Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Colleges

Auburn brings up realignment at SEC meetings, but no one else

DESTIN — SEC commissioner Greg Sankey insists the only time he discusses the possibility of Auburn moving from the West to the East is the annual series of questions from reporters covering the league's spring meetings.

Tigers athletic director Jay Jacobs wants to change that.

The last time the conference's power brokers discussed division realignment was when Missouri and Texas A&M joined before the 2012 season.

"Now we've done that for a few years," Jacobs said. "Maybe it's time to look at all that."

It makes geographic sense, compared with keeping Missouri in the East. Jacobs said it also makes sense for his school's student body, because most out-of-state students come from Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia or Kentucky. Those students want to play the school from their home state.

Jacobs said his football program's scheduling isn't his issue, despite the West's recent dominance and East's mediocrity.

"You can't schedule based on where you think the easier piece is going to be," Jacobs said, "because you'll end up jumping from the frying pan and into the fire."

Jacobs' plan has several issues, starting with the glaring fact that no other school seems interested in discussing it. Unless the current scheduling model changes, the league would also have to find a way to protect Alabama's rivalries with Auburn and Tennessee, if both were in the East.

Regardless, Jacobs said the league needs to consider future changes — including divisions — to keep the SEC atop college football.

"The bottom line is … we're going to keep playing Georgia, and we're going to keep playing Alabama, and wherever we land, we land," Jacobs said. "If that means we may stay in the West for the next 20 years, whatever works out. Whatever we think is best for this league, gives us the best chance to get in the playoffs is what we're going to do."

Blockbuster openers: Florida has two upcoming blockbuster season openers — against Michigan on Sept. 2 in Arlington, Texas, and against Miami in 2019 in Orlando.

Both were set up under former athletic director Jeremy Foley, and it doesn't sound as if they will become commonplace under his successor, Scott Stricklin.

"Obviously we have FSU at the end of every year, plus the eight conference games," Stricklin said. "That's a pretty big load.

"I think you've got to pick your spots on those other high-profile games."

Harbaugh talk: The SEC hasn't been a fan of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, most prominently when multiple coaches questioned last year's spring break trip to Bradenton's IMG Academy.

But he has at least one supporter in the SEC.

"Jim's my dude," said Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason, who coached under Harbaugh at Stanford.

Mason said he doesn't agree with everything his former boss does — no two coaches agree on everything — but he defended Harbaugh's act.

"I just think between the media and other people out there, they let Jim Harbaugh get underneath their skin," Mason said. "If you know how to play the game with Jim, I think it's a great game to play. He's going to get underneath your skin if you let him."

Mason's advice: "Just wait it out. Just wait it out. Everything Jim does, he does for a reason. Wait it out. Don't worry about it. Let Jim do Jim, and make sure that you do you, and you'll be fine."

AUDIBLE: "Nobody's cheating in this conference. Everybody's doing the right thing." — Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason

Contact Matt Baker at [email protected]tampabay.com. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.

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