Has the SEC Championship Game Outlived its Usefulness?
Written by Bryant Roberts on .
In the blockbuster film "The Bourne Identity" there is a scene in the beginning of the film that demonstrates pretty succinctly the state of college football. Take a look and see if you agree as I will explain further the thoughts on the SEC Championship Gamec after you watch this:
Now let me explain, try to keep up here...
Oh, if you are reading this at work and "the youtube" is blocked, no worries. Matt Damon's character (a man wanted by various governmental agencies), is on the run. After accessing a lock box full of cash, passports, multiple Id's, and a glock Damon finds himself in an alley trying to barter a car ride out of town. He offers 10K in cash to a chick with a car. While said chick is debating on whether or not to drive a stranger who is wanted by the law to Paris, Damon calmly flips here $10,000 in a bank bundle. After further indecisiveness, Damon asks for the cash back. The next shot is of the two riding in a car. Once she had the cash in her hands, she wasn't giving it back.
Whether you enjoyed the film or not, the "you need money, I need a ride" scene illustrates where college football has been headed for awhile but only increased to break neck speed recently. ESPN, CBS, NBC, and FOX are Matt Damon with a sack stuffed full of cash. College football power brokers (Presidents, ADs, and their hired lobbyists "conference commissioners") are the indecisive girl in the alley debating on whether or not adding this school or moving to this conference or breaking this rivalry is really worth it. In the end, though, no one is tossing that cash back to where it came from once they feel it in their hands. Once the seeds of new facilities, better coaches, reduced debt, increased exposure, and winning get planted, there is no going back. You get in the car, hope for the best, and roll the dice.
So what does this have to do with eliminating the SEC championship game?
The SEC has been at the forefront on most issues confronting or shaping college football over the last 25 years. It was Roy Kramer who conceived the Division I conference championship game. While conferences have expanded and retracted since conferences have existed, Kramer was the first to target additional teams as a revenue stream. By having 12 teams, the SEC could morph into 2 divisions with the champions playing in a great big SEC celebration. Winner goes to the Sugar Bowl. Checks will be handed out in May down in Destin. Though most coaches objected, the Presidents and ADs approved it, mentally spending the extra money before the checks even cleared. Since 1992, the SEC has turned the game into a week long event and a huge success.
Kramer also forced the first baby steps regarding identifying a true national champion. First through the Bowl Coalition and then the BCS that has been around since 1998. Mike Slive picked up the torch pushing for a playoff as early as 2008 and was roundly rejected. Six straight BCS championships later (which culminated in a SEC vs SEC championship game in 2012) most of the power brokers were willing to come back to the table and hash out a deal. Not surprisingly, both the SEC and Big Ten hired TV consultants to figure out the maximum cash value. The summer of 2012 saw the birth of what fans have been calling for for years. An actual, bracketed playoff format. The top four teams, as chosen by a committee yet to be named, will be seeded 1-4 with semifinal games and a winner take all game. There are no conference limits. The more teams your conference places, the bigger your check. See where I am headed with this?
If the SEC Championship Game was born of profit, surely it can die of profit as well. Five SEC teams (Tennessee, LSU, Florida, Alabama, and Auburn) have all hoisted the crystal football. Georgia has been close on no less than three occasions. Arkansas, South Carolina, and Texas A&M all have the commitment and resources to win one. Why should the SEC voluntarily eliminate a team from the playoff? Certainly one loss SEC teams will get the benefit of the doubt over other one loss teams, but you can't afford to lose in December. A top five match up in Atlanta will all but guarantee the loser gets sent to the Sugar Bowl to play a game no one is very excited about. Playing in the Sugar Bowl used to be the end all be all for an SEC team. Now, it is little more than a consolation prize. A great big "thanks for playing" and don't forget to order your overpriced tickets through the ticket office! The conference will lose millions of dollars.
Eliminating the SEC CG would also allow the SEC to improve the overall product. The divisions could be eliminated and scheduling could be improved. With the addition of Texas A&M and Missouri bringing each division to seven teams plus the permanent opponent provision to protect historic rivalries, it will be six years before some teams play. This is not acceptable. Each team can have three or four permanent opponents with the rest of the conference rotating on and off.Adding teams in future expansion scenarios would be much easier as well. Best record gets to be Champion. Two way tie? Co Champions. Three way tie? Tri- Champions. Call it whatever you want. The teams that will be competing for the championship have bigger fish to fry. The goal is now a playoff spot. Period. Mike Slive should do everything possible to maximize the number of SEC teams in the discussion for those four coveted spots. After all, no one is tossing back a stack of cash.
my first time here (referred by leatherhelmetblog.com post) and pls let me start by saying great job this year (and last). Spurrier has our number (always has) and it drives me nuts. Y'all are about to move up the list into our top 3 rivals (FL, AU, GT) if you keep it up ;)
I understand with what you are saying, and I think its interesting, but I think dumbing down the SEC is a weak approach and you won't find businessmen out there who are willing to concede ground to a national game which is struggling with ID crisis. IMHO there is a lot more pride to have the SEC title than a national one...it just so happens that the SEC champ is the National champ. Ok, not a coincidence. I like the way your mind works so how about I challenge you to use your mental resources to find a new solution, one that includes the SEC not stepping down to a less competitive landscape, but as leaders in everything football allows the SEC to continue acting as leaders and finds a way to help the rest of the league raise the bar and meet us at the top.
In the spirit of quoting Damon, 'How bout dem apples?'
I believe that it has. But it could become the national championship game followed 3 weeks later by the bowl games. Alabama/Georgia was closer to a championship game than Alabama/Notre Dame and the additional loss for Georgia allowed Notre Dame to finish one spot higher in the final AP pole. Not really fair to Georgia.
I disagree that the SEC means more to teams than a national. I'll concede the point if you can find one Alabama fan who would trade the 2011 national title for LSU's SEC title.
Personally, I have mixed feelings on the playoff issue. Part of me that hates the BCS is ready for it. I get and understand what you mean about what an SEC title means, but in the changing landscape of college football, I think the SEC has to adapt. In 2008 and 2009 both Bama and UF were 1 & 2 going into that game. The loser would not have made the 4 team bracket.