Blame Realignment. Or Derek Dooley. Or maybe Will Muschamp. Phil Fulmer? Actually, maybe it’s Lane Kiffin. Yeah, let’s just blame him.
Whoever’s to blame, history will likely be made in next year’s Tennessee-Florida game, and unfortunately it’s not the good kind. That’s because for the first time since CBS picked up SEC broadcasting rights back in 1996, it appears as though the Week 3 matchup between the Gators and Vols will not make the network’s airwaves. That’s right, it’s time to trade in Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson, for Pam Ward and Danny Kannell. Or something.
Regardless, here’s more information from the Chattanooga Times-Press:
The Southeastern Conference's new-look football schedule for 2012 may result in the end of a television staple.
Florida and Tennessee have met every year on CBS since the network became the primary broadcaster of SEC games in 1996, but that matchup has stout company this year because of the juggling that occurred when Texas A&M and Missouri joined the league. The Gators and Volunteers are playing in Knoxville on Sept. 15, which is the same day Alabama and Arkansas will vie in Fayetteville.
A couple things here: First off, the real culprit to blame for the reshuffling of games, and the move of Florida-Tennessee off CBS’s airwaves, is actually realignment. Had it not been for the addition of Texas A&M and Missouri to the conference, and the ensuing scheduling headache it provided, it likely would’ve meant Gators-Vols in Week 3, followed by Hogs-Tide in Week 4. Just like old time’s sake. Thanks to two new teams though, schedules were altered, game dates were changed, and now Arkansas-Alabama- a Week 4 staple for years- has now been moved up seven days.
Then again, the decision of CBS to pull the plug on Vols-Gators also speaks to the changing face of the SEC.
As great as this rivalry has been for Florida and Tennessee fans, as things stands, it’s had little national relevance for the last few years. Times change, things are cyclical, and right now Georgia and South Carolina are the class of the East. Conference-wide Alabama, LSU and Arkansas are the top dogs, and from a ratings standpoint, it’s hard to imagine that Alabama-Arkansas- a likely matchup of two Top 10 teams, featuring the defending National Champions and a likely Heisman front-runner (Tyler Wilson)- wouldn’t draw better than the Gators and the Vols.
That's just the sad truth of things, especially with where the Tennessee and Florida programs are right now.
Not to pile on, but to quote Mr. Lundquist, “Myyyyy Goodness!” were these teams bad last year. Tennessee should be on the upswing next year with the return of a fully healthy Tyler Bray and Justin Hunter, but they also finished an uninspired 2011 at 5-7, with a loss to Kentucky. Yes, in football. It was the Vols first loss to the Wildcats since 1984, when a young side-parted safety named Derek Dooley was in high school, and not a single player on the Vols roster had even been born yet.
Then there’s Florida, which frankly isn’t looking all that much better. Yes the Gators are coming off a slightly better 7-6 campaign and Gator Bowl win over Ohio State, but considering that this program was playing National Championships just four years ago, it’s a bitter pill to swallow. Plus, given the loss of most of the entire starting offense (off an already bad unit), it’s hard to see the Gators improving their win total much at all in 2012.
Still, it is a bit sad to see this game off CBS’s airwaves, after it’d been a TV viewing staple for close to my entire college football watching life.
While I won’t say that Tennessee-Florida was ever the premiere rivalry in the conference when I was growing up, what I will say is that in most years it was the premiere game on the schedule. With names like Fulmer and Steve Spurrier, Peyton Manning and Danny Wuerffel, the winner of this game always had an edge in the SEC East race (Florida or Tennessee won every East title from 1993 to 2001), and in those days winning the East meant not only having a shot at the conference title, but a national title as well. And as for the loser? Well, as Spurrier once said, “You can’t Citrus without UT.”
But for now, those days are gone. Both programs are in rebuilding stages, and it appears as though with conference realignment, CBS is rebuilding their TV schedule as well. And really, it’s hard to blame the network on this one at all: Neither team is very good right now.
The days of Spurrier vs. Fulmer, Manning vs. Wuerffel are long gone. Right now, these are two average ball clubs.
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