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Hobbs Column: The Big Ten could be on to something this time

Last Modified: Thursday, March 07, 2013 10:20 PM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

Unfortunately, it was the Big Ten’s idea first, so the Southeastern Conference is most likely to chuckle and turn up its nose at the notion.

No, the SEC shouldn’t rename its divisions Leaders and Legends, which is so funny and even more confusing that even the Big Ten is ready to admit its mistake.

But the Big Ten might be on to something in scheduling. The staid, tired conference has said its football teams will soon enough stop scheduling mismatches against teams from the Football Championship Subdivision, which some still fondly remember as I-AA.

Maybe it’s a grandstand play, harmless showboating. Maybe a little dig at the SEC, just a little something to help the league’s self-esteem while the SEC keeps stacking up BCS national championship trophies on top of each of other, seven in a row by last count.

Crystal envy, perhaps, and surely the SEC doesn’t want to get into a habit of following the bunch that came up with Leaders and Legends.

The SEC can always smirk and wonder aloud if the newfound religion on scheduling isn’t just to make sure there are no more Big Ten embarrassments like Appalachian State’s famous upset of Michigan in 2007.

But, just this once — and maybe they can even spin it to make it sound like their own idea — the SEC should follow suit and swear off FCS games forever.

It won’t stop mismatches. There are plenty of cupcakes out there and SEC schools will surely find them for their nonconference dining.

The one flaw is that, as I understand it, there’s nothing in writing, no outright ban in the Big Ten. This is something of a gentlemen’s agreement among the schools, which might work up there.

The SEC, however, doesn’t do so-called gentlemen’s agreements. It’s big-boy football and most of the schools have doctoral candidates researching the bending and stretching of the football envelope, entire law schools dedicated to uncovering loopholes in recruiting regulations.

So you’d probably need something in writing to avoid hurt feelings and mass anarchy.

But just because the Big Ten thought of it doesn’t make it a bad idea.

It’s not like the SEC doesn’t play any tough nonconference games. Look at LSU two years ago when the Tigers went on the road to play West Virginia and traveled for a neutral-site game with Oregon. They open this season in Arlington, Texas, against TCU.

Alabama opens this year against Virginia Tech in Atlanta. But, save a token tough nonconference game a year, most schools will be seeking opponents of least resistance in the nonconference.

I guess I’m thinking of last year’s LSU-Wofford game.

Most do it because they can. If their stadiums aren’t completely full for, say, Vanderbilt-Presbyterian, at most places all the tickets at least get sold anyway — at full price.

Those tickets aren’t cheap these days, and fans deserve better.

A few weeks ago departing LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery raised some eyebrows with the admission that he didn’t always bust a gut with a snout full of adrenaline against some of the fodder the school lured into Tiger Stadium with a big pay check.

It wasn’t a startling revelation — Montgomery has always been chatty when speaking his mind — though probably left better unsaid.

But who could doubt it is true?

While it’s also true that some FCS schools depend on those paychecks for their budgets, I highly doubt the SEC is doing it for charity.

The schools want relaxing wins.

Yeah, they’ll find them elsewhere. But they could at least draw the line.

The SEC’s infatuation with FCS schools is a fairly recent development, maybe in response to the Sun Belt Conference getting semi-competitive.

Back when the Sun Belt added football in the 1990s, it looked like maybe the SEC was behind the move just so the league would have a convenient, one-stop shopping spot for all its homecoming needs.

Now they’ve lowered the bar.

Last season all 14 SEC teams played at least one FCS opponent.

Some of it was ludicrous. Last Nov. 17, for instance — the next to last weekend of the regular season —  seven SEC teams played FCS schools, welcoming the likes of Wofford, Alabama A&M and Samford into yawning SEC stadiums.

CBS and ESPN, which handles the bulk of the SEC television rights, must have been thrilled with their options.

The only conference games were Ole Miss-LSU, Arkansas-Mississippi State and Tennessee-Vanderbilt.

First-year Missouri evidently hadn’t gotten the memo or learned how the SEC plays the scheduling game. It had a nonconference game that weekend against Syracuse. Not exactly Oklahoma, for sure, but neither was it Western Carolina, which visited the Alabama Crimson Tide that same day.

That’s not doing anybody any good.

So, SEC, follow the Leaders, even if you’re not playing Legends every week.

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Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at

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