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    From mercellusb@21:1/5 to All on Sun Apr 30 08:04:14 2023
    Johnny Vaught was bringing a powerhouse Ole Miss team to Auburn that October day in 1953. His Rebels, on a 13-game winning streak, were heavy favorites over third-year coach Ralph Jordan’s Tigers, who hadn’t had a winning record in more than a decade.
    But in front of a near-sellout crowd of 20,000 fans at Cliff Hare Stadium, Auburn running back (and future Alabama governor) Fob James ran all over Ole Miss, and quarterback (and future Georgia football coach and athletic director) Vince Dooley ably
    guided the Tigers to a 13-0 upset.

    As his players piled into the team bus, Vaught stood in front of them and proclaimed: “Boys, get a good look. No Ole Miss team will ever come here again.”
    And it did not, for another 20 years. Even though the programs were in bordering states. Even though both played in the Southeastern Conference. Because Vaught, like any head coach at the time, could just decide not to play certain teams, and that was
    that.
    Long before the divisions of the SEC East and West, conference scheduling was more like the Wild West. Opponents chosen based on win probability. Matchups arranged or canceled because of personal relationships. Co-champions declared because undefeated
    teams didn’t play each other.
    “It is pretty interesting stuff,” said Mark Womack, who has worked in the SEC office since 1978 and is now in charge of scheduling.
    Interesting, however, might be downplaying it.
    Huey Long once pressured Georgia and LSU into playing, but he was assassinated before the teams met.
    Alabama and Georgia were annual opponents for four decades, until a story in the Saturday Evening Post derailed both the rivalry and the magazine.
    Teams that would seem to be longtime rivals – Alabama-Ole Miss, Georgia-Tennessee – went decades without playing each other. Scheduling was so disorganized that occasionally a game between two SEC teams didn’t count in the standings, while non-
    conference games – against the likes of North Carolina, Clemson, Miami, Houston – did.
    It all makes the current debate about SEC scheduling – nine or eight games, which three permanent opponents each team will play – seem quaint by comparison.

    In the two decades after World War II, Alabama and Ole Miss were perhaps the SEC’s two biggest powers. Ole Miss won six conference titles and claimed three national titles between 1944-65; Alabama won four conference titles and claimed two national
    titles.


    And in those 21 years, they didn’t play each other.
    “We were always told that Alabama wouldn’t play us. Later, I found out, the Alabama players were told it was because we refused to play them,” Robert Khayat, an Ole Miss player in the 1950s who later became the school’s chancellor, told longtime
    Mississippi sports writer Rick Cleveland.
    What was the real reason? Vaught and Bear Bryant got along well, so Cleveland suspects that the two coaches had a gentlemen’s agreement: Why should we beat up on each other when there are so many other teams we can beat?
    There were no parameters in place to make them play. The SEC office merely required teams to play at least six games to qualify for the conference championship. Bowls could invite whom they wanted, and the AP and UPI poll voters tended to vote for teams
    with the best records. So if Bryant and Vaught could avoid playing each other, that’s just what they would do.
    Auburn and Ole Miss only met twice between 1953-1972 – both in bowl games. One was the 1971 Gator Bowl, which neither head coach attended: Vaught was recovering from a heart attack; Jordan had an appendectomy.
    What about the Iron Bowl, arguably the fiercest and most storied rivalry in college football? Actually, Alabama and Auburn didn’t play at all for 41 years, a drought that began after a dispute in their 1907 game: Auburn accused Alabama of using an
    illegal player; there were arguments over officiating; Alabama used a “military shift” that had never been seen — and the rivalry ceased. It took an act of the state legislature to nudge the teams back into playing, and even then on a neutral field
    in Birmingham, only going to permanent home-and-home sites in 1999.
    Georgia and Tennessee, heated rivals now, once went 31 years between games, and even when they resumed playing in 1969, it wasn’t every year. The two coaches for most of that time, Wally Butts and Gen. Robert Neyland, respectively, “weren’t enemies
    but weren’t close friends either,” according to UGA historian Loran Smith. “And Gen. Neyland liked to play Alabama, of course, but then wanted to round out his schedule with weaker teams.”


    Georgia, meanwhile, had Alabama as an annual rival between 1944-65. But the teams backed off their game after the famous Saturday Evening Post affair. The magazine reported in 1963 that Butts and Bryant had fixed their game the year before. Butts was
    forced to step down as athletic director but sued the magazine for libel and was awarded more than $3 million by an Atlanta jury. (A judge later reduced the damages to $400,000). Bryant, who wrote in his autobiography the experience had “taken 10 years
    off my life,” settled out of court with the magazine, which went out of business four years later. Alabama and Georgia, however, were spooked enough to mutually agree to stop playing every year, not meeting again until 1972.
    Georgia Tech, during its 30 years in the SEC, played Ole Miss only in the Sugar Bowl, and played Mississippi State only once. Tulane, during its 32 years in the conference, only played Tennessee twice.
    Geography played a part in some matchups or lack thereof. Travel was harder in those days – the Athens to Knoxville road trip through the mountains was brutal – and even then flying into some college towns was harder than others. Hotel space for
    visiting teams and fans also played a factor. The sport wasn’t as lucrative then, so travel budgets were a consideration.
    “Everybody’s watching budgets, trying to get through and make it to the end of the year, and you’re trying to save as much money as you can,” Womack said. “Maybe that was even a reason teams wanted to play more conference games, have a better
    crowd, maybe that would help their ticket revenue.”
    LSU and Auburn went 27 years without playing (1942-69) just because Auburn concentrated on the eastern schools, according to David Housel, the former Auburn athletic director and sports information director.
    “There just wasn’t any natural reason to play LSU,” Housel said. “They just weren’t anywhere around. They were part of the conference, but they weren’t part of our conference.”
    That’s where Long, the populist Louisiana governor and senator, entered the fray of SEC scheduling. Long was credited with building up LSU as a school and football program, where he helped recruit, coach and arrange scheduling. In 1933, Long publicly
    called for Georgia and LSU, which had only played once, to schedule a series. That got the attention of Harold Hirsch, a longtime UGA booster, whose wire to Long is located in the UGA special collections library: “ENDEAVORED TO TAKE UP MATTER NOW WITH
    ASSOCIATES ON SCHEDULE COMMITTEE WILL COMMUNICATE WITH YOU EARLIEST POSSIBLE MOMENT. THANKS.”

    After some back-and-forth the schools scheduled a game on Nov. 16, 1935. But Long didn’t live to see it: He was shot on Sept. 8, 1935, and died two days later, among his final words purported to be: “I wonder what will happen to my university boys.”
    The LSU-Georgia series continued sporadically through the years – they met twice in 1943 – until 1953. The programs didn’t play each other again until 1978.
    Alabama quarterbaack Pat Trammell pictured at the line of scrimmage against Auburn at Legion Field in 1961. (Marvin E. Newman / Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)
    The SEC was founded in 1933, a 13-team conference including 10 current members, plus Sewanee, Georgia Tech and Tulane. But without regulations about how many conference opponents teams should play every year, some teams played as few as four SEC games,
    while others played as many as seven. Even when the conference stepped in with new regulations in 1952 – every team had to play at least six – there was a loophole: All six didn’t need to be against teams actually in the conference.
    When Georgia won the SEC championship in 1966, it won six conference games – including one over North Carolina. When LSU won the conference championship, its road included an “SEC” win over Tulane – which had left the league four years before. In
    all, there were 16 games from 1954-68 that were designated as conference games, against Arkansas, Houston, Miami, Clemson, Tulane, South Carolina, North Carolina.
    Unsurprisingly, that resulted in funky standings at the top:
    1952: Georgia Tech won the conference at 6-0, Tennessee finished 5-0-1.
1958: LSU was 6-0 and Auburn was 6-0-1.
1961: Alabama was 7-0 and LSU was 6-0.
1966: Alabama and Georgia both finished 6-0.
    SEC presidents “urged the football operatives to work out a better schedule” in the late 1950s, reported the Knoxville News-Sentinel in 1979, “but LSU, Tennessee and Georgia Tech killed it.”
    It wasn’t until the late 1960s that the conference finally agreed on some semblance of rotating: two permanent opponents and rotating everyone else. But that didn’t solve everything. Georgia and Alabama were unbeaten in 1979, for instance, without
    meeting. Knoxville News-Sentinel sports editor Tom Siler belabored the situation in his Nov. 15, 1979 column:
    “The football coaches have had too much of a say. … Coaches through the years have scheduled as they pleased, conference best interests notwithstanding. All other major leagues operate on a round-robin basis, but the SEC still loads up on mediocre
    non-conference foes.”


    And while the SEC assigned the years that teams would play each other, it was up to the schools to negotiate the dates and locations of those games.
    “We had some controversies,” said Roy Kramer, the former SEC commissioner and Vanderbilt athletic director. “On one or two of those occasions the conference had to step in and say, ‘You’re going to play on this date.’”
    One of those was Georgia and Tennessee, when told to work out a home-and-home for the 1980-81 season. They couldn’t come to an agreement, and then-SEC commissioner Boyd McWhorter called Kramer.
    “We’re putting together a brand new scheduling committee, and we’d like you to be on it,” McWhorter told him.
    Kramer agreed, but never heard back. So he called back McWhorter, who provided an update.
    “Roy, you’re the committee,” he said. “We have an issue between Georgia and Tennessee, you’re brand new and kind of neutral in all this, I’ll let you talk to them and work it out.”
    Georgia’s AD was Joel Eaves, and Tennessee’s AD was Bob Woodruff. They weren’t on speaking terms at the time, and privately complained to Kramer about the other. When Kramer looked at each team’s schedule, there was only one available weekend
    they could play in 1980: the opening week of the season. Kramer called each separately.
    “Is this the conference telling us to do this?” Woodruff asked.
    “Yes,” Kramer replied, only slightly twisting the truth.
    “Well, I’ll do it if the conference is telling me to do it,” Woodruff said. “But I’m not doing it because Georgia’s asking me to do it.”
    And Georgia, in the debut of freshman tailback Herschel Walker, pulled out a 16-15 win on the way to the national championship.

    The SEC slowly exerted more control over scheduling, but “The Bear” didn’t care. Bryant began scheduling more SEC games, playing eight games in both 1972 and 1973, when some teams only played six. When the SEC decreed that six games was the maximum
    unless schools went through the conference office first, Alabama and Ole Miss went rogue anyway, playing games in 1980 and 1981 that didn’t count in the SEC standings.
    Thus, when Alabama went 7-0 in SEC play in 1981, it only counted as 6-0, and the Crimson Tide were co-champions with Georgia (6-0).
    The era of co-champions finally ended with the advent of the SEC Championship Game in 1992, coinciding with the additions of Arkansas and South Carolina. (That brought back some regional rivalries, with South Carolina’s games against Georgia and
    Tennessee becoming every-year affairs, and Arkansas and LSU resuming a border rivalry game that largely had been shelved since 1936.)
    The SEC schedule also went up to eight games, despite coaches’ objections. This was after going up to seven games in 1988, which Kramer said was under pressure from television, a more important factor following the 1984 Supreme Court case that allowed
    each conference to put its games up for television bidding, wresting that power away from the NCAA.
    “Television did not drive a lot of the decisions,” Kramer said. “But once that case came through and you began to get the introduction of ESPN and other networks as well, the pressure to have more games to provide to television became much greater.

    And television also was the huge impetus for conference expansion, with the SEC adding Missouri and Texas A&M in 2012. Womack doesn’t remember much haggling about divisions in 1992, but there has been more two decades after. When the SEC raided the Big
    12, it went with the geographically unwieldy move of putting Missouri in the East, rather than moving Alabama and Auburn to the East, which would have made more geographic sense, and allowed those two teams to keep their rivalries with Tennessee and
    Georgia, respectively, and also rekindled Auburn-Florida.
    “There was a lot of discussion about what would happen there,” Womack said. “A lot of people didn’t want to switch teams from one division to the other. That’s what kind of necessitated Missouri being located in the west but playing in the East.

    But the constraints of division scheduling caused teams to be strangers to each other: Georgia still has never visited Texas A&M. The current plan, to get rid of divisions, was under discussion well before Oklahoma and Texas agreed to join the conference.
    The likely end result will be no divisions and a nine-game schedule with three permanent opponents. But even if it’s only eight games with one permanent opponent, it will mean the rekindling of one long-held rivalry.
    Auburn and Florida used to play each other annually and have met 84 times – but only once since 2011.
    “I wish Auburn and Florida played every year,” Housel said.
    They might again if they’re permanent opponents. Even if not, they would play at least twice every four years. The new format for the 16-team conference is expected to be announced soon.
    “Scheduling will never be a perfect art,” Housel said. “But it’s like everything else. A lot of people are going to like it. A lot of people are not going to like it.”
    (Illustration: Sean Reilly / The Athletic; photos: Getty Images)

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  • From RoddyMcCorley@21:1/5 to mercellusb on Sun Apr 30 23:15:21 2023
    On 4/30/2023 11:04 AM, mercellusb wrote:


    Johnny Vaught was bringing a powerhouse Ole Miss team to Auburn that October day in 1953. His Rebels, on a 13-game winning streak, were heavy favorites over third-year coach Ralph Jordan’s Tigers, who hadn’t had a winning record in more than a
    decade. But in front of a near-sellout crowd of 20,000 fans at Cliff Hare Stadium, Auburn running back (and future Alabama governor) Fob James ran all over Ole Miss, and quarterback (and future Georgia football coach and athletic director) Vince Dooley
    ably guided the Tigers to a 13-0 upset.

    “Scheduling will never be a perfect art,” Housel said. “But it’s like everything else. A lot of people are going to like it. A lot of people are not going to like it.”
    (Illustration: Sean Reilly / The Athletic; photos: Getty Images)

    Great read. Thanks.

    --
    "In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In
    practice, there is." Ruben Goldberg

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  • From joe@mich.com@21:1/5 to mercellusb on Mon May 1 08:25:32 2023
    On Sun, 30 Apr 2023 08:04:14 -0700 (PDT), mercellusb <tdrake7@gmail.com> wrote:



    All other major leagues operate on a round-robin basis, but the SEC still loads up on mediocre non-conference foes.


    From last season-

    https://www.cbssports.com/college-football/news/toughest-and-weakest-nonconference-schedules-entering-the-2022-college-football-season/

    And true even 10 years ago -

    https://bleacherreport.com/articles/478790-college-football-did-the-big-ten-have-the-weakest-out-of-conference-schedule


    and BTW, all time bowl recorsd, which is presumably against a strong OOC team, is (ties not counted)

    Big10 124-146
    SEC 236-174
    ACC 109-119
    PAC 184-171
    Big12 70-75 probably should be adjusted for SWC and Big6

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