Why the SEC needs to relocate its championship game to Music City
Since 1994, the Southeastern Conference's football championship game has been played inside the Georgia Dome. However, Atlanta has not always served as the site. The first two championship games occurred in Birmingham in 1992 and '93. Despite the success of the SEC's title game, another city, Nashville, deserves to host this annual event.
Both Atlanta and Nashville have an NFL stadium. Neither stadium has another tenant. Therefore, freeing up one weekend for the SEC title game should not pose any more of a problem in Nashville than in Atlanta.
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Closer proximity of many of the SEC's campuses to Nashville stands out as one of the city's advantages. Eight members' campuses are nearer to Nashville than to Atlanta. Three campuses are more than 600 miles away from the Georgia Dome; only one is that far from Nissan Stadium, home of the Tennessee Titans. Four campuses are within 200 miles of Nashville. Only two are within that distance of Atlanta. Of those six closer to Atlanta, the distance to Nashville is less than 70 miles farther away for two of them. One only need to look at a map to realize Nashville is ideally placed as an annual site.
With Nashville's central location, another advantage to this city as the host lies in that it is within a state that borders six other states with one or more SEC members. Therefore, fans within that half of a dozen other states would have a shorter drive. For example, those living in northern Alabama, southern Kentucky and eastern Arkansas are about as close to Nashville as they are to their universities' campuses.
Nashville and its residents would have more reason to embrace this as the major sporting event in their city. With the inception of the College Football Playoff, Atlanta hosts one of the semifinals once every three years. That game garners more national interest than the SEC title game does. Even during the other two years of the rotation, Georgia has another high-profile game in the form of the Peach Bowl as part of the New Year's Six bowl games. Nashville has no comparable college football game of significance every season. Therefore, the related fanfare should exceed that of Atlanta and give fans more incentive to visit the host site, even for fans lacking tickets to the game.
What are the drawbacks to Nashville? Some might argue that Nashville's outdoor stadium could become a problem due to inclement weather. First of all, football had been exclusively an outdoor sport for nearly a century before the first domed stadium hosted a game. Secondly, Nashville's average and low temperatures in early December are a daytime high of 53 degrees and an overnight low of 34 degrees. Those do not compare to the frozen tundra of Green Bay where football has been played for many decades without a catastrophe occurring. Also, starting in 2010, the ACC has played its conference championship game in an outdoor stadium in the state due east of Nashville without any calamities. Why can the SEC not do the same?
Granted, if Vanderbilt were to advance to the conference title game, the Commodores would have a de facto home-field advantage. Vanderbilt would be incredibly fortunate to play the most significant football game in its program's history just a few miles from its campus. However, Vanderbilt has never won an SEC championship in football. That is a drought dating back to when the SEC title was first awarded in 1933. No one should expect the Commodores to become a serious contender any time soon and ruin the neutrality of the title game being played in Music City.
— Written by John La Fleur, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network. A graduate of Michigan State and LSU, La Fleur also has been a Saints fan since he was old enough to understand football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur.