Over the weekend reports from University of South Carolina president Harris Pastides made it public that the Gamecocks will add new conference member Texas A&M as their permanent SEC East opponent dropping the Razorbacks from their schedule.
The switch in the college football lineup means the University of Arkansas will pick up natural border rival Missouri in place of USC.
The announcement ends a rivalry between the Razorbacks and Gamecocks dating back to 1992, the first year both teams entered SEC play.
The situation that looms larger is somehow even in the offseason the state of Alabama finds a way to win in football again.
When Missouri and Texas A&M were announced as new SEC conference members the Missouri Tigers were placed in the SEC East to make the scheduling “easy” for the immediate 2012 season. Fans were told that this arrangement was temporary and conference realignment would take place in the future.
Apparently this was not the truth after the state of Alabama had something to say about the new conference alignment.
Depending on one’s view the new schedule either makes sense or is a laughable offense to the University of Missouri.
Traditional SEC fans will be happy with the schedule as everything essentially remains the same exceptMissourigets the short end of the stick as a full-time SEC East member.
Admittedly most SEC fans could seemingly care less about the addition of the Tigers to the conference but the betterment, overall growth, and prosperity of the conference should be considered by all fans and the SEC administration. This point seems to be overlooked.
Advocates of the now permanent schedule will cite that the state of Missouri does border Tennessee and Kentucky building a natural border rivalry with Kentucky, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt.
The reality is the distance all Missouri teams (softball, baseball, basketball, gymnastics, etc…) will have to travel to play Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina on a regular basis is too much to ask a student athlete. True the university picks up the travel tab for the students but what about out of pocket expenses for the player’s family to see their loved one play? Where are the reports about the amount of travel time Missouri players will have keeping them from their academic work?
Columbia, Missouri, to Gainesville, Florida, is over 1,000 miles apart. Columbia to Athens is 740 miles apart and the trip to Knoxville from the Tiger’s campus is much closer at 630 miles… note all mileage is calculated on a one way trip. If one starts tallying the miles round trip this becomes a week long family vacation by car, not a fun weekend to see their favorite team play.
SEC officials must feel that airport terminals are a great place for study halls. The steady noise of an airplane engine must enhance a student’s ability to learn.
Another point of interest is the recruiting areas for the Tigers. Missouri has traditionally pulled the majority of their recruits from the state ofTexas. Will playing in the SEC East hurt the Tigers chances of landing top talent?
With no annual games currently scheduled in Texas or against a Texas based school, the Tigers will have the SEC to sell to future players but playing in the SEC East instead of in the regional market of the SEC West becomes a hindrance. Maybe not now, but give the situation time.
High school teammates, friends, and rivals will not be able to lineup against one another on the gridiron in college if the majority of in-state Texas recruits stay home or play for other SEC West teams.
Will conference alignment discourage kids from signing with the Tigers? How did the change in conferences work out for Boston College?
Will Texas A&M and Arkansas take away from Missouri’s ability to recruit top kids from the Lone Star state? Will Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Florida recruits respond to the Tigers’ recruiting efforts if they can stay closer to home so their friend’s and family can see them play on a regular basis?
The high school phenom aside, the enticement of early playing time may always be a recruiting carrot for the Tigers but if Missouri is never in a position to redshirt their players chances are the team is not being successful. In the long run this will affect the SEC as a whole.
What does Alabama and Auburn have to do with all of this? The two schools’ assumed stance on staying together in the SEC West has everything to do with the lack of geographic SEC conference alignment.
If geography dictated the conference split, Alabama would be in the West along with new comers A&M and Missouri. Auburn would be in the SEC East.
Some media outlets wondered if Vanderbilt would switch to the SEC West but Nashville is due north of Alabama and Auburn essentially splitting the distance between the two schools east to west.
Because the two schools from the state ofAlabamaare on the geographical line one can easily point to the problem starting and ending within the state of Alabama.
Common sense would dictate that the SEC West would be comprised of Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Missouri, and Texas A&M. Auburn, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt would fill out the SEC East.
The only potential annual national TV media loss would be LSU vs. Auburn, possibly Arkansas vs. Auburn, and Alabama vs. Tennessee. But would any of those games really be a loss to SEC or college football fans?
Logic would lead one to believe that Alabama and Auburn would be permanently set on their respective SEC schedules keeping that rivalry intact.
So who gains from the new alignment?
Arkansas may gain in regional recruiting circles over the Tigers but time will tell.
Texas A&M can close the door onMissouriwinning those SEC recruiting battles.
The biggest winners seem to be Alabama and Auburn. Both schools continue their play in the SEC West which allows them to draw top talent on the west side of the Mississippi River while keeping their border recruiting wars against Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee.
The Auburn Tigers can continue to recruit against the SEC East pulling kids to the other side of the conference while not losing, in some cases, as many in-state kids to Alabama because the recruits want to play in the SEC West.
The overall winner is the SEC by adding the St. Louis and Kansas City markets. Adding bigger markets equals bigger TV deals which leads to more money.
Missouri obviously had little say in the final decision on conference alignment. One thing is for sure, SEC money wins out for the University of Missouri at the cost of their players, the players’ family, and the fan base.
The Tiger’s faithful has to wonder if the change in conferences will prove to be beneficial for the program. Time will tell if leaving the Big 12 when they did for the SEC was really worth it.
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