What About SEC Games That Don't Count?

There was an interesting note from the Atlantic Coast Conference regarding its proposal to be like the Southeastern Conference, playing eight conference games and one game from one of the five Power Conferences in the future. If an ACC team can't find anyone to play from the SEC, Pac-12, Big 12, or Big 10 the ACC team would simply play another ACC team, but not count it in the ACC standings.

Would any conference seriously consider that a game in which two league teams play one another are not really playing a conference game? Well, all one has to do is look to the history of the SEC.

Alabama historically has dominated the SEC. As everyone knows the Crimson Tide has played more SEC games, won more SEC games, has the best winning percentage in league games, and has the most championships. Both historically and currently the Crimson Tide argues for more conference games.

As recently as this year, Alabama lobbied for an increase to nine conference games, matching what three of the other five power conferences play. The Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12 all plan to play nine or more league games.

The vote in the SEC was 13 against, 1 (Alabama) for playing just one more conference game.

Once upon a time the conference office wasn't involved in scheduling, other than to mandate a minimum number of league games. As a result, in some years one team might play one or two more conference games than others.

Saban and former Alabama Coach Paul Bryant are alike in many ways, including the view that conference teams should play one another. In 1970, LSU won the SEC Championship playing only five league games. Bryant saw another way to win a championship. He talked to legendary Ole Miss Coach John Vaught about scheduling a series, which gave Bama one more conference game than other schools.

In 1972, Alabama had a 7-1 record. Auburn was 6-1. That extra SEC game against Ole Miss resulted in a championship for Bama.

It took the league a few years, but incredibly in 1980 and 1981, the SEC ruled that the game between Alabama and Mississippi – two charter members of the SEC – would not count as a conference game. It made almost no difference. Alabama finished tied for second in the league in 1980 and would have been second alone with its win over the Rebels counting and the Tide was tied for first in 1981 and still would have been tied for first (with a 7-0 record as to Georgia's 6-0) if the win over Mississippi had counted.

What made that 1980 rule even more ludicrous was that following the departures of Tulane and Georgia Tech from the SEC the league "designated" conference games for some teams. (There had also been a couple for Ole Miss in the 1950s when the Rebels didn't play enough real SEC games.) Alabama never needed one of these "appointed" conference games, but about half the league – Ole Miss, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, LSU, Vanderbilt, and Mississippi State played these non-conference conference games.

By the way, the SEC teams improved their records by an aggregate of 12-4-1 in these games.

So the SEC has a history of conference teams playing against each other and it NOT counting in the SEC standings and also a legacy of the league counting games when an SEC team played a team not in the conference.

So how would SEC teams react to the idea of playing more than just the eight designated conference games?

Alabama and Saban, by virtue of their lobby for nine league games, would certainly be interested. But which team in the Eastern Division of the SEC (besides Tennessee, which is Bama's permanent opponent) would be willing to play Alabama? It's reasonable to assume the East coaches wouldn't gather in Destin and jump up and down with hands in the air yelling, "Me! Me! I want to play Alabama!"

We don't see the self-proclaimed Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier at South Carolina, being interested. He whines about Alabama's schedule, but didn't want the ninth game because, he explained with a straight face, he has to play Clemson.

Georgia? That would be a logical choice since the Bulldogs rank high in all-time SEC standings, but that might bring back memories of the 2008 Black-Out Game, when the Tide went to Athens and blew out the third-ranked Bulldogs. Besides, Georgia would say, "We have to play Georgia Tech. And sometimes Clemson."

That Clemson must be some powerhouse.

Florida wouldn't want to have to play Florida State and sometimes Miami and also play Alabama every year.

Which leaves Kentucky, Missouri, and Vanderbilt. And how would the rest of the league react if Alabama added one of those three as a conference opponent?

This proposal in the SEC would invite another 13-1 vote.


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