The SEC isn’t going to add any more teams – for now. But it should consider another change, fixing competitive balance in the powerhouse conference. The SEC West makes the East look like a weak link, meaning it’s time to realign the divisions. – Anthony Olivieri
Florida president Bernie Machen, chairman of the SEC presidents and chancellors committee, said that the SEC’s movers and shakers “reaffirmed our satisfaction with the present 12 institutional alignment” after meeting Sunday.
But the league left open the possibility that it could add teams in the near future.
“We recognize, however, that future conditions may make it advantageous to expand the number of institutions in the league,” Machen said. “We discussed criteria and process associated with expansion.”
But Bernie, forget prospective members, how about making the current version of the league markedly better?
The more pressing matter is making sure that the league’s current format squeezes the best product out of what no doubt is the most-competitive football outside of the NFL.
At least, it is in the SEC West.
Consider the numbers: The East posted a 3-16 record against the West in 2010. The East’s champion, No. 22 South Carolina, finished ranked behind No. 1 Auburn, No. 8 LSU, No. 10 Alabama, No. 12 Arkansas and No. 15 Mississippi State – all members of the West.
ESPN.com’s Ivan Maisel detailed well in this piece how far the East is lagging behind. He pointed out that Steve Spurrier even admitted that his Gamecocks aren’t a top SEC team, and they were in the title game for crying out loud.
“When we tell our players we were seventh in defense and offense (in the SEC), that means we’re mediocre. That’s what we were,” Spurrier said at SEC media days, speaking about his team’s 2010 performance.
“… We’ve got a ways to go to really be a good team.”
That’s the champion of one of the divisions in the nation’s toughest conference we’re talking about here – a 9-5 team that finished ahead of 8-5 Florida in the East standings.
The Gators and Gamecocks were the only East teams with overall records above .500. Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky all finished at 6-7 and Vanderbilt at 2-10.
Granted, the Gators are coming off a period of dominance, while Georgia and Tennessee both are proud programs that no doubt will bounce back to prominence at some point.
The question is: When? The Gators may never again reach the success they had under Urban Meyer, the Bulldogs might be set to fire coach Mark Richt and transition their program into the unknown. The Vols are wallowing in the wake of Lane Kiffin’s cameo in Knoxville; it’s going to take some time for them to get off the mat.
If you’re arguing for South Carolina as an SEC power, remember that the Gamecocks won their first SEC title last season since joining the league in 1992 – also the first year of divisional play.
And Kentucky and Vanderbilt in the same division? That makes no sense at all.
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