The issue of SEC football scheduling was an emotional tug-of-war of several years that finally concluded last month when the league announced it would continue to play a eight conference games, one of them the permanent cross-division game.
The vote didn’t sit well with everyone. LSU athletics director Joe Alleva lashed out, and both Ole Miss and Mississippi State were targets of his wrath.
Alleva’s problem was more with the permanent opponent – LSU’s is Florida – than with the eight games as opposed to nine.
When the AD’s and presidents met in Atlanta late last month Alleva pushed for the elimination of permanent cross-division opponents.
When that didn’t happen he used Ole Miss and MSU as examples as why it should have.
“If I’m Ole Miss and I’m playing Vanderbilt, I’ll vote to play Vanderbilt,” Alleva told Nola.com, the New Orleans Times-Picayune group. “If I’m Mississippi State and I’m playing Kentucky, I’m going to vote to play Kentucky. People voted their own self interest instead of what is in the best interest of competitive balance.
“I understand Alabama-Tennessee and Auburn-Georgia for the history, but that’s only four schools. The rest were voting in their own self-interest. They could have kept those games and the rest of us rotated. That was brought up but voted down.
“I’m not pushing for the self-interest of LSU. I’m pushing for the equity.”
Tensions from a difficult topic have sense eased, and Alleva has apologized to both Ole Miss athletics director Ross Bjork and MSU athletics director Scott Stricklin.
Stricklin said he was not bothered by Alleva’s remarks.
“From a factual standpoint he’s right. We do play Kentucky, and we’ve played them consecutively now going on about a quarter century. If we’re going to have a 6-1-1 model that’s a matchup that’s made a lot of sense for us.”
“The scheduling piece was an emotional discussion really ever since I got in the league in 2012 when expansion happened. I didn’t take it personally from Joe, and Joe actually apologized to Scott and I face to face earlier this month when we had a meeting in May. He just said, ‘Hey, I apologize. I shouldn’t have done that,’ and I respect that. I also know that for LSU this has been an emotional topic for them. They had a different position.”
The stress of the meetings and the timing of the interview may have contributed to Alleva’s response, Bjork said.
“What I would say is in the heat of the moment … that was on Sunday night, and we’d just had the meeting that day. Was I surprised? I wouldn’t say I was surprised. I was just shocked that it happened so soon. I also know if they caught him in the heat of the moment anything’s possible, and that’s why he apologized. I respect that.”
Bjork said he’s glad his peers express their opinions.
“I love the way our commissioner describes it. ‘The First Amendment is alive and well in our conference.’ Joe is entitled to his opinion about it, and our job is to control what we can control. That’s all we can do.”