Saturday, October 12, 2019

S.E.C. "Pod System" Would Enhance Overall Experience

Very recently a "POD System" introduced an alternative to divisions in the S.E.C. I thought that it merited study.

The conference does have fixed rivalry games that fans want to continue. Yet, other than one fixed opponent from the other division, you don't see the other side of the conference too often. Today, Arkansas will visit Lexington for the first time since 2008. L.S.U. has never been to Columbia, Missouri.

The proposal incorporates all schools into one 14-team league. Top two teams play in the S.E.C. Championship game. Three "Annuals" play every year. This is the "POD." The remaining ten schools appear every two years.

More on the POD System shortly. There is another "politically doable" idea that may merit some discussion.

University President and former U.S. Senator, David Boren has expressed restlessness with the Big Twelve and their inability to expand from the current ten teams. It is entirely possible that when the next round of league expansions come, Oklahoma will be in every conversation.

The S.E.C. looks to be the ideal solution! There are currently fourteen teams. Adding O.U. and "little brother," Oklahoma State would put the "Sooner" state in a form of low level hysteria! With few exceptions, it might solve the "must play rival" issue simultaneously!

I recall chatting, one-on-one with the late Frank Broyles, during a basketball practice at Barnhill Arena, two weeks after the announced conference change in 1991. Broyles said that the preference was to place Vanderbilt in the West and Auburn in the East. "But Hootie Ingram(then A.D. at Alabama)insisted that Auburn must remain in the same division as Alabama."

When I described the newly proposed SEC West as the "blood and guts division, " and the East as the "powder puff division," Broyles countered, "The East will be tougher in Basketball."

The legendary football coach admitted his disdain for "eight and not seven" annual conference games.

Would Coach Broyles approve of the two Oklahoma schools joining the S.E.C.? I honestly don't know!

The split would amount to OU and OSU joining Arkansas, L.S.U.,Missouri, the Mississippi schools, and A&M,

The current eight-game conference season would remain in effect. Each school would play the remaining eight schools "twice in sixteen years." Unless, of course, they met in the SEC championship.

What might prove interesting is if Basketball elected to go "double round robin" in divisional games and "single round robin" for non-divisional opponents. That would result in a 22-game conference slate. Add a sixteen team tournament and you "are going to see a lot of each other!"

Oklahoma isn't a huge media market. From a television standpoint, it represents an expensive cost-per-point! OU will typically deliver a larger audience than the Dallas Cowboys! OSU is not slouchy!

Thus, the two Oklahoma schools would bring a rabid fan base and a relatively small number of TV households to the conference. Both have successful basketball programs. One competes for the football national championship most years.

In adding the Oklahoma schools, the SEC would be extending it's footprint, albeit not in a huge way. From the standpoint of adding two quality programs, it would be a "home run."

Still, I am not certain if I like this idea! A school like Arkansas would find itself more central to its opponents. Four of the eight schools, were part of the original Big 12 in 1992. Interestingly enough, Arkansas, L.S.U., Oklahoma and A & M were all Charter members of the Southwest Conference when it was originally founded in 1914.

L.S.U.'s response would be interesting. That the Mississippi Schools, Arkansas and A&M are old rivals, is good. The two biggest losses, Alabama and Auburn would be replaced with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Florida would disappear from the every year slate. Not too many Tiger tears would be shed over that!

I don't think Kentucky's fans would be enthusiastic about replacing Missouri and Mississippi State with Alabama and Auburn! Auburn fans could live with replacing L.S.U. and A & M with Tennessee and Florida.

In the end, some schools would come out more favorably than others. Yet is there any idea that would truly make everyone happy?

The POD system provides access to places fans want to travel! Don't forget, we are talking about a cultural zone! Many fans plan their vacations around S.E.C. football road games. It comes down to football and more.

The S.E.C. has some neat destinations! And, there are super neat places near those destinations!

I have a friend from Louisiana who contends that we should get rid of the common "opponent in the other division." He thinks "rotate two teams every year." This way, "any student athlete who stays four years could have a chance to play everyone at least once."

Rivalry games such as Alabama-Tennessee or Georgia-Auburn would simply not count as a conference game, assuming that the schools chose to continue their annual series.

Definitely some alternatives!

While, the POD System brings many advantages, it may be a difficult sell. In all too many instances, you'd hear, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it! That would be my prediction.

Regarding expansion, it may never happen. I would bet against it. Nobody wants to divide up the money! It might be possible to see Auburn move to the East and Missouri to the West. Outside of that, likely nothing. It looks like we're set.

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