The story in the SEC for almost a decade has been this: West is the best, East is the least.
There’s been an enormous divide between the SEC West and SEC East divisions, with the West winning the last seven SEC championships and being widely regarded as the toughest division among Power 5 conferences.
The West’s dominance has raised the question of whether conference realignment would be a suitable solution to the SEC’s power struggle. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn sparked the speculation two months ago when he said there “will be (a) discussion on that” and added that he wouldn’t mind seeing Auburn move to the much less arduous SEC East.
So what did SEC commissioner Greg Sankey think about the possibility of shuffling the deck?
“It is cyclical,” Sankey said, according to CBSSports.com’s Jon Solomon. “We’ve had great competition in divisions for nearly 25 years and we expanded and we’ve kept divisions, and we look forward to our division champions to continue to meet in Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.”
The conference hasn’t realigned since adding Texas A&M and Missouri to the West and East, respectively, in 2012. Before then, the SEC hadn’t altered its makeup since 1990, when Arkansas and South Carolina were added.
But that doesn’t mean the SEC is a balanced conference. The West has won 70 percent of its games against the East since 2009, according to Solomon. The longest-tenured coaches in the conference are Tennessee’s Butch Jones and Kentucky’s Mark Stoops with four years each at their respective schools.
The good news is the East could be revitalized this season. Tennessee is expected to contend for the SEC championship and perhaps a College Football Playoff appearance. UGA could be led by one of the nation’s top freshmen quarterbacks in Jacob Eason, and will have new leadership under Kirby Smart. Florida stumbled down the stretch last year but still won 10 games in Jim McElwain’s first season and can do so again with competent quarterback play.
Even the less renowned East programs could be in store for better seasons. Kentucky currently has a top-20 recruiting class, South Carolina is under new management with Will Muschamp at the helm and Vanderbilt could get back to a bowl game if its quarterback talent materializes.
It might be worth seeing how the 2016 season plays out before making any decisions regarding conference realignment.