Posted by Jerry Hinnen
SEC athletic directors met this week to try and squeeze the league's expansion toothpaste back into the tube of a scheduling rotation that all 14 schools could live with ... and unsurprisingly, they didn't make much headway. But the athletic director at LSU says he and his counterpart at Florida are willing to remove at least one minor hurdle from the deadlock.
Speaking to the Baton Rouge Advocate Thursday, LSU A.D. Joe Alleva said that both his program and Jeremy Foley's in Gainesville are "interested in ending" (to use the Advocate's paraphrase) the Tigers' and Gators' annual cross-division rivalry game. LSU and Florida have met each year since 1971 and were designated as permanent cross-divisional rivals in the SEC's 1992 expansion.
Sources told CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy Thursday, however, that Florida is not currently interested in canceling the series.
The league is considering doing away with permanent cross-divisional rivalries in an effort to ease scheduling concerns, even though that decision would imperil two of the conference's most storied rivalries in Auburn-Georgia and Alabama-Tennessee. Alleva, however, said that despite his school's willingness to abandon its annual cross-division game, there was "momentum" among the A.D.'s to preserve those two particular series.
“The only way around that is to try to maintain the old rivalries and come up with a solution for those who don’t have them,” Alleva said. “There’s a fine line to doing that.”
Both Ole Miss's Pete Boone and Vanderbilt's David Williams told the Birmingham News this week that they oppose maintaining permanent cross-divisional games, with Williams labeling as unfair a potential compromise that would see only some teams (namely, Auburn, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee) keep such games.
The leeway of a nine-game league schedule would ease many of those concerns dramatically (while raising others), but Alleva echoed the current prevailing sentiment of SEC A.D.'s and officials in saying he and his fellow A.D.'s prefer sticking with an eight-game schedule--even at the apparent cost of a LSU-Florida series highly valued by many fans on both sides.
Which is why the further A.D. meetings alluded to by SEC spokesman Charles Bloom at the conclusion of this set will no doubt be entirely necessary to iron out the league's scheduling dilemma. The conference continues to face a fundamental scheduling paradox: it wants a six-game divisional round-robin, a permanent cross-division game, and two rotated cross-divisional games (to avoid going a full decade without seeing some opposite-division opponents) ... and still stay at eight games.
Somewhere, push is going to have to come to shove, and it's not a shock a group of 14 men with as many differing agendas as the SEC's A.D.'s would seem to have haven't found where that shove is going to come just yet.
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