Former Auburn head football coach Pat Dye has been making the rounds over the past few days discussing his opinion that Auburn should no longer play in the SEC’s Western Division. He contends that competitive and geographical balance in the league would be better if Auburn were moved to the SEC East and Missouri shifted to the SEC West. He feels strongly that this change should be made, even if it means the Iron Bowl will no longer be played on an annual basis.
Speaking to ESPN 106.7 in Auburn on Tuesday, the former Auburn coach said, “I’d rather see Auburn in the East than us to play Alabama every year. We don’t need to let Alabama dictate what we do at Auburn. We can play them on a rotation, just like everybody else.”
He doubled-down on Wednesday morning and even made a case that the SEC East is a more challenging division than the West.
“It’s going to make our schedule tougher, not easier,” Dye told WJOX in Birmingham. “Doing the nine games and switching the sides with Missouri and Auburn would make it a more compatible scenario as far as the regions are concerned. We live right on that Georgia state line, and our student body is from the state of Alabama, from Tennessee. We’ve got a ton of kids that come from Nashville, Tennessee and a ton of kids that come out of Atlanta and Florida.”
Dye did put forth a solution that would allow Auburn to move to the East without dropping the Iron Bowl. He says the SEC should add a ninth conference game in football, as other leagues, including the Pac 12, Big 12 and Big Ten, have done. This, according to Dye, would allow Auburn to play its six divisional opponents, two rivals from the Western side (which would include Alabama) and one rotating Western Division opponent.
He is not alone in thinking that a divisional realignment with Auburn moving to the East is a good idea. Current Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn also believes that it would be beneficial. Speaking at the Regions Tradition golf tournament last week, Malzahn said it “makes sense” for Auburn to move to the East. While Malzahn supports the idea, the school has not made an official announcement campaigning for a move to the East. It should also be noted that neither Malzahn nor anyone officially associated with Auburn has advocated dropping the Iron Bowl.
Dye coached for 12 seasons at Auburn before retiring. He has spent the past two and a half decades as a supporter of Auburn football and a frequent guest on the radio. When on the airwaves, he has been known to stoke the fire on certain hot-button football issues.
Will the SEC change to a nine-game conference schedule? The answer right now is unclear. Former league commissioner Mike Slive stood firm three years ago on just having eight games. The debate has continued, and topics such as Auburn switching divisions could cause the SEC to take a second look at adding another game in the future.