The Auburn Tigers have called the Southeastern Conference home since 1933 and they have had their fair share of success there. Auburn has won 8 SEC Titles in football while claiming a pair of national championships. However as good as Auburn has been, they are still the little brothers of the Alabama Crimson Tide who have 26 SEC Titles and 16 claimed national championships. Aside from Auburn’s intense rivalry with Alabama that sees them meet each November in the Iron Bowl, they have long standing rivalries within the SEC with the Florida Gators, Tennessee Volunteers, and Georgia Bulldogs. Auburn and Georgia meet each season in a game that is simply “The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry”. But unlike Auburn’s annual meetings with Alabama and Georgia, their rivalries with Florida and Tennessee have gone by the wayside.
In 1992, the Southeastern Conference became the first conference at the Division 1-A level to expand to 12 members as the additions of the South Carolina Gamecocks and Arkansas Razorbacks gave them the ability to have a conference title game. The SEC would have two divisions with six teams in each. Auburn along with Alabama would be in the SEC West while Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee would be in the SEC East. The eight-game conference schedule would still allow Auburn to frequently meet Florida and Tennessee, but in recent years it has dissipated even further.
In 2012, the Southeastern Conference would expand to 14 teams after the additions of the Texas A&M Aggies and Missouri Tigers. The Aggies would join Auburn in the SEC West, while Missouri would find a new home in the SEC East. Through all of the this the SEC has decided to maintain an eight-game conference schedule which makes it even harder for schools to maintain rivalries. With Tennessee and Florida in the SEC East, Auburn has not faced the Volunteers since 2013, while they haven’t clashed with the Gators since 2011. But Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs has a solution to this problem.
Jacobs is seeking to have Auburn switch divisions in the Southeastern Conference and go from the SEC West to the SEC East. Geographically it makes sense being that Missouri is further west than Auburn. Auburn would still seek to maintain their yearly showdown against Alabama as it is an in-state rivalry that always creates a buzz no matter what the record of the two teams are, while it would also put the Tigers back in line to face Tennessee and Florida on a yearly basis. A move to the SEC East would also provide Auburn with an easier path to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game as they would no longer have to worry about facing the LSU Tigers on a yearly basis as in recent years the SEC East has not been as competitive as the SEC West. But there is still plenty at the underbelly of this story that must be worked out.
The Southeastern Conference along with the Atlantic Coast Conference are the only two Power Five conferences that don’t currently have a nine-game conference schedule. And just like the SEC, the ACC has 14 schools participating in football. The additional conference game would cut down on headaches as some teams hardly face each other in spite of being in the same conference. Missouri has been in the SEC since 2012, but their only encounters with Alabama and Auburn came in the conference title game. But if the SEC were to allow Auburn to switch divisions while maintaining an eight-game conference schedule, it would mean that they would hardly face teams such as LSU which has become a solid rivalry in the SEC West.
It makes a ton of sense for the Southeastern Conference to allow Auburn to make the switch which would allow them to renew their rivalries with Florida and Tennessee. Over the last three years Auburn’s record is 23-16, while they are 11-13 within the SEC with three defeats coming at the hands of Alabama. Over that stretch the Tigers are 3-3 versus the SEC East with all three defeats coming at the hands of Georgia.
But it is also wise for the Southeastern Conference to do away with a cupcake game on the slate in order to have another conference tilt. In my opinion if a conference wants to have a 14-team league, then they should play a 10-game conference slate.
Texas A&M joined the Southeastern Conference in 2012, but they’ve only faced Florida once and their first trip to Gainesville is set up for this season. Being in the same conference means having a sense of familiarity with foes within the league. But we’re talking about senior classes at some schools who won’t face each other at all.
This is one of the many problems with conference expansion as you simply spread yourself too thin in the chase for a few extra dollars as rivalries have gone away. There is plenty of money at the forefront, but rivalries is what makes sports happen. And whereas the Iron Bowl is always a marquee meeting each and every college football season, it’s also time for Auburn to face Tennessee and Florida more often as once upon a time these too were also iconic showdowns within the Southeastern Conference.