs is planning on bringing up the idea of the Tigers’ moving to the East to the conference’s commissioner, Greg Sankey. While Sankey said on Tuesday that the potential move is just “media chatter,” Jacobs made it clear that he would rather see the Tigers play in the East rather than the West.
“It makes more sense for Auburn from the standpoint of the demographics of our students, not our student-athletes,” Jacobs said Wednesday via Auburn’s 247Sports affiliate. “Six or eight years ago, I looked at all the demographics. Most of all our students come from Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, Kentucky, a few from Mississippi, very few from Louisiana. Since we went to the national championship twice we’ve got more geographical students from all over the place but still the majority of our students come from the southeast.”
Actually ... [googles “Auburn Missouri switch divisions rockmnation”] ... yep! It is an annual debate! I began writing a response to this but then realized I had already written it exactly one year ago!
So the party line shared by Matter here and many, many others is that a move to the West makes more geographic sense for Missouri. And I'm assuming that, if you were to just average out the mileage of road trips to each state, that's the case. But I'm not going to lie: I like being with a semi-easy drive of four conference opponents in a given year. While being associated with the word "east" doesn't make sense, Missouri currently borders half the schools in its primary "conference" -- the six East schools and permanent rival Arkansas.
It's about 5 hours to Fayetteville, 6-7 to Nashville, 6-7 to Lexington, and 8-9 to Knoxville. Yeah, Athens, Columbia East, and Gainesville are a long way. So is College Station.
Depending on the assigned permanent rival, moving to the West would mean getting rid of at least two of the three easy East trips. And while Oxford is only 7-8 hours away, Starkville is 8-9, Tuscaloosa is 9-10, Baton Rouge is 11-12, and College Station is 11-12. So the longer trips are slightly shorter ... but the shorter trips are potentially longer.
Meanwhile, I'm shaky about rearranging divisions based on competitive balance simply because the East of the last few years isn't what the East has always been. [...] Yes, the West is much, much better than the East and has been for a few years. That isn't permanent. Hell, before the run of about 2006-15, you could make a pretty good case that the East was quite a bit better from 1996-05, when Florida and Tennessee were by far the conference's most consistent teams.
And besides that ... uh ... you want to trade Auburn for Missouri, and you think that will restore competitive balance?
Missouri's record over the last
56 years: 45-32.
Auburn's record over the last
56 years: 46-32.
(Yes, that's a selective sample. Yes, that includes Auburn playing in the tougher West. Just saying ... it's not guaranteed to restore any sort of balance whatsoever over time. Might, might not.)
There are worse things in the world than signing up for more trips to Baton Rouge, College Station, The Grove, etc. I would only complain so much if Mizzou got flipped to the West. But the idea is that this would make more geographic sense for Missouri and make more competitive sense for the conference. Neither is necessarily true.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey has already said this is not an actual agenda item — it never is, and Auburn brings it up every year regardless. But you know what should be an agenda items? Ditching divisions altogether.
1. Despite losing division rivalries, we'd kind of retain every rivalry anyway, because every SEC team would play every other SEC team every one or two years.
Under the current format, former rivals Auburn and Florida haven't played since 2011. People born on the day of that game will be in middle school the next time the Gators play at Jordan-Hare, in 2024. Newer SEC addition Texas A&M hasn't played at Kentucky since 1953, and won't do so again until 20-damn-25.
This is stretching the definition of a conference and revealing that the whole point of this is ... not competition and kinship. Many fans get one shot per decade at road trips to Baton Rouge or Athens. Most players and many coaches only get three years to make their marks, so entire careers come and go without rivals meeting.
2. Under our plan, every team would meet every one or two years, and no team would go more than four years without visiting every stadium.
3. We also found this would equalize schedules, finding each SEC team's average conference opponent would’ve ranked between No. 31 and No. 35 in two-year S&P+. No more complaints from teams in the West who also have tough East rivals.
4. Without divisions, the SEC Championship would pair the best two teams, rather than just the best team and the team that won the weaker division. [...]
The only reason for pushback appears to be that there could be some awkward three- or four-way ties atop the standings without any clear tie-breaker to deploy. Using College Football Playoff rankings to break the tie is the simplest solution, but it could create some awkward situations. So be it.
Done. Problem solved. I trust I can rely on your vote, Jay Jacobs?
- Mizzou’s SEC opener has a kickoff time! The Tigers will take on South Carolina on September 9 at 6 pm CT on ESPN2. So that’s two games with kick times! Only 10 more to go.
- Any Jontay Porter reclassification update?
Jontay Porter tells me he hasn't made any official decision on reclassification— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) June 1, 2017
Jontay Porter is committed to keep playing for MOKAN Elite thru the Peach Jam, per the team.— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) June 1, 2017
I guess that’s a no. The Peach Jam goes through mid-July, by the way.
- Speaking of big-time recruits, Rivals updated its player rankings for the 2018 football class, and Mizzou is, predictably, in on quite a few four-star guys. They’re not just in-staters, though Michael Thompson is now up to No. 37 overall and Trevor Trout is No. 39.
- The Trib’s Joe Vozzelli has a really nice story on hopeful Track All-American Jamie Kempfer, who has dealt with hip issues but improved rapidly.
- NEW PAPN! It’s mostly about UCLA and Cal, but we swerve from topic to topic late.