Back in 2011, SEC athletic directors decided to toss away divisions in conference basketball.
Nowadays, most basketball conferences don’t have divisions. Football is a different story. Only one Power 5 conference is lacking divisions: The Big 12.
Could the SEC do something similar in football? Some seem to think so.
Moving Auburn to the SEC East just complicates things. Does Bama play UT or Aub every year? Just scrap divisions. Don't need them at all
— Edward Aschoff (@AschoffESPN) May 26, 2017
Realignment might be the answer instead of tossing out out divisions all together.
Through 2025, SEC teams are scheduled to play the following format in conference play: Against six division opponents, one constant opponent and one changing opponent.
The SEC West has been superior as of late, winning eight consecutive league championships since 2008. Shaking up the format might not be such a bad idea to field some more competition, but not moving the teams you might think.
Auburn moving to the East and Missouri to the West doesn’t seem like a possibility anytime soon. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey was asked about it during SEC Media Days.
“It has not been an agenda item at a meeting,” Sankey said.
Switching Auburn and Missouri would even out the playing field in the divisions. Despite this, it doesn’t seem to be on the SEC’s agenda.
Sankey dismissing this move does not mean he is oblivious to the lopsided conference competition since 2009. It looks like that he wants to keep Auburn and Alabama in the same division. That means the “Iron Bowl” will stay intact along with the “Third Saturday in October,” Alabama’s cross-division rivalry with Tennessee.
Even though those teams aren’t moving, something needs to happen.
Texas A&M and Missouri became part of the SEC in 2012. The Aggies were placed in the SEC West and the Tigers in the East.
Typically, the SEC stands out among the Power 5 conferences when it comes to making necessary changes, but the conference is trailing in this situation. They could learn a thing or two from other Power 5 conferences that have reshaped divisions.
The SEC hasn’t restructured divisions or moved teams around like some of its peers. Only two teams have won the SEC Championship since 2011 — Alabama and Auburn. Let’s look at what the other conferences have done recently.
Up to 2011, the teams played for the Big Ten Championship during the regular season. Then in 2011, the conference split into divisions with the two winners competing for the championship. Leaders and Legends were the division names.
Ohio State and Michigan were sent to opposite divisions. This worried many because those two teams finish the regular season against each other every year and most did not want to see a rematch in the Big Ten Championship Game a week later. It never happened.
In 2014, Rutgers and Maryland joined. The conference shook up the divisions, throwing Michigan and Ohio State in the same division, and renaming the divisions East and West.
Since 2011, four teams have won the Big Ten title.
The ACC also changed its conference structure changed recently. Miami and Virginia Tech joined in 2004 followed by Boston College in 2005. Syracuse and Pittsburgh were added in 2011 and started playing football in 2013. Louisville inked with the ACC starting in 2014 after Maryland bolted for the Big Ten.
ACC football established divisions in 2005, with the Atlantic and Coastal.
The Atlantic now contains Florida State, Clemson, Boston College, Syracuse, Louisville, North Carolina State and Wake Forest. For the Coastal, it’s Virginia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech, Duke and Virginia.
The ACC sculpted its divisions on competition rather than location. Duke and North Carolina are in the Coastal while N.C. State in is in the Atlantic, yet the schools are very close, fewer than 30 miles apart.
The Seminoles and Hurricanes were traditional football powerhouses when they joined the conference. By placing them in different divisions, the league figured these two juggernauts would meet in the ACC Championship after many great games in the 20th century.
It hasn’t happened, but with Mark Richt heading up the talented Hurricanes and Jimbo Fisher’s Seminoles looking strong, 2017 could be the year they finally meet for the title. If so, the ACC Championship Game could be a rematch of their Sept. 16 regular-season game.
Five teams have won the ACC title since 2005.
The Pac-10 didn’t realign, but added Utah and Colorado in 2011 to become the Pac-12. The conference then split into North and South divisions, but there is a wrinkle.
The Pac-12’s North and South divisions are not geographically correct. The universities of Utah and Colorado are north of Stanford and California, but the Utes and Buffaloes play in the South division.
Three teams have won the Pac-12 Championship Game since 2011.
The Big 12 has had no divisions since 2011. It only has 10 teams. Teams play everyone in the conference and compete for the conference championship during the regular season. Instead of playing an eight-game conference schedule, teams play nine.
Five teams have won or shared the Big 12 title since 2011.
Other Power 5 conferences — Big Ten and Pac-12 — play nine conference games. Should the SEC follow suit? It might help provide more parity in who moves on to Atlanta for the title game.
Realignment happened with these conferences, yet they are still prosperous. The SEC should consider realigning teams to make the conference more competitive.
Then again, Nick Saban and Alabama might keep on winning championships, regardless of what is implemented.