The Case for Secession
Aren’t we ready to ignore the West Coast?
by Frank Cagle
Politics, public policy and skullduggery be damned—it’s football time in Tennessee.
The college football season begins this Saturday, but we have no idea how it will end. I don’t mean who will win and who will lose. Do you have any idea how the national champion will be named? Do you know who will decide which team is No. 1, much less No. 10 or No. 25? We are told that No. 1 and No. 2 will play for the national title. But do you have any idea how your team is supposed to get there?
The NCAA and the BCS are a mess. We had the undefeated winner of the Southeastern Conference last year, Auburn, shut out of the national title game. Well, sure, it was Auburn. But still.
There is really only one thing we can do in the face of the confusion, regional rivalries and the ever-shifting conference memberships. We have to take matters into our own hands.
We know that the SEC is the best football conference in America. We know that winning in the SEC is harder than the Pac-10, the ACC and the like. Ergo, if you can win in the SEC you have to be better than people winning in another conference. We really like to play SEC opponents. What gives you a bigger charge, beating Florida, Alabama and LSU or beating Michigan? Where do you want to go watch a game? Syracuse? Ann Arbor? College Station? No. You want to go win in The Swamp, Tiger Stadium and Bryant-Denny. So the facts are clear and the decision is simple. The SEC needs to secede from the NCAA.
Forget big media bias. Forget phony polls. Forget whether it matters whether Oregon wins a game. All the schools in the SEC will just play each other. Maybe each school could play an “honorary” SEC member, like Florida State or Notre Dame. But just opt out of the whole BCS and NCAA travesty.
The SEC title game will be renamed the National Championship Bowl. The winners of the East division and the West Division will play for the National Championship each year.
We can make the rings, buy a trophy and just get ’er done.
No more agonizing over whether Boise State should be in the BCS. No more worries about whether the poll voters watch the games or whether the sports information guy is merely throwing darts at a map. Strength of schedule is not a factor. If you are in the SEC West you get to play Vandy and you have to play LSU. In the East you get to wallop on Kentucky, but you have to play Tennessee.
You would no longer have to wonder what a Hokie or a Boilermaker or an Aggie is. They don’t matter.
The advantages are clear. The National Champion, every year, will be from the SEC. The National Championship game will be close by, and you can always go. Maybe we can move it around, from Atlanta to Nashville to New Orleans. We could have the fans vote each year. All the games will be on television. Our league contract will require that the games start after noon, run on three channels, and finish by 11 p.m. Eastern. The teams with the best record will get the closest spots to prime time.
Imagine how much simpler it will be for the average sports fan. You don’t have to get the West Coast scores to find out if your local team is going to move up in the polls. What happened on the West Coast no longer matters. You only have 12 teams from which to learn the players, the mascots, the jokes and the endearing filthy names for their fans.
There is a danger that we won’t have anything left to argue about. Sports talk radio, bulletin boards and sports columnists will be bereft of topics without the perfidy of the BCS or the latest inane ruling by the NCAA. (This is a serious proposal; I’m not putting this out as revenge for Metro Pulse columnist/talk radio host Tony Basilio using me as an example of an old and decrepit athlete, like he did last week). But we can still look around at the floundering idiocy of teams around the country, still watch what the BCS is doing to the rest of college football, still laugh when the NCAA tries to ban the Utes and the Seminoles.
We don’t have to give up watching college football in other parts of the country. We watch minor league baseball. And hockey. And soccer. And there may be somebody that watches the NBA playoffs. It would not be totally devoid of interest. It would just be meaningless. Like the Big 12 Championship game.
So the Vols will win the National Championship this season under the old system, unless the BCS figures out some way to screw us, then they would be the defending national champions under the new all-SEC championship series next year.
You may think that the day will never come when my idea will be adopted. But it has a better chance than seeing a college football playoff system.
Frank Cagle is a political analyst and the editor of Knoxville Magazine . You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org .