Randy Smith: Is Tennessee-Alabama Football Rivalry Doomed?

Friday, April 25, 2014 - by Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Randy Smith

While scanning the internet this week, I noticed some chatter regarding the Southeastern Conference scheduling dilemma. There is a movement among SEC coaches that would change the current 6-1-1 schedule, (six division opponents, one rotating other division opponent, and one permanent other division opponent) to a 6-0-2 schedule, with the league removing the permanent divisional opponent and replacing it with another rotating school. That means the long-time historical rivalries like, Tennessee versus Alabama and Georgia versus Auburn would change from an annual meeting on the gridiron, to once every six-seven years at best.

College football fans in the south do not favor a lot of change, and that is one change that Vols and Tide fans are completely against. Heck, some of them are still raw about the change a few years ago, that moved the annual match up from the “Third Saturday in October” to the fourth Saturday of the month every so often.

It’s called tradition, and that tradition is what makes college football so popular in the south. Now a movement by several coaches threatens to take away some of that tradition. 

Alabama head coach Nick Saban is pushing the league to change to a nine game SEC schedule, which would allow each team to keep their one traditional rivalry game, and add another rotating opponent from the other division. That makes plenty of sense to me, but Coach Saban himself admitted this week his proposal doesn’t seem to have the support it needs.

The problem is most SEC schools do not have a big traditional rival in the league. For instance, LSU and Florida are permanent rivals right now, but neither school wants that to continue and rightly so. Continued expansion for the league also makes it tougher to keep a traditional rival on your schedule. Right now, South Carolina’s permanent rival is Texas A&M and that makes no sense whatsoever.

There is another scenario that does make a lot of sense. That is the proposal to keep an eight game league schedule but add a rotating ACC opponent each year. That one has some support from both the ACC and the SEC but not enough to pass just yet. The ACC has the defending BCS champ in Florida State, but the format for the national championship changes this season as a four-team playoff will be added. Both conferences want the best options available to make sure they get at least one team in the “final four.”

The 2014 season, which will be here before you know it, could be one of the most exciting seasons in years with the beginning of a college playoff to determine a national champion. It may not be in my lifetime, but I think within a few years, the playoff scenario will expand again to include as many as eight teams. While I can however, I will thoroughly enjoy watching the selection process and the three big games to follow.

For Tennessee and Alabama fans, it appears that the best we can hope for might be for the Vols to make a big push and get back to the SEC Championship game. In a year or two, that might be the only way Tennessee would face the Crimson Tide in football; providing ‘Bama keeps its end of the bargain and wins the SEC West. By the way, the 2014 season kicks off on Aug. 28, with South Carolina facing Texas A&M. That is a mere 125 days away.  

-----

Randy Smith has been covering sports on radio, television and print for the past 45 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has written two books, and has continued to free-lance as a play-by-play announcer. He is currently teaching Broadcasting at Coahulla Creek High School near Dalton, Ga.

His career has included a 17-year stretch as host of the Kickoff Call In Show on the University of Tennessee’s prestigious Vol Network. He has been a member of the Vol Network staff for thirty years.

He has done play-by-play on ESPN, ESPN II, CSS, and Fox SportSouth, totaling more than 500 games, and served as a well-known sports anchor on Chattanooga Television for more than a quarter-century.

In 2003, he became the first television broadcaster to be inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame. Randy and his wife Shelia reside in Hixson. They have two married children, (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith.) They have three grandchildren, Coleman, Boone and DellaMae.

To contact Randy: rsmithsports@epbfi.com


Calling All Red Bank Football Alums

It’s the celebration of 75 years of high school football tonight at Red Bank as the Lions honor their past and face their oldest rival, Soddy Daisy. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. It’s a silver anniversary with a myriad of golden moments created by talented teenagers who return tonight to be honored for being Friday night heroes to so many in the Red Bank community. ... (click for more)

Prep Football Picks: Week One

Plan Revived For 5-Story Boutique Hotel Next To The Walnut Street Bridge

Plans have been revived for a five-story boutique hotel next to the Walnut Street Bridge. Vision Hospitality Group said the yet-to-be named hotel will provide 90 rooms featuring high-end amenities and exemplary service in the city's art district. Plans for a similar hotel were announced in 2012, but the proposal was later withdrawn. The hotel is slated for 102 Walnut ... (click for more)

Grand Jury Says County Needs To Start "Immediately" On Funding A New County Jail

Members of the Hamilton County Grand Jury said in a final report that the county needs to start "immediately" on funding a replacement for the Hamilton County Jail. The report, read by Foreman Robert Smith, says, "The Jail is near and/or over capacity and understaffed!  Hard-working corrections officers are in constant danger.  Being responsible for 80-100 inmates per ... (click for more)

Better Plan For Walnut Street Hotel

Mitch Patel and his Vision Hospitality Group have unveiled a revised plan for a hotel on Walnut Street. It is much better than the one proposed two years ago. By having no curb cuts on Walnut Street, it makes that special block near the bridge more inviting and safer for pedestrians. Deliveries would be off Riverfront Parkway and hotel access (valet parking) would be off Aquarium ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Al Sharpton’s Wise Remarks

I’ll admit I paid little more than scant attention to the Monday funeral of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old who was shot and killed by police bullets in Ferguson, Mo., after he allegedly was involved in strong-armed robbery. There are too many tawdry details and, in my way of thinking, there is nothing under God’s sun, absolutely nothing, that gives others the right to riot, burn ... (click for more)