Guerry Clegg commentary: Jealousy of the SEC continues to grow

May 3, 2014 

Ah, college football coaches. Such a self-serving bunch. You gotta love 'em.

We haven't even had the first playoff of the post-BCS era, and already coaches are arguing about the new system. And if you've heard the complaints from coaches around the country in recent years, you probably know who is in their cross hairs.

That would be the group that dominated the BCS -- the Southeastern Conference.

The SEC's recent decision to stick with an eight-game conference schedule fueled the fire for more debate, especially among the coaches in other conferences that are playing nine league games.

Unfair.

Unlevel playing field.

UCLA coach Jim Mora went so far as to suggest that the SEC plays "patsies." UCLA opens with Virginia, then plays Memphis.

Said Mora: "I would like to see everybody operate under the same set of rules or restrictions or regulations or whatever word you want to throw in there. I think the Pac-12 is an incredibly competitive conference. I look at the teams that make up this conference and I think anybody can beat anybody on any given week. I think the same can be said for the SEC. And yet we play nine games against each other. I like that."

We can expect as much coming from Mora, whose arrogance we saw up close when he was the Atlanta Falcons' head coach. But even Stanford's David Shaw took shots at the SEC.

"I've been saying this for three years now: I think if we're going to go into a playoff and feed into one playoff system, we all need to play by the same rules. Play your conference. Don't back down from playing your own conference. It's one thing to back down from playing somebody else. But don't back down from playing your own conference."

Really? Back down?

Play by the "same rules?"

A little history lesson is in order here.

Which conference was the first to expand beyond 10 teams? Hint: Its initials are SEC.

Which conference was the first to add a championship game? You know the answer.

Nobody else "played by the same rules" when the SEC added Arkansas and South Carolina and split into two divisions, creating the first conference championship game ever. Alabama went 11-0 in the regular season but still had to beat Florida to claim the SEC championship. As Bama coach Gene Stallings said at the time, "We're 11-0 and still haven't won anything."

Miami was 11-0 and essentially given a bye straight into the Sugar Bowl despite beating only one team (Florida State) that won more than seven games. This, despite the fact that the SEC had three teams (Alabama, Georgia and Florida) ranked in the final top 10. No other conference had more than one.

The SEC has played 22 conference championship games. Eleven times, at least one team put an undefeated record on the line. In 2009, both Alabama and Florida went into the game undefeated. Exactly how is that "backing down."

Adding a ninth SEC game is not the same as adding a ninth Pac-10 game. Almost every season, there is no more than two or three SEC teams that are just not competitive. And that's in a bad year. Almost every year, the bottom halves of the other conferences are non-competitive.

But the point here isn't to say that an eight-game SEC schedule is more demanding than a nine-game Pac-12 schedule. It probably is, but that's not the point.

Rather, the point is that for years the conferences have scheduled and determined their conference champions independent of each other. The SEC has never tried to tell the Pac-12 or Big 10 how to conduct its business.

What about all those years the champion of the Pac-10, as it was then, went to the Rose Bowl and played an overrated Big 10 team?

How fair was it in 1983 when Auburn won 10 straight games, including a Sugar Bowl win over Michigan, but didn't even get passing consideration for the national championship?

If anything, the current system is a disadvantage to the SEC. The conference championship game loser could be one of the two best teams in the country but fall out of the top four and miss the playoffs. If that happens, then so be it. But you didn't hear Georgia's Mark Richt complaining after coming four yards short against Alabama two years ago. You didn't hear LSU's Les Miles complaining after beating Alabama in Tuscaloosa. In fact, of a potential rematch in the national championship game (which did come to fruition), Miles said "it would be an honor."

There's no system that will ever be perfectly equitable. It's impossible. But this growing anti-SEC sentiment is really getting old. Want to "level" the playing field with the SEC? Quit whining and get better.

-- Guerry Clegg is an independent correspondent. You can write to him at sports@ledger-enquirer.com

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