Blogger ping-pong, round one: the SEC’s conference schedule debate

Kyle King takes issue with my post from the other day expressing frustration with the SEC’s apparent reluctance to consider moving to a nine-game conference slate in the wake of its recent expansion to fourteen members.

Now Kyle has a serious jonesing for the Georgia-Clemson series, so there’s certainly a level on which I can appreciate his position.  (I wonder what Kyle would advocate if the conference played a cosmic joke on him and admitted Clemson to the SEC West.)  But I think the historical argument he makes falls flat.

… Besides, since when is “preserv[ing] a passing familiarity between schools in opposing divisions” the historical norm in the league? When the SEC last expanded in 1992, each team had only one game per autumn against a rotating opponent from the other division, though this was changed after a few years, much as the current arrangement is apt to be. The heritage of the conference, moreover, has been one that featured infrequent meetings between schools that were not natural rivals with one another. In the 59 seasons between 1933, the year the league was founded, and 1991, the final year prior to the advent of divisional play, Georgia met the LSU Tigers 19 times, the Mississippi St. Bulldogs 16 times, and the Tennessee Volunteers ten times. Frequent face-offs against unfamiliar teams simply are not among the SEC’s defining traditions.

The problem with this “historical norm” is that it’s based on a conference array that hasn’t existed for twenty years.  Prior to ’92, the SEC was a 10-team conference without divisions.  It’s a different looking beast now.  It’s also worth noting that the regular season has lengthened over the time he references.  For much of that, college teams only played a ten-game season.  The slate increased to eleven.  Starting next year, twelve teams will play twelve games and two will play thirteen.  A longer overall schedule would seem to argue for an increase in conference play simply to keep up.

Kyle lauds McGarity’s business prudence, but I find it short-sighted.  The SEC has a brand that’s incredibly strong.  That’s already being diluted with the admission of two new members (something that time should fix, of course).  It shouldn’t be put further at risk by limiting the conference match ups that most fans crave.  Kyle’s bug here – playing West foes like LSU and Alabama – is most certainly my feature.  And the concern about money that would have to be paid out to cancel contracts with West Cupcake A&M is overblown.  A ninth conference game is valuable product that the SEC could offer to its broadcast partners and the increase in broadcast revenue should offset the penalty clause payments McGarity is reluctant to tender.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next few years, particularly with regard as to whether conference schools continue to line up weak OOC games past the 2016 season that McGarity cites.  That’s going to be a reflection of who winds up winning the fight between keeping the number of likely wins constant (the coaches) and the people watching the money flows (ADs and presidents).  Um… what about the fans, you ask?  You’re such a kidder.

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43 Comments

Filed under SEC Football

43 responses to “Blogger ping-pong, round one: the SEC’s conference schedule debate

  1. I wanna Red Cup

    The conference has to keep traditional rival games like Bama- Tenn and UGA -Auburn. I like games like UGA -ASU and UGA – Okie State, and looking forward to UGA- Ohio State. I don’t give a crap about the directional games we play except to say that if we have to schedule one of those at home to keep Fla in JAx I am all for it. And of course we should continue to play the stinking Yaller Jackets. And lets do this with a 9 game SEC schedule. I want to see meaningful home games and this would do it. Good work Senator

    • Macallanlover

      Except for hanging onto the every year GT thing, I agree with all you said (every four years in Athens is the best way to treat this). I really don’t get King, or any advocate for staying at eight conference games. With the expansion to 12 games this is right where we were in OOC scheduling 3-4 years ago. Why pretend you are in a conference when you resist opportunities to play other members as often as possible? Bad enough to play 8 with only half against the other division, now we want to dilute that even further. Would be great if all games were conference games, but in today’s world nine is the best we are going to get. Eight conference games is simply wussing out..

      • Cojones

        “Wuss” is certainly the correct term, Mac. Our heritage in the SEC is to take on anyone any year. “Ain’t skeered” has and always will be the watchword of the Dawgs. Where in hell does this weak OOC schedule arise from? We should schedule as tough an opponent as we can in order to ever feel we truly are champions on the gridiron. There is some fuzzy FU thinking going on that degrades our historical place in college football. We should care less about any weak schedule benefitting other teams. We play these games in order to show who we are and who we intend to stay.

        Senator, you have a good bunch of Dawgs on here and you speak well for them on this issue. What in hell have we been going to games to cheer? Certainly not to witness crippling a bunch of candy stripers in the name of “competition”. The stronger our opponents, the stronger we are. This worship of the “W” by Kyle Queen and ilk is unworthy of Georgia Bulldogs. It preceeds the argument of faint-hearted fans to dismiss the best coaching staff around. And I hope we pay off Buffalo and reschedule a game befitting this team we have for next year. And schedule at least 9 SEC opponents.

        • Macallanlover

          Ultimately the consumers (fans) will decide. It is much easier and cost efficient to get tickets off Ebay/StubHub on the 40 yard yardline for the two good homes provided most years. Add in HD and 3D broadcasts, conditioned air, clean potties with no lines, unlimited cool drinks, no parking and traffic hassles, the ability to enjoy a good cigar and you have a compelling case to watch more games in the comfort of your den/patio. Crap games will kill the season tickets sales. Look at how many seats are empty in Sanford, Neyland, etc. for the cupcake games. And this is in the South, don’t even bother to look when the cameras pan the stadiums in most areas of the country. The 9th conference game will add value to a beaten down consumer that has been ignored.

  2. Kennesawdawg

    I would think a 9th game would be beneficial to us, giving us 4/5 home conference games a year instead of 3/4 that we currently have. Playing Texas A&M or Alabama at home instead of Louisiana Lafayette? Count me in.

  3. wnc dawg

    I would be perfectly content with an 11 game conference schedule plus Tech, but that is beside the point I guess.

    The B1G is on record as going to a 9 game conference schedule starting in 2017. I can’t imagine broadcasters wouldn’t pressure the SEC to do the same. Sure will be interesting to see what is released about the new contract (probably this summer?)…I’ve wondered if the 9 game schedule will be used as the next renegotiation bullet. Slive & Co. were able to renegotiate this time because of expansion. It’s not like they don’t have a lot of leverage going in to these talks (ratings are great, 6 MNC in a row, 2 teams in the title game, top 3 BCS teams over Thanksgiving, etc.). With the national landscape still potentially in flux after the 5 year Big 12 rights deal expires, I wonder if they will try and hold the 9 game schedule to use if they want an earlier renegotiation next time around.

    On a related note, it will be interesting to see the length of the next tv deal. The 15 years sure did seem to turn from a strength to a liability pretty quickly after Expansionpalooza hit.

  4. Rocketdawg

    I am all for a 9 game schedule that drops Tech and rotates them on the schedule every few years or so. There is nothing to be gained from playing them and they are the absolute worst fan base to lose to once every 10 years.

    • I don’t get why so many Georgia fans are willing to dump a rival that Richt owns. I can live with losing to Tech once every ten years.

      In fact, I revel in it.

      • hailtogeorgia

        Agreed. I also don’t understand this far-fetched idea that it would be possible to demand a “once every four years in Athens” type arrangement. I don’t like the nerds, but if they agreed to that, they’re just bending over.

        Seriously though, do you think this is just because of the way we’ve dominated the series of late that folks don’t seem to treat the game like a true rivalry any longer? Or perhaps it’s due to the fact that the game no longer has any conference implications…though it could influence a national championship once in a while.

        • AthensHomerDawg

          “Seriously though, do you think this is just because of the way we’ve dominated the series of late that folks don’t seem to treat the game like a true rivalry any longer? ” I’ve heard that before yet I’m glad the gators kept us on their schedule.

      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        We don’t need to get rid of Tech. We need to beat them senseless on a yearly basis. I want to play them TWICE a year.

        • Cojones

          You bet, especially the years they are ACC divisional champs or the year they win the ACC. It’s like having a sparring partner when we warm up for an SEC Championship. Richt has spoiled me for yearly standing over and looking down at the excuse-making chumps from NATS. Any year they can win, I think WE should buy them a ring.

        • adam

          doubt our knees could handle that.

      • Rocketdawg

        I don’t disagree with this, however I don’t want to hear any whining or hand wringing when we play Leftovershoe A&M and East Jesus State instead of Clemson or some other cross conference game. A 9 game schedule virtually guarantees that we will never play anyone other than Tech as an OOC opponent of any worth. Realistically we’ll never drop them but I can honestly say it is my least favorite game of the year. Their fans are the worst and are downright insufferable if they happen to win.

        • Cojones

          I’m truly sincere when I say that it’s a pity you weren’t at games long ago when they , along with the ajc, looked askance from us as if we were unworthy of their Notre Dame-playing asses. They need this suck period under our dominance for all the years they downplayed great Bulldogs. When they were in the SEC, they sang Bama’s praises each year while reflecting upon the Dawgs as country cousins east of Atlanta. What you need sir is a good whiff of their rearend turned toward us for years for you to get a true appreciation for what this rivalry holds. The first “Good Old Fashioned Hate” book on rivalries was written about this rivalry. Annual Thanksgiving Games played nationally on tv were of the UGA/GT and Ok/Neb rivalry games. Before Freshmen could play on the Varsity Team, there was an annual Freshman game played each year between UGA/GT.

          I’m truly sorry that you missed the true sense of “hatred” between us, but recommend that you research these games to get the flavor back into your mouth. You have missed more than you understand about this rivalry.

          • hailtogeorgia

            Well said.

          • Chopdawg

            Cojones, I’m with you…never ever want to lose the Tech game, if we only played one game a year it should be against them…but, I don’t remember more than three times the Tech/GA varsity game was played on Thanksgiving Day: 1971, 1975, and maybe once during the ’90’s? Remember the Tech/GA freshman game (my brother played in one, for Tech, ugh, in about 1974) always being on Thanksgiving, but the Varsity game, very seldom.

            That famous 1971 game was the best day-night doubleheader in the history of college football: OK-Neb in the afternoon, Tech-GA the nightcap, Andy Johnson and Jimmy Poulous.

            (Vince Dooley in his presser, after the game: “Johnson CAN throw the ball, just in case anybody wondered.” Reporter: “We knew that. It’s good Vince finally figured it out.”)

            • Rocketdawg

              I’m 40 so I don’t really remember the days when Tech thought they were too good for us. I actually grew up with Clemson being the #1 rival (or close to it) those games against the Tigers in the early 80’s were forever etched in my brain.

              My whole point on the 8 vs 9 schedule is that with a 9 game schedule we may NEVER play Clemson home and home again. McGarity has said that he wants 7 home games a year which will prevent us from playing anything but “rent a win” games OOC. I have been a season ticket holder for almost 15 years and these past few years have been some of the worst home slates I can remember. Next year ain’t looking too good either.

              • Cojones

                Understood Rocketdawg. These posts weren’t a rebuke, rather a resurrection of the “Good Old Fashioned Hate” days. They keep your pointy thing hard longer than love.

  5. paul

    I do like playing Clemson regularly. We did while I was in school in Athens That was an excellent rivalry. I know I am probably in the minority here, but I would much rather schedule games with the likes of Boise or OK State as opposed to New Mexico State or Coastal Carolina. Cupcakes do nothing to build your resume, don’t help your team improve and represent a waste of my time and money as a fan. I guess that’s a round about way of saying bring on the nine game conference schedule.

    • AthensHomerDawg

      Does it leave you healthy and able to field your whole starting line up when comes down to winning the big one?

      • paul

        That is certainly a legitimate concern. With the number of games we play it’s nice to have a breather. And the smaller schools enjoy picking up the check. But I still don’t like these games. I especially don’t like having two of them in one season. However, I’ve no doubt we’ll continue to see them.

      • Cojones

        Can’t believe you wrote that, Homer. The other big opponents take the same chances. We used to be deep at positions , like LSU is now, and we should get back to that, but certainly injury and luck play into every championship team out there. I don’t believe we can schedule good luck or bad luck, only that we can hope for the best for our players in every game. Hell, some years we have lost more players in practice than on the game-field. Remember the Clemson game early in the year where we were down over 20 players capable of playing first and second string? About 8-9 players were out for disciplinary problems. We put a whuppin’ on Clemson’s ass.

  6. Connor

    I can’t believe CBS/ESPN are going to let us stay at 8 games. If it isn’t in this round, the next round of negotiations will have to include that to keep growing that revenue.
    As an aside, King is correct that historically many SEC teams did not play very regularly. I remember reading that in the 40+ years that Mississippi state and Georgia Tech were in the SEC together, they NEVER played. That said, things are different now. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t go to 9.

  7. Comin' Down The Track

    Eight is Enough references notwithstanding, I kind of agree with Kyle’s larger point about the West teams having no significant, traditional OOC rival games and how that affects teams in The East. I mean, Nick Saban is nothing if not opportunistic; and as an East example, Florida certainly rode to their recent titles on the backs of some patsies. This does rather let the West teams get one extra scrimmage in.

  8. Skeptic Dawg

    While I am all for 9 conference games, that would equate to zero big OOC for the Dawgs. 9 conference games + GT = 2 Sisters of the Poor OOC games. That may be acceptable with 9 games, but I do love the UGA/Clemson game. Sadly, that will not happen again unless the TIgers jump to the SEC.

  9. charlottedawg

    Tell A&M and Mizzou to go back to the Big 12 and keep the 8 conference games. There, that was easy. In all seriousness why the hell did we expand anyway? Nobody else has a 14 team conference and i would genuinely like to know how much extra money these two schools bring to the table anyway. since we all know that money is what this is all about.

    • Cojones

      Along those lines, why can’t we renegotiate the ESPN or whoever contract in light of the added sponsor attraction that more SEC games will give? Or simply negotiate an additional SEC game contract with someone else? Is the wording such that additional teams to the SEC along with additional games won’t be negotiable? Would think any court could undo such a prohibitive contract before 2015. Could we have an imaginative reply from a good case lawyer on here?

    • Chopdawg

      WURD…actually, there is no such thing as the SEC anymore (well, unless you count College Station as being in Southeast Texas)

  10. Irishdawg

    It’s hard for me to make an argument one way or the other because this whole goddam conference expansion business makes me want to punch a kitten. Everything seemed to work fine before we started moving teams from the Pacific Northwest to the Big East and other silly nonsense. Now there is serious talk of screwing with 100 year old SEC rivalries and it’s infuriating.

    • I’m with you on the kitten-punching front.
      Didn’t we set up this damn conference so that the damn Yankees couldn’t mess with our football????
      I say you you go one of two ways:
      1.) stick with 8 SEC games… no need to take on another tough game when nobody else in the country does… thereby giving SEC teams a better chance to win the MNC.
      or
      2.) You play 8 SEC games and one rivalry game OOC. Then you seed an SEC tournament bracket, with the winners of the divisions getting a 1st rd bye… The winner of the SEC tourney goes to the Sugar Bowl. Then you put the rest of college football on notice saying, “Hey all you other d-bag colleges that field football teams, the SEC has crowned our champion. We are confident that, through trial by combat against the best competition available, we have identified the best football team in the country. If you would like to pick your best team and come to New Orleans and play a game to see if we are just pompous Southern a-holes, then, wellsuh, here is a list of hotels in the New Orleans metro area. We will be there on January 1st. Bring it, suh.”

      If no one shows up, then we have a rematch of the final game of the SEC tourney, just for kicks.

      If they say we aren’t the actual national champions, then we say “Whatever, we were champions for 6 years in a row and last year it was 2 SEC teams in the big game. Seems like all that BCS voting nonsense had gotten pointless. So if you say we aren’t the best, wellsuh, we’ll just have to disagree. Either way, we made enough money, so stick it in your ear.”

      In effect, we secede from college football. Think Delaney will call for volunteers to invade?

  11. reipar

    I am confused. If we switch to 9 conference games and keep Tech and UF in Jax then don’t we have a situation where we lose a home game every other year. You are taking a guaranteed OOC home game and making it a rotating conference game. I would rather go to Athens to see us play New Mexico State than sit at home and watch us play MSU on TV (and don’t even get me started on going to Fayettenam).

    • AthensHomerDawg

      “(and don’t even get me started on going to Fayettenam).”

      +1

    • ConnGator

      Not me. I am sick of Florida playing three patsies and FSU. If we can’t get a yearly conference challenge, such as SEC – BigTen or SEC-Pac12 (my preference), my second choice is nine conference games.

  12. FCDore

    While I’m sure the TV networks loved the SEC – Southern Conference Challenge that took place the Saturday before Thanksgiving, you can absolutely bet that a renegotiated TV contract will include a move to 9 conference games to increase inventory. The Big 12 and Pac 12 already play 9 games, and I haven’t heard any moaning about 4 or 5 home conference games from them. The Big 10 is going to 9 games in 2017, and it’s only a matter of time before the SEC does, as well. No way does a system last long term that has Georgia going to Tuscaloosa or Baton Rouge just once every 12 years.

  13. Cojones

    Really like that talk from SEC member-fans. Think it also reflects SEC pride in playing as tough as you can schedule, mild OOC scheduling/team ranking be damned. The NC Game this year should tell us it’s not all Ws and Ls. Boise St is a good example. Before the year was over, no one could honestly vote them up considering their schedule. Their early game with UGA kept them up higher/longer than all the talking heads on tv who put them there. SOS can become even more important in team ranking by the SEC forcing the issue. Great blogging issue: Can the SEC, by virtue of it’s nationally acknowledged strength, force SOS to become larger than it now is? SOS had been artificially dampened by talking heads, but rose on it’s own merit for deciding the two teams selected for the MNC Game. That’s proof of leverage to discuss the issue meaningfully and for fostering tough scheduling for games during the year to better qualify team ranking/extra games/ less cupcake scheduling.

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