The Southeastern Conference is sticking with 13 teams — for now.
Derek Dooley, however, doesn’t see an end to conference realignment — and that troubles the Tennessee head coach.
“Just from a guy who kind of grew up in the SEC, it is a little disappointing to see all that is happening in college football,” Dooley said during the league coaches teleconference call on Wednesday. “I think we are tampering with something that has made college football so special. That’s the fans, the traditions, the rivalries, the ability to go to road games, your fan base, playing the same teams every year. You just develop a deep history that makes this game special.”
Reports swirled on Tuesday that Missouri had been offered an invitation to become the SEC’s 14th member — giving the Tigers the opportunity to join Texas A&M, which announced earlier in the month it would be leaving the Big 12 for the SEC. The league quickly squashed that rumor, though, as associated commissioner Charles Bloom said in a statement: “The Southeastern Conference has not agreed, formally or informally, to accept any institution other than Texas A&M and there have not been any conference discussions regarding changes in divisional realignments.”
With the possibility of the SEC adding another team comes the chance that the league would have to reorganize the divisions so each side would have seven teams.
Auburn is currently in the Western division but is the team closest to the Eastern division. Thus, the Tigers might make the most sense when looking for a team to add to the East.
If that happens, though, there is a risk that rivalries such as Auburn and Alabama and Tennessee and Alabama might come to an end.
“Nobody is really worried about what I think or what the coaches think,” Dooley said. “There is not much we can do about it. I just hope we don’t end some of these great traditions and rivalries. I’m afraid if we keep going down this path, that is what’s going to happen. It is going to impact a lot of things.”
Auburn coach Gene Chizik agreed, saying, “Obviously rivalries at every school is extremely important. Depending on how this whole thing unfolds, I think everybody will keep that in high consideration. I know that certainly no one is going to brush the fact that is important under the carpet.”
The seismic shift in college sports picked back up over the weekend when Big East schools Pittsburgh and Syracuse were accepted into the ACC. Reportedly, fellow Big East foe West Virginia was denied membership from the ACC and SEC.
On Monday, the board of regents at Texas and Oklahoma gave their presidents authority to explore conference realignment options. The schools were reportedly interested in joining the Pac-12, which on Tuesday said it would not expand from its current 12-team format.
“What concerns me the most is the pace at which these decisions are made without really thinking through the implications from all fronts, and it is the same thing with scheduling,” Dooley said. “My only wish is that we have a tremendous amount of dialogue and the coaches are included in the dialogue.”