Cherished SEC rivalries could be on the chopping block in Destin

·3 min read

May 29—Every season, usually in October, Harry Harrison asks a question at a Monday football press conference at Ole Miss.

He's a color analyst for the broadcast team now.

Once upon a time he was an All-American defensive back.

Harrison had the best shot at keeping LSU's Brad Davis out of the end zone on the Tigers' 17-16 final-play win in Baton Rouge in 1972.

Ole Miss fans say it was an extra final play, arguing that the snap before, an incomplete pass by Bert Jones, came with 4 seconds left. No way that doesn't run out the clock, right?

Every year Harrison seeks reassurance from Ole Miss players that the rivalry means as much to them now as it did to he and his teammates then.

It's one of many classic finishes in SEC rivalries that may soon be played something less than every football season.

Football scheduling will be among the topics discussed when administrators and coaches gather for the SEC spring meeting in Destin this week.

There appears to be enthusiasm within the SEC for abandoning divisional play — which began in 1992 — after the NCAA's announcement earlier this week that conferences are no longer required to use a divisional format to put on a conference championship game.

If reports are accurate two models are favored.

One model incudes eight conference games and one permanent opponent which for Ole Miss and Mississippi State presumably would be the Egg Bowl.

The other model is "rivalry friendly" and would include nine conference games and three permanent opponents.

It's not hard to see where some splits could occur.

If you're a program that is working late into the season for that sixth overall win and bowl-eligibility the ninth conference game might not be your preference.

On the other hand, if you're blowing past six wins every year maybe you want to make sure those rivalry games get played, and the nine-game format allows for that.

If you focus too much on the rivalries you miss the beauty of scrapping divisions, and that's more exposure for student-athletes and fans alike to the conference as a whole.

MSU and Ole Miss fans will see Georgia, Florida and Tennessee appear on the schedule more.

Those are bucket-list road trips.

Soon SEC road trips will include Austin, Texas and Norman, Oklahoma.

As it stands some SEC players will cycle through without having played against every conference opponent. Now there are two more.

It's not enough just to play them. If you're a player you don't want to see these rare opponents as home games.

Either of the new models will make it easier for SEC players to see the SEC.

Maybe the rivalries are protected along the way.

Honestly, if you're fighting for your sixth win in mid-November you're not fighting for much of a bowl experience anyway.

PARRISH ALFORD is the college sports editor and columnist for the Daily Journal. Contact him at parrish.alford@journalinc.com.