Are moments like this on the way out for Auburn and Georgia?
Here's a Monday quiz for you: Name me all the football teams in the Big East. How about the Big 12? Don't feel bad; there are few among us who probably can these days. In less than a year, college football realignment has completely changed the look of the sport. Now it appears those changes may hit closer to home.
Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity made a startling comment last week that if true, could have far reaching ramifications on the SEC. With member schools seemingly against going to a nine-game conference football schedule, McGarity fears rivalries like Auburn-Georgia and Alabama-Tennessee may become causalities of the new look SEC.
The issues are numerous. The SEC's upcoming season schedule is a one-year deal. Beyond it lies more than a few obstacles to saving the South's Oldest Rivalry. With Texas A&M and Missouri joining the SEC, the conference is moving to a 6-2 format, meaning each school plays six teams from its division and two from the other - one permanent and one rotating.
McGarity rightly points out that there are only two true cross-divisional rivalries - Auburn/Georgia and Alabama/Tennessee. His fear is that other member institutions may prefer moving to a rotating schedule when playing outside the division. This season Auburn faces Vanderbilt (rotating) and Georgia (permanent) from the East.
SEC presidents and athletic directors are set to meet the week of the SEC Women's Basketball Tournament, devoting an entire day to scheduling for 2013 and beyond.
"I think if you ask Alabama and Tennessee, like us and Auburn, we'd like to retain the (permanent cross-divisional) games," says McGarity. "But does that work? What do the other 10 schools think? Those four schools like having those games but there's no other East-West match-up that has that piece of history to it. So I don't (know) where that fits in."
The ACC announced a few weeks back that it was moving to a nine-game conference schedule now that Pittsburgh and Syracuse have joined. The chances of the SEC following suit are slim.
The reasons most cited by SEC schools for not favoring a nine-game schedule are to save out-of-conference rivalries like Georgia-Georgia Tech, Florida-Florida State and South Carolina-Clemson. McGarity says a nine-game conference schedule along with state-rival Georgia Tech could make things tough on the field.
"Nine games, and Georgia Tech, that makes 10 games, he said. "If you ever wanted to schedule Clemson or Ohio State, like we have, then that only leaves one guarantee game. That's a pretty tough schedule. Fans would love it. But I don't know if your coaches or players (would). That's strapping it up 11 of 12 weeks there. You have to have some time where some players play who never get a chance to be on the field."
Something lost in McGarity's concern over a nine-game conference schedule is whether these ACC schools will continue rivalries with their SEC foes. They too are facing similar issues to the SEC.
There was a time when the thought of Auburn-Georgia and Alabama-Tennessee going away seemed impossible. It was bad enough when Tennessee and Florida vanished from the yearly Auburn schedule back in 1992.
But Georgia? That's sacred. It will never happen. Right?
I'm not sure anymore.
We chuckled when the Oklahoma-Nebraska series went away. We wondered aloud how the Big 12 let it happen. We said it could never happen in the SEC.
Suddenly, here we are today. It's not farfetched to envision Auburn-Georgia, Alabama-Tennessee, Florida-Florida State, Georgia-Georgia Tech and South Carolina-Clemson all vanishing off the college football landscape in the near future.
And for what? So the SEC could add Texas A&M and Missouri and the ACC could welcome Syracuse and Pittsburgh? That's a lot of sacrifice for four mediocre programs. Then again, it's not about the schools as much as it is the television markets.
Call me old school, but things were so much better when there were just 10 of us in the SEC.