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LSU chancellor to 'make the case' for dissolving cross-division rivalries

LSU chancellor to 'make the case' for dissolving cross-division rivalries

By Jerry Hinnen | Staff Writer

The athletic director has said he doesn't want to keep playing the series. The head coach says he doesn't want the game to count for anything. And as of Sunday, the school chancellor has said he's going to the SEC's spring meetings prepared to make one last-ditch effort to get the series canceled.

You know, we're starting to think LSU really doesn't want to keep playing Florida every season, you guys.

But don't take our word for it, not when LSU chancellor Mike Martin told the Baton Rouge Advocate Sunday that he "will try to make the case" to the rest of the SEC that the league should abandon its current "6-1-1" plan to keep annual, permanent cross-division rivalries.

“I think we at least have a shot,” Martin said, asserting that South Carolina president Harris Pastides is also opposed to keeping the permanent cross-division games. But that Pastides's Gamecocks are by all indications already paired off with league newcomers Texas A&M for a new annual series shows how much work Martin and Pastides have to do.

Bayou Bengal A.D. Joe Alleva made it clear, once again, that he's not happy about the situation -- one that would see his football team continue to play a Gator program that has won more SEC East titles than any other while rivals Alabama and Arkansas play series against long-term rebuilders Tennessee and SEC newcomers Missouri, respectively.

“I don't think it's fair,” Alleva said. “I think people have voted in the best interests of their schools and not the league.”

To which we would respond, firstly: of course they did. That's why there's a vote in the first place.

And to which we would add: telling the likes of Alabama and Tennessee and Auburn and Georgia that they have to give up decades and decades of rivalry play because Florida's probably going to be a tougher opponent than other West teams sounds a heck of a lot closer to "voting in the best interests of one's schools and not the league" than vice versa. There's also the fact that to judge by the noises coming out of the SEC's television discussions, keeping a marquee game like LSU-Florida on the conference slate is easily closer to the league's best interests than dissolving it.

So we have some sympathy for Alleva and LSU, as well as the scheduling rotation-stung Gamecocks; when Alleva says it's not fair, he's not entirely wrong. But scheduling in the SEC has never been about fairness -- it's been about traditions and rivalries first (for the most part), and those must-see matchups that have helped make it the SEC second. Why else would LSU and Florida have maintained their series (played every year since 1971) as an annual cross-division series in the first place?

If the SEC can find a way for those teams that want permanent cross-division rivals to have them and those that don't not to have them, then fine. But if that scheduling math doesn't work out (and it seems complicated enough that it wouldn't surprise us if it simply doesn't), we'd suggest the Tigers and Gamecocks accept the majority rule and knock off the "unfair" squawking. Judging by the conference-affiliation anxiety surrounding programs like Florida State and others, there's plenty of programs that would absolutely love to be thrown in the briar patch of a more-rugged-than-most SEC schedule.

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