Here are the pros and cons of what Auburn moving to the SEC East would mean
Coach Gus Malzahn apparently thinks moving Auburn to the East 'makes sense'
Like clockwork, Auburn-to-the-SEC East chatter has started back up in earnest.
Coach Gus Malzhan has been open that he thinks his program is better aligned in another division, especially with Missouri being in the SEC East. He reaffirmed that position this week while speaking with reporters. "You look at the map and obviously it makes sense," Malzahn told reporters at the Regions Traditions Pro-Am in Birmingham, Alabama.
Malzahn doesn't have any actual pull. This is just one man's opinion. There are way too many steps that would need to be taken for this to go from offseason fodder to an actual piece of legislation to be voted on.
Still, it's one of those silly storylines that has just enough support somewhere to stay alive. As such, it will likely be brought up again this time next year ... and the year after that ... and the year after that.
With that in mind, here are some pros and cons for Auburn (and the SEC) if the Tigers were to move to the East division with Mizzou taking its spot in the West.
Pro: Auburn would be more geographically aligned
Technically, you could make an argument that any team in any division could be or should be moved. Practically, only a small number actually have a case and it's usually rooted in geography. If we're throwing out longstanding ties, it is certainly strange that Auburn is in the West when it's located several hundred miles east of Missouri.
So of all the changes the SEC could make to its divisions, swapping Auburn for Missouri -- former Auburn coach Pat Dye is an advocate of this -- is the only one that makes surface-level sense. So Malzahn has a point here, and really, it's the only one he's ever stood by.
Con: It would be a beast to pass and no one seems remotely interested in attempting it
Hypothetically, let's say Auburn to the East was a real thing with momentum. It would still take a lot of votes for it to happen. Any such decision or changes to the SEC would go through an extensive legislative process and be brought forth and passed by the athletic directors, and then have to be approved by presidents/SEC executive committee.
But commissioner Greg Sankey doesn't seem to think it will get that far.
"I don't know that it was ever a live story," Sankey said at SEC spring meetings last year. "The only time I've talked about it in Destin, Florida, was here in this room.
"Since I have been commissioner, I have never once talked to our football coaches about any team moving to a different division."
The job of a commissioner is to work on behalf of the conference's decision-makers. What they say at events like spring meetings usually reflects the feeling among those who make such decisions.
In other words, the widespread, serious consideration needed to make such a move isn't there.
Pro: For the time being, at least, it would clear up Auburn's path to Atlanta
Life could be easier -- perhaps much easier -- if Auburn moved to the East because it's considered the weaker division. By playing in the West, the Tigers have to face an all-time great coach, Alabama's Nick Saban, every year. It's a grading curve assigned to every West division team.
Since Saban took over Alabama, Auburn is 3-7 against the Crimson Tide. One of those wins came in Saban's first year. when he was building the program. The second required a once-in-a-lifetime talent in quarterback Cam Newton. The third came on the Kick Six. The point being, Auburn's wins vs. Alabama in the past decade have required some extraordinary circumstances.
Of course, Saban won't be at Alabama forever. There was also a time when the East division was considered the stronger of the two divisions. These trends come and go, so a permanent move would be overkill for a roadblock that is historically temporary.
Con: It fouls up rivalries
The most infuriating part of conference realignment is that it has destroyed several rivalries. At best, many longtime rivals will play a home-and-home or series as nonconference opponents sometime in the next decade. What college football hasn't seen as much of, however, is the destruction of rivalries at an intraconference level.
If Auburn moves to the East, the primary goal would be to keep the Iron Bowl with Alabama. It's the conference's most important game. However, under the current conference slate, that probably means Alabama-Tennessee goes away as an annual game. Granted, that rivalry hasn't been competitive in a long time, but it matters historically. Also, who would be Missouri's new cross-divisional rival? Mizzou doesn't have deep-seeded attachments because it's a newer member, but it's a logistical sticking point nonetheless.
Pro: It at least brings up the topic of how silly divisions can be
A macro point emerges when divisional alignment comes into question, and that's whether conferences should have divisions at all. Conference championship games don't match the two best teams against one another; they match the two teams that won their respective divisions. If one division is considerably weaker than the other, the imbalance is notable.
Consider the following point about Penn State in the Big Ten Championship Game from Dan Wetzel last December...
Regardless of where you stood on the Penn State/Ohio State debate (or, as some will point out, the Penn State/Washington debate) relative to the College Football Playoff race, Wetzel has a point. So while Auburn and Missouri have routinely been brought up as examples of divisional misalignment, the larger topic of whether divisions should exist at all becomes an important talking point by association.
Con: A nine-game conference schedule would desperately be needed
One factor that hasn't been mentioned relative to divisional makeup is a nine-game conference schedule. Saban has been supportive of a nine-game slate, though other SEC coaches don't share his enthusiasm. However, a nine-game conference schedule would solve a lot of problems. Namely, it would ensure every team plays on a more regular basis. It's better for the fans who don't care about destroying some Sun Belt team in November and it wouldn't hold any rivalries hostage. With a nine-game conference schedule, it wouldn't matter much if Auburn is in the West, East or if the SEC was a division-less conference. However, the SEC is stubbornly hanging on to eight games and has no current plans to increase it.
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