In a nice change of pace for college football, some school presidents actually made a decision that’s good for fans. On Sunday night, SEC presidents and chancellors voted 10-4 to keep the current scheduling format of 6-1-1: six division opponents, one permanent cross-division rival and one rotating opponent.
This is great news for fans because it preserves longstanding rivalries that make college football so special. SEC football is better with the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry between the Auburn Tigers and Georgia Bulldogs or the heated contest between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Tennessee Volunteers every year.
In the conference expansion race, fans have already lost too much. The mad dash toward super-conferences and grabbing television markets has killed many rivalries already. In a sport where popularity is built on pageantry and passion, a decision leading to more ended rivalries would have been a terrible move.
Not to mention the ramifications of out-of-conference scheduling. An eight-game SEC schedule is brutal enough. Teams beat on one another throughout the season and rarely make it through unscathed. A move to a nine-game schedule would ensure that teams would schedule three cupcake games a year and no fans would enjoy that.
Gone would be the great cross-state rivalries like Georgia – Georgia Tech, South Carolina – Clemson and Florida – Florida State. There is nothing quite like the end of the season Rivalry Saturday where all these teams face off. It’s one aspect of college football that no sport does better.
Coaches, athletic directors and even some players may complain. At times there may be scheduling advantages for certain permanent rivalries. The same criticism could be levied for any other format, as a more random schedule could lend itself to the same disparity of difficulty.
What should matter most in college football is the experience. There is nothing like a Saturday in a SEC stadium. The intensity is only amplified by rivalries with rich histories. We need more of them, not less.
Can you imagine not having moments like the “Prayer in Jordan-Hare” or losing the media banter between Steve Spurrier and Dabo Swinney? Both would have been missing this past season had the changes discussed been implemented. I think we can all agree the 2013 season would have been greatly diminished without them.
On Sunday, it was great to see a win for SEC fans. The protection of rivalry games and the history of college football is always a smart decision. The product is better because of it and the 2014 season will be that much more interesting.