To give credit where credit is due, I must acknowledge that what follows is an expansion upon an idea first formulated by Travis Rice, my former "Dawg Show" co-host and one of the four attendees at Bloggerpalooza '06.
Some of the all-time great ideas have been expressed in a shorthand so simple and powerful that a single phrase can encapsulate the idea perfectly. When Gene Roddenberry pitched "Star Trek" to N.B.C., he described it as "'Wagon Train' to the stars." When Michael Mann pitched "Miami Vice" to the same network almost 20 years later, he was even more succinct in his summation: "M.T.V. cops."
Trav expressed his novel notion with similar concision: "The S.E.C. Junior."
A better idea than this "Junior," I promise.
What is the S.E.C. Junior? It's simple, really. Every year, the competition is fierce atop the Southeastern Conference, but there always are teams lurking near the bottom of the heap whose contests, quite frankly, lack the luster of big time college football.
The Egg Bowl is of diminishing interest outside the Magnolia State now that neither Ole Miss nor Mississippi State is competitive consistently. Every year, Kentucky and Vanderbilt battle it out for fifth place in the Eastern Division.
The S.E.C. Junior is premised upon the idea that competition at the bottom of the conference should be just as heated as that at the top of the league standings. What Trav proposes is this:
There will be a new conference set up using teams from leagues farther down in the pecking order than the S.E.C., which will serve as a kind of minor league farm system for the Southeastern Conference.
The S.E.C. Junior will be like the Triple-A International League version of football . . . only none of the players will wear garter belts beneath their uniforms.
This league, called the S.E.C. Junior, will consist of 10 teams divided into two divisions. Each year, the two division champions will compete in an S.E.C. Junior title game, to be held in Birmingham or Charlotte or Columbus or some other place with an inferiority complex about Atlanta.
An automatic bowl bid will go to the S.E.C. Junior champion, of course, but there will be more on the line, as well . . . for, you see, the last-place finisher in the S.E.C. West and the last-place finisher in the S.E.C. East (using the same tiebreaker rules used to determine division champions) will be demoted to the S.E.C. Junior at the end of each season and the two division champions from the S.E.C. Junior will be brought up to "The Show" the next year and allowed to compete as full-fledged members of the Southeastern Conference.
Here, for example, is the proposed initial lineup for the inaugural season of S.E.C. Junior competition:
S.E.C. Junior West:
S.E.C. Junior East:
Come on, admit it . . . deep down, you'd like to see this obnoxious, resume-forging, ineligible-player-fielding jerk standing on the visiting sideline in Sanford Stadium again, wouldn't you?
Let us suppose, purely hypothetically, that this system were to be implemented in 2006 and, say, Louisville defeated Southern Miss in the S.E.C. Junior title game while Kentucky and Mississippi State finished sixth in their respective divisions of the Southeastern Conference.
That would mean that, in 2006, the Cardinals would get an automatic bowl bid to, for instance, the Music City Bowl . . . then, in 2007, Kentucky would play in the S.E.C. Junior East, Louisville would play in the S.E.C. East, M.S.U. would play in the S.E.C. Junior West, and Southern Miss would play in the S.E.C. West.
The promoted and demoted teams simply would take over the predetermined schedules of the teams they were replacing. If an S.E.C. team's current 2007 slate had that squad playing at Mississippi State, there would be a conference road game played on that date, only at Hattiesburg instead of Starkville. Likewise, an S.E.C. Junior squad scheduled to host the Cardinals now would host the Wildcats instead.
This probably would qualify as overdressed for a U.C.F.-U.S.F. football game, but membership in the S.E.C. East could be on the line and, at this point, a gratuitous Kristin Davis photo is pretty much obligatory on my part.
Such a system would reward excellence and punish poor play. It would provide incentives to teams from lesser conferences and afford them a genuine opportunity to move up in the college football world.
The idea of the S.E.C. Junior adds consequence to every Southeastern Conference contest, as games without title implications could be for survival as a member of the league. Imagine if winning the N.I.T. one year assured you of an N.C.A.A. Tournament bid the next year . . . that's the S.E.C. Junior.
This system of Darwinian selection would allow S.E.C. football fans to visit different locales as conference membership changed and would give boosters of mid-major programs a powerful reason to support their teams. Excitement would abound as college football took on some of the aspects of a "Survivor" episode, with viewers transfixed by the knowledge that, in the end, the weaker members of the herd would be culled.
Hopefully, the Red and Black, unlike University of Georgia graduate "Pappy," would never be "voted off the island."
In effect, this would operate much like N.F.L. scheduling. Each year, the league office sets professional football teams' schedules based upon their performance the previous year. This promotes parity and increases excitement, as defending Super Bowl champions are given a harder row to hoe the following fall.
Likewise, under the S.E.C. Junior system, each team would be given the opportunity to prove itself, whether to redeem a tarnished reputation or to prove that the previous year's success was not a fluke, against competition that was playing at its own level.
What do you think of the S.E.C. Junior? Is it a good idea or a bad idea? Are there problems I have not anticipated or benefits I have failed to foresee? Have I chosen the teams well or poorly? Let me know your opinion . . . and, if you hate the S.E.C. Junior concept, remember that it was Trav's idea.