And now we return you to “As The Schedule Turns”, already in progress…

Seth Emerson catches up with Larry Templeton, the SEC’s point man on the scheduling front, to get an update on where things stand.  Somewhat surprisingly, there is good news in that the conference seems to have conceded that preserving the historical rivalries is a primary goal.

“I would say that the permanent games are probably as safe as anything that’s on the table,” Templeton said. “I think there is a strong commitment to keep the traditional games in this league. And to do that you have to keep the permanent opponents.”

Whether that’s in response to fans objecting, the network partners pointing out that part of what sells the SEC is tradition, a genuine sense of appreciation for the conference’s history by its presidents (yeah, right) or something else, I can’t say, but I’m grateful nonetheless.  Of course, that begs the question of what scheduling format the conference adopts with that in mind.  And that’s our next surprise:  evidently the nine-game schedule, contrary to what Mike Slive recently indicated, is still in play.

… Interestingly, Templeton said a nine-game schedule isn’t officially off the table yet.

“It was on the table and is still technically on the table. There have been no votes to say this won’t happen,” Templeton said. “There are some institutions that have some interest (in nine SEC games). I don’t have a feel that it’s strong enough to place in there. But I’ve been in enough A.D.’s meetings where that pendelum [sic] changes from one to the other.”

Now clearly there’s some serious bullshit being shoveled here.  First of all, for Slive and Templeton to appear not to be on the same page is probably not an accident.  There is some maneuvering going on, most likely over money, and the suits are trying to leave themselves some wiggle room.  It’s not just about the new TV contracts, either.

… That’s not to say anyone should take away that a nine-game schedule is likely. It just hasn’t been ruled out yet. The main reservation among A.D.’s, beyond an unbalanced number of home and away games, is losing the flexibility to schedule the maximum amount of non-conference home games, or a marquee matchup like Georgia-Clemson.

“The idea of playing seven home games is important,” Templeton said. “The other thing, you go to nine games, there’s seven winners and seven losers.”

Puh-leeze.  If seven winners and seven losers is that big a deal, maybe the SEC should think about going to a seven-game conference schedule, so its schools can pack in one more game against a Sun Belt opponent.  And the marquee matchup talk is window dressing for the extra home cupcake games ADs like McGarity want to pack in there in the three years between those high-profile non-conference meetings.

The real issue, which Templeton buries inside the nonsense, is that seventh home game.  The ADs and presidents aren’t going to give that up unless they’re convinced there’s enough money coming in on the new broadcast deals to make up the difference and then some.

And no, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s as simple as looking at how much more a ninth conference game will bring from CBS and ESPN.  As Emerson points out, there’s an eight-game format that looks pretty good to the conference.

… So with an eight-game schedule still likely, how will it work? The committee is down to two or three formats. One of them, which has the most traction, is a 6-1-1- format (six division games, one cross-division rivalry, and one floating non-division game) where a home-and-home series doesn’t have to happen in consecutive years. For instance, if Georgia goes to Alabama in 2013 then Alabama doesn’t have to come back to Georgia in 2014…

That’s attractive to the ADs, because they keep that seventh home game in play.  It’s attractive to the networks, because it means the marquee games that aren’t locked in cross-division rivalries will rotate onto the schedule as often as they have before.  As for the fans… hey, you got the rivalries saved, didn’t you?  That half a loaf will have to suffice, people, ’cause that’s probably all we’re getting for now.

One possible fly in the ointment for the conference if it sticks with an eight-game schedule is how that may impact the SEC’s chances with the next version of the BCS, should strength of schedule come into play as a factor in how the postseason field is selected.  With conferences like the Big Ten and Pac-12 going to nine-game conference schedules (and the Big XII already being there), the SEC is going to find itself at a potential disadvantage if its schools play one more cupcake game than is played in rival conferences.  (Ironically, a conference-champs only format for a D-1 playoff, which Slive opposes, ameliorates that problem.)

If I had to bet on the outcome, I’d go with the 6-1-1, non-home and home arrangement in the short run, with the conference keeping an eye on its impact on the national title front.  Look to see if Slive negotiates a back door in the new TV deals allowing the conference to reopen things if it elects to go to a nine-game arrangement down the road.  Hopefully he’ll do a better job on revisiting the broadcast contract arrangements than he did last time, seeing as that’s how the SEC has gotten into its current scheduling mess in the first place.

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17 Comments

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17 responses to “And now we return you to “As The Schedule Turns”, already in progress…

  1. The Big Ten is no longer going to a nine-game conference schedule. Its scheduling agreement with the Pac-12 is going to replace having that ninth game.

    • When did the conference decide that? Everything I’ve seen indicates the B10 is moving to nine games in 2017.

        • You’re right, of course, but I think Thamel overstates his case a bit. Delany hasn’t officially changed the B10’s position on that yet. He’s just acknowledged it’s going to be reviewed in light of the scheduling arrangement with the Pac-12.

          I suspect that means he’s trying to get Scott to backtrack with him. Not sure what’ll happen if the Pac-12 stands it ground as it’s doing so far. Also, if the BCS goes to a conference champs-only arrangement, that makes Delany’s decision easier.

          • m (Ag)

            I’m not taking the time to do a thorough internet search, but I’m confident the Big Ten declared they will indeed stay at 8 games within a few weeks of the Big Ten/Pac 12 agreement.

            Michigan/MSU/Purdue will still play Notre Dame nearly every year, Iowa will still play Iowa State, and Penn State will play an Eastern team. With a Pac 12 game on top of that, they’re staying at 8 conference games (10 AQ-level games for most schools) so that the schools can try to get to 7 home games with 2 ‘buy’ games.

            I’m ambivalent over whether I want 9 SEC games or not, but I definitely want the new TV contracts to require 10 AQ level game per year (with only 1 game against a Big East team allowed to count). I’d be happy if we agreed to 8 game conference schedule with 2 quality non-conference games on the schedule. It would be valuable for the TV contracts and give the SEC a chance to prove itself against other conferences. Enforcement of the provision would be simple; any school that doesn’t have a home* AQ non-conference game in a given year would lose a few million from TV revenues. BYU and particularly note-worthy non-AQ schools (as Boise State and TCU were recently) would also count.

            Even Mississippi State could manage to schedule (soon to be Big East) Memphis + 1 of Indiana/Washington State/Syracuse and not really cry about an impossible non-conference schedule.

            *neutral games would count if the SEC has TV rights.

  2. paul

    Well it seems like if the SEC is going to insist that teams do not need to be conference champions to get into playoff consideration then wouldn’t a strength of schedule component be pretty much required? How else are you going to prove you belong? Beating Buffalo, Florida Atlantic and Georgia Southern isn’t likely to impress most folks. And it shouldn’t.

  3. Spreerex

    PAC10/12 is already on a 9 game schedule.

    I think many SEC schools are actually interested in that EIGHTH home game. Lol teams with neutral-site rivalry games.

  4. Anon

    But by all means let’s keep that same scheduling quirk that makes us have 5 SEC road games every other year.

  5. Keese

    SEC’s going to take a schedule that will bring the most money from the networks, I think the 9-game schedule will eventually win out.

  6. Cojones

    The “i wasn’t for the expansion in the first place” crowd have had their say over and over. By making the schedule contentious with a 6-1-1 and and admitting a 7-1-1 schedule would help sos ratings, lessen the stance on Conf champs plus writhe with the home vs home parts of both, those against the expansion in the first place keep placing their conflicts in front of us without saying simply that the 8-1-1 or other schedule is better . Well, it IS better. By embracing the 9 SEC game schedule, their argument against the expansion becomes mute and the only thing in the argument is that ADs and Coaches won’t go for it. For the record, I’d like to see or hear them ( the admin) state their objections instead of being led by inference in the direction pundits want the fan base to think. I mean all of them as a group representing the SEC, not just a couple of comments here and there.

    Let’s see Pres/AD/Coach statements toward 9 SEC game schedules that will cut the buzz about our recent expansion down to barely negligible noise. Let’s put the solutions that a 9 game SEC schedule would solve vs what it would create(facts, not supposition) on the table when we discuss these things. After all, the fans’s opinions are what this blogging thingy is all about, isn’t it?

    • paul

      Personally, I like the nine because it leaves less room for crappy cupcake games. Not necessarily no room, but less. I find the drive towards expansion intriguing. Some of it good and some of it bad. Like anything else, there will be unintended consequences. Ultimately though, I think the difference between the larger D1 programs (which I believe will break loose from the NCAA) and the NFL becomes negligible. I believe that is unfortunate. I like college football precisely because it is not the NFL.

  7. Slaw Dawg

    Be a sad day if PAC 12 and BIG Whatever play 9 conference games plus tough opponents from each other’s conference and we’re playing 8 conference games, plus Tech and 2-3 cupcakes every year. Never will figure out why that has fan appeal. Still if we can’t do the logical thing and go with a 9 game SEC slate plus Tech and one other tough OOC foe, then I can live with the 8 game slate with no consecutive home and away v rotating West opponents.

    But if were King, I’d require all those advocating baked in 2 or 3 cupcakes to buy tickets to and attend all such games in person for the rest of their Dawg lives.

    • Cojones

      I think that shows that us ole’ farts think similarly. I think the cupcake ooc games come ala McGarity ala FU. We don’t need no stinkin’ noncompetitive crap games to establish who we are. To start backing away from good competition and act like playing Clemson is a big deal worries me for the direction our fine fans are led to believe is correct. When some are fearful of playing good competition that sends a message that gaming the system is what Georgia Football is about. It’s about a great deal more as in pride of effort, pride in teammates, pride of staff teaching and it all fits into pride of University.

      Maybe we are just lucky to have seen men step on that field in the past who made way for no man. The kids nowadays are perfectly capable of becoming those men if the level of competition is such that their personal pride kicks in with the mantra of a Bulldog thrown about their shoulders. Give’em the competition and they can make the hair on the back of your head stand up when they step on the field and you can’t wait for the starting whistle.

      • Slaw Dawg

        Yup. As I’ve said a time or 2 before, tweren’t no Little Debbies on the 1980 schedule and I seem to remember things turned out ok that year. See also ’68 and ’76. In fact, I don’t think the concept even existed before the later 70’s. Yet, somehow r nother, teams managed to win all their games and even national titles. One laugher a year to kick back and enjoy the general spectacle seems sufficient to me.

  8. Mayor of Dawgtown

    All this discussion is academic. There will be more expansion and there will be 16 teams in the SEC within 2 years max. If/when that happens the SEC HAS to go to at minimum a 9 game conference schedule, although I would favor going straight to 10 conference games (but nobody at SEC HQ asked me).