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Auburn Tigers athletic director gives his take on potential changes to rivalry series

In this Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, file photo, Auburn’s Dontavius Russell, second from left, tackles Georgia's  Nick Chubb (27), as Georgia's Kendall Baker (65) and Solomon Kindley (66), Auburn's Andrew Williams (79) and Georgia's Andrew Thomas (71) join in the play during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Auburn, Ala.
In this Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, file photo, Auburn’s Dontavius Russell, second from left, tackles Georgia's Nick Chubb (27), as Georgia's Kendall Baker (65) and Solomon Kindley (66), Auburn's Andrew Williams (79) and Georgia's Andrew Thomas (71) join in the play during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Auburn, Ala. AP Photo

One of the hot topics of the college football offseason has revolved around Auburn football’s annual November series with Georgia and Alabama. Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and Georgia head coach Kirby Smart have expressed a desire for change, and on Thursday, Auburn athletic director Allen Greene offered his opinion.

Greene spoke to reporters at SEC spring meetings and was asked about changes that would end Auburn playing Georgia and Alabama either on the road or at home in the same year. In Greene’s opinion, exploring changes in the current setup is a task worth taking on.

“In our world, it makes sense to even that out,” Greene told AL.com. “I think that it makes sense to have discussions. It is very complicated — let's not get it twisted — but that doesn't mean we can't have discussions to try to even that out.”

The Georgia and Alabama series had routinely alternated being home and away for Auburn each year since 1998, the last season in which the Iron Bowl was played in Birmingham. This pattern changed after the Southeastern Conference added Texas A&M and Missouri for the 2012 season.

Because of the SEC moving up to 14 teams, preserving long standing cross-divisional rivalries and needing each team to have four home games in the eight-game conference slate, the conference interrupted the alternating home-and-away games in the Auburn-Georgia rivalry.

Auburn hosted Georgia in 2012 and 2013 before the series resumed its alternating home-and-away scheduling. This change resulted in Auburn’s games against Georgia and Alabama now being both away or both at home each season.

Although discussions could take place soon, it might be a while before the changes are implemented.

Per AL.com, the complexity of the conference’s scheduling “leaves 2025 as the earliest possible year for when Auburn could visit Georgia for a second straight year, which would mean playing three SEC home games, but it would only impact the one season and two teams and not have a ripple effect in the SEC schedule, which starts a new cycle in 2026.”

As Greene explained, the most important aspect right now is beginning discussions about potential changes.

“It's been less about what year we could actually implement something and more just about having conversations to try to get down the road a little bit, try to figure out what we can do,” Greene said. “... It's about trying to do what we think is in the best interest of the league. I think having a top-10 program playing on the road against two other top-10 programs puts the league at a disadvantage.”

Greene also expressed interest in moving the date of The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, which hasn't been played before November since 1936. Greene was then asked if changing the date of the Iron Bowl was also up for discussion.

Even though Greene is only in his first year at Auburn, it didn’t take him long to respond to that idea appropriately.

“The Alabama game is not going to change,” Green said. “I was born at night, but not last night.”

Jordan D. Hill: @JordanDavisHill | jhill@ledger-enquirer.com
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