The more I think about it the more I think it makes sense to put Missouri in the SEC West, where it belongs geographically, and put Auburn in the SEC East, where it belongs geographically.
Missouri, and its fans, are the ones that are going to suffer most because the travel time and travel expenses between the Mizzou campus and the six other teams in the SEC East are going to be substantial. Fans of the teams in the SEC East who want to make road trips to Missouri's campus in Columbia will have long, expensive trips, too. My expectation is that a lot of them just won't go.
From Auburn's perspective I don't see any downside to moving to the other division. That would enable the Tigers to resume their traditional rivalries with Florida and Tennessee while keeping the traditional game vs. Georgia. Those are games Auburn fans would be excited about seeing on the schedule every year.
Auburn could still continue to play its in-state rival to close the regular season. I know some people say it wouldn't be a good thing for Auburn to play Alabama and then turn around and play the same opponent in the SEC Championship Game, but I see that as a good thing. If it happens it means that both teams are having strong seasons. Say if Auburn played Alabama and lost in Tuscaloosa, what more could you ask from an Auburn perspective than to have a chance for a rematch without having to wait a year?
Playing in the SEC East would make it a lot easier for Auburn fans to travel to road games. For most it is a lot shorter trip to the SEC East campuses than it is to the ones in the SEC West. For fans in Columbia, S.C., for an example, it will be a lot easier for them to travel to Auburn every other year than to Columbia, Mo.
I have been following SEC football for a long time and I understand the rivalries and the history of the league. As a player I was in the last Auburn-Georgia game that was held at Memorial Stadium at Columbus, Ga., in 1958, then the first one in Athens in 1959 and the first Auburn-Georgia game at Auburn in 1960.
I was part of the Auburn-Alabama rivalry for many years and was head coach when we made the decision to move our home games with Alabama out of Legion Field in Birmingham to our campus stadium. While there was a lot of criticism of the move at the time claiming that it would ruin the rivalry, mostly from Alabama, both programs have benefitted from taking the game out of Legion Field.
In fact, Alabama may have benefitted even more facilities-wise because it forced their people to take a hard look at their on-campus stadium and other facilities after they came to Auburn in 1989 and saw what our setup was here. They have made tremendous improvements over what their facilities were while Auburn has continued to improve its facilities, too.
Missouri and Texas A&M are great institutions academically and I believe they will be tremendous assets to the SEC, but to put Missouri is the East is not logical due to its location. Auburn would be the best choice as an addition to the East for a 14-team conference. These teams like West Virginia that are crossing the country to join conferences, that'll never last. It's too hard. It's too expensive. It's too much of a burden on the people.
There may be something I don't understand why the SEC put Missouri in the East, but common sense says Auburn should be in that division and Missouri should be in the West.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Editor's Note: This is part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American player at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn, he also served as a head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming. Dye participates in the Legends Poll, a Top 25 rating of the best teams in college football as determined by a panel of all-star former head coaches. Dye writes three columns for AUTigers.com--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat's Picks.