Former Auburn coach Pat Dye broached the subject of Auburn jumping to the SEC East on “The Paul Finebaum Show” on May 15. His rationale is based on geography and restoring historic series against SEC East foes. Current coach Gus Malzahn seemingly has no issues with a move.
As a 2014 Auburn graduate, I side with Dye about the Tigers’ jumping to the East. It makes perfect sense for travel, history and the chance of a colossal SEC championship clash.
Two of Auburn’s current SEC West foes, LSU and Texas A&M, are a five-plus hour drive from campus, with College Station being the furthest, a mighty 780-mile drive across Interstate-10 from the Plains.
What portion of Auburn fans are able to make this trip?
Destinations in the SEC East are far more fan-friendly. Knoxville is 317 miles from campus and Nashville is an easy drive up I-65 for tens of thousands of Tiger fans living in north Alabama.
2. Restoring old rivalries
Florida and Tennessee were on Auburn’s schedule for decades. Auburn and Florida played almost every year from 1927-1999, save a few seasons because of World War II. It is a rivalry game both sides long to see return.
My first tailgate as a child was an Auburn-Florida game. I can remember listening to a CD titled “The Best of Jim Fyffe.” Auburn’s beloved play-by-play voice made what some consider his best call at the end of the 1989 Auburn-Florida contest. AU quarterback Reggie Slack unleashed a pass to receiver Shayne Wasden, who tumbled into the back of the end zone completing the catch. As the catch is confirmed, Fyffe’s voice hits a fever pitch for his famous “Touchdown Auburn” as Jordan-Hare Stadium explodes.
The Tennessee series has its own special meaning for long-time Auburn fans.
Remember the 1997 SEC championship game in Atlanta? It was a duel between quarterbacks Demayune Craig and Peyton Manning. Manning hit Marcus Nash for a 43-yard score to crush Auburn hearts, young and old. The victory propelled the Vols to the national championship game, where they beat Florida State.
Auburn enjoyed revenge in 2004. Auburn picked up an astonishing 31 first downs and Jason Campbell threw three touchdown passes to claim the SEC title over the Vols 34-24. This victory put Auburn in the Sugar Bowl on the way to a 14-0 season.
3. A chance for an epic meeting with Alabama in Atlanta
Imagine the media hype and fan buzz should Alabama and Auburn, one representing each division, meet in the SEC championship game for a rematch of the Iron Bowl. The game is ultra intense as it is; what would it be like with a potential College Football Playoff spot at stake?
Auburn always has had a heavy recruiting presence in Florida and Georgia. A move to the East would bolster these efforts, allowing Auburn players from Florida and Georgia to much more regularly play closer to home.
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