HURT: Rivalries a thing of the past
Who knew the Southeastern Conference would have its own version of Charlie's Angels?
That is the impression you might get from hearing Mike Slive, the SEC Commissioner, talk on Tuesday's joint SEC-Texas A&M media conference. There was a lot of friendly talk - even a patented "howdy" - from Texas A&M president Dr. R. Bowen Loftin - but it was Slive's comments that held the most interest for SEC football fans. And those comments weren't exactly reassuring on the issue of rivalries.
Specifically, the question was whether Slive felt "confident" that "existing rivalries" in the league could be protected in future football schedules. For many SEC fans, the only palatable answer would be a resounding "yes." Even a conditional "yes" would have been reassuring. But that is not what Slive had to offer.
"I'll tell you that I don't want to preempt the work of the transition team," Slive said. "There are people on the transition team who have spent their lives scheduling games and are as good as anybody in the country. We're going to let them do their work and then present some of their thinking to our athletic directors."
You couldn't find a "yes" in that answer with a spy satellite. And if the answer gave you a cold chill about the future of the Alabama-Tennesee rivalry, among others, it should.
Now, you probably won't have Farrah Fawcett (or Lucy Liu, for the generation after mine) trying to decide which weekend Arkansas will play Kentucky in the future. But it isn't too far-fetched to imagine Slive's voice squawking orders over an intercom about who plays who, and when.
This is Alabama-Florida week. That's arguably the biggest game in the country on Saturday, although Nebraska-Wisconsin can stake a claim as well. It would be great to write about the upcoming Crimson Tide-Gators game in this space - but there also has to be some consideration given to all the future Alabama-Florida games that might be lost to scheduling in a 13- or 14-team SEC.
Slive did say that there was no rush for the SEC to expand to 13 teams, as it grows increasingly obvious that the SEC wanted Missouri but didn't want to be an agent in the final implosion of the Big 12. Until that happens, or a suitable 14th team is found, the league will have to go to 13-team scheduling. That will be a huge mess unless the SEC can change (or get temporary relief from) an NCAA rule mandating round-robin divisional play as a condition for a league championship game.
"We ... understood that scheduling is not easy with 13," Slive admitted, but any specifics were referred back to the unnamed "transition team."
There were other tidbits dropped during the course of the teleconference. Slive hinted that the growth of several conferences could lead to a re-evaluation of the current BCS rule limiting a conference to two BCS bids per season. (Alabama might very well have gone to the Orange Bowl instead of Stanford last year.) But as for the pressing scheduling questions that must be answered in less than 12 months, Slive offered nothing more than "sit back and wait."