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Auburn to East is at least being openly discussed: Now, make it happen

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I'm sure this won't be controversial at all.

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Better as a divisional game
Better as a divisional game
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Blame Jay Jacobs for this one.

At the SEC meetings in Destin, Auburn's head man openly discussed a possibility that had been floated around since at least 2009 when Expansionpalooza reared its ugly head: Moving the Tigers to the East. (As I have noted many, many times on this site, of Auburn's five all-time opponents, three are in the East.) Jay Jacobs agreed that it made a lot of sense to do so.

That obviously opened the floodgates, as Greg Sankey came along later to somewhat put a damper on the enthusiasm

"I really only address that in these conversations," Sankey said at his Tuesday press conference smiling. "Is that an agenda item, no. Do we talk about it? In media conferences, press conference: Regularly. It’s almost this cycle every two years I can predict it will begin happening on May 1."

Still, that the geographic and competitive imbalance is even being addressed openly is an important first step. Move Mizzou to the West, where its natural rivalry with Arkansas can shine and then let the Columbia Tigers keep UGA as its permanent cross-over team. That is a rivalry that has organically arisen in the past 5 years and it would be a shame to squelch it. This move also saves a lot of ridiculously long road trips to Gainesville and the like. And, the East gets a charter member with long-standing good credentials in football and decent success in others.

Some aren't pleased with that notion though.

For whatever reason, SB Nation has fallen in love with this damned pod idea. I usually ignore that nonsense because the SEC is, if anything, about rivalries, most of which are played close to home and have been for almost a century. Pods diminish that a great deal. And, no, just having a pod of 4 teams etc won't help the problem either. Ole Miss hates Alabama the 92 times they've played; the Third Saturday will have been played 100 times this season; State and 'Bama have traveled the 62 miles almost 110 times in their history; LSU and Alabama have had epic battles for seven decades; 'Bama and A&M have a lot of shared, intertwined history, and on and on and on. How do you pick the 3-4 most meaningful games least where everyone agrees it's the most meaningful?

And that's just the first of my gripes about the idea.

Then, of course, there's an alternate idea out there; why not just kill divisions altogether? Of course, this idea could only come from someone who plainly loves chaos. The divisional format of the SEC has become the standard in college football for a very good reason: It provides clear winners and losers; there aren't agonizing coin tosses and 9th tiebreakers. Somehow, it's always worked out. The parity in the conference that makes for exciting divisional games would make a non-divisional format pure pandemonium. In a conference where four teams may go 9-3, do we really want the round-robin mess that has plagued the Big 12 the past few seasons in deciding who faces off in the SECCG? Absolutely not. Do we want to flirt with the more than real possibility of multiple rematches? Usually not. Should you attempt to fix that which is not broken? Emphatically no.

Finally, there is an idea half-heartedly advanced since 1992's first modern expansion: Why not move both Alabama and Auburn to the East? And, this idea may be the worst of the bunch, for the same reasons as above relating to rivalries. In 2014, we covered how few times Alabama and Florida have actually met; how infrequently the Tide and Wildcats have hooked up. The SEC's rivalries were largely forged by poverty-driven short commutes. After over a century of Southern / SEC conference battles, those rivalries are stubborn; the proximity and lack of buffer between fan bases are real; and the hatred is immutable. Again, it's not going to happen.

For whatever reason, aside from competitive imbalance, this discussion moving teams around usually picks up the (unrelated) long period of time between rotating games with members of the other division. The obvious solution for more rotations isn't necessarily to move Auburn to the East. The solution is one which will never happen -- that dang ninth conference game. And it, frankly, is a non-starter with ADs, coaches, or presidents. But really why should it even be an issue? Playing teams 500-600 miles away is not in the DNA of most SEC teams. That's not how the conference was built, organically or otherwise. If those teams separated by greater differences meet infrequently, that's not a new awful consequence of divisional play; rather, divisional play merely reflects the long-standing reality of hitting the road in the is, dare I say, tradition.

But, to the original issue: If you tell Auburn they get to keep the Iron Bowl (in any and all sports) but can play in the East, you can bet all the Yella' wood in the world they'd be on it like a rat in a Lee County trailer. While keeping the Iron Bowl is a separate discussion, the move is plainly in the SEC's and Auburn's best interests. And, just as importantly, it's one that Auburn wants and that we are at least finally discussing

Make it happen or leave well enough alone.