Save the date: Tennessee AD wants to keep rivalry with Alabama

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In the mind of Tennessee athletic director David Hart, the Third Saturday in October should continue to be an annual event.

Depending on what happens today and tomorrow with the Missouri Board of Curators, the Tigers could end up being the SEC’s 14th member, meaning some internal shuffling between the two divisions could be required. Some of that shuffling could be done out of interest in protecting long-standing rivalries.

The history that rivalry has produced is unparalleled in my mind,” Hart said. “I know Mal (Moore, Alabama’s AD) feels exactly as I do. I feel strongly we can keep it and hope it can go back to the Third Saturday of October where it belongs. It would be a nice cherry on the top if all that would unfold.”

Alabama has already made it known that if the Tigers join the SEC, that they want the newest member to move over to the East division. The reasoning behind that move revolves around protecting rivalries with Auburn and Tennessee, while simultaneously preventing the former from gaining any potential recruiting advantage in talent-rich states like Georgia or Florida.

But even if Missouri goes to the SEC West — provided they move to the SEC, of course — a nine-game conference schedule with six divisional games, two permanent partners and one rotating cross-divisional game.

Would the SEC agree to adding another conference game in what is already considered one of the most brutal conference slates in the country just to protect Alabama-Tennessee?

“I would think you would try as hard as you possibly can to maintain those kinds of rivalries,” former SEC commissioner Roy Kramer told the Birmingham News. “When we did expansion 20 years ago, that was one of the factors we looked at very significantly when looking at scheduling and divisional alignment. They may have to alter that to make it work.”

But conference realignment has already destroyed certain rivalries and threatened to terminate others. Trying to preserve tradition over the last three or so months has been so low on the list of priorities for conference commissioners and university athletic directors, it makes one wonder why they’re all complaining about it now.