The logic of a nine-game schedule

There are plenty of reasons that justify it, but here’s what I suspect will be the most compelling, if not today, then soon.

SEC attendance is down 1.3 percent since the league set a national record in 2008. That figure is tickets sold, not the head count of those actually in the seats. Just because a game is listed as a sellout doesn’t mean every seat or parking space or concession-line spot is filled.

Television is the main reason. There are more televised games and more choices than ever before. The TVs themselves are bigger and better, with superior picture quality and theater-level sound.

Not everyone will actually show up to watch State U. play Directional Tech when fans can sit in the comfort of their living room, eat a hamburger that costs less than $8 and have the option of checking in on better games around the dial.

Moreover, while crowd figures are creeping downward, the price of so-called “guarantee” games continues up. Once upon a time, a couple of hundred thousand dollars enticed an outmanned marshmallow into an expected beating. That figure now bumps up against seven figures.

Non-BCS leagues know they have the BCS schools over a barrel when it comes to non-return games and they are using the leverage to their monetary advantage.

The math ain’t happy.  And the trends aren’t positive – just ask Georgia’s ticket office, which is still offering single game tickets to three games and season tickets to the weakest home schedule in a very long time.  A ninth SEC game addresses a lot of that.

A nine-game SEC football schedule would cut down on those problems. League games are better attended than the normal non-conference bores. Plus, members don’t have to pay other members to visit campus. It’s in the bylaws.

Two more benefits:  one, by reducing demand, the addition of a ninth conference game also reduces the cost of inviting a cupcake opponent, and, two, it’s more inventory for the TV networks to pay for.  At some point, the Greg McGaritys of the conference are going to realize that the cost benefit analysis of a seven-game home schedule like this year’s show that it’s not worth it.  As to when that occurs, that depends on how stubborn these guys are about defending their position.

Okay, that’s the money side.  Here’s the fan side, from a LSU blogger who does the math to find that Miles’ whining about the cross-division lock-ins is misplaced.  (Today must be LSU Bloggers Call Out Les Miles For Being A Weenie Day.)

Tying this all together one thing jumps out at me, 17 of the 20 SEC championship during this time has been won by teams inside the top five of the schedule. This tells me that the schedule is a lot more balanced than I would have believed prior to researching.

The reason for the balanced numbers is that teams evolve. No team during this stretch has sustained a high level of success allowing teams to move up and down in the rankings.

Would I like to see the conference drop the lock-in game, absolutely, but only because I want to see LSU play all the teams on a consistent basis. I love when LSU plays Georgia and Tennessee, but why should I have to wait four years to see this happen?

The simple answer is, you shouldn’t.  Just like I shouldn’t have to wait over a decade to plan a trip to LSU.  And with a nine-game conference schedule, we wouldn’t have to, would we?

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30 Comments

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30 responses to “The logic of a nine-game schedule

  1. Connor

    Isn’t it more likely that Slive just keeps that in his pocket to open up negotiations again in a couple of years? He can sell it to the broadcasters as an inventory expansion with none of the costs of an actual expansion. I’d definitely prefer to do it now, but these presidents all seem dead set against losing one home game every other year.

  2. dawgdisgusted

    just found out we are not going to play Ohio St in 2020-21 home-and-home football series. guess McGarity likes that damn shit head wimp. Im so sick of this BS

    http://www.fbschedules.com/2012/05/ohio-state-georgia-cancel-2020-21-home-and-home-football-series/

    • OSU called it off, because of the new B10-P12 scheduling arrangement.

      • dawgdisgusted

        yeah, well, i didn’t like the fact we got rid of the Oregon game. remember that? I’m so confused at what’s going on now with our scheduling. call debbie downer here but damn senator its frustrating. you know like this year and the cupcakes

  3. Dawg93

    I thought John Pennington over at MrSEC.com had a great take on the 9-game schedule and why it should be implemented:

    http://www.mrsec.com/2012/05/sec-meeting-recap-slives-league-dangerously-close-to-doing-some-very-stupid-things/

  4. Andrew

    When the SEC expands to 16, you’re never getting your trips west.

  5. 4.0 Point Stance

    Frankly even a 9 game schedule doesn’t make sense. The only way to make a reasonable schedule at this point; hell, the only way to ever make a reasonable conference schedule, is to have every team in the conference play every other team in the conference every year. Anything else defeats the purpose of having a conference in the first place. In other words, “fuck it, we’re going to thirteen conference games.”

  6. Wolfman

    I don’t know why it hasn’t been discussed more lately – maybe it’s already been put to bed – but it seems the first issue is the crossover game. Seemingly, that could be fixed by shifting the divisions – moving ALA and Aub to the East, and Mizzou and Vandy to the West – which would preserve all current rivalry quabbles. In this instance, no crossover game would be needed because all “traditional rivalries” would be intact (unless either of the Alabama schools love playing LSU that much), and thereby the natural schedule would be a 6-2, which the “2″ being constantly rotating.

    The only current issue seems to be that it would overload the East, but I personally think that college football is too cyclical to succumb to that. For example, flash back to 1997 or 1998, and look at the powers that year (in addition to the duds). Plus, anyone then who would have said the East would ever have been totally weak would have been condemned to the edges of society. I think it’s the way to keep the 8-game schedule and still have a viable, complete conference.

    • Dawg93

      I understand the cyclical nature of college FB and the SEC, but putting Auburn & Bama in the East would be a permanent overload of heavyweights in the East. You’d have 5 of the traditional “super 6 SEC teams” (Bama, AU, UT, UF & UGA) in the same division. Of the 10 nat’l titles won by the SEC since expansion, 8 were won by 4 of those 5 and UGA has been on the cusp a few years during that time.

      And our schedule every year would be Bama, AU, UT, UF, SC, & UK plus 2 from the West? No thanks.

    • The other other Doug

      Bring in Texas and Oklahoma to the West and move Alabama and Auburn into the East. Move Missouri to the West and move one of the Mississippi schools to the East. Play everyone in your division every year and do a grab bag or lottery to see who you play the one game from the other division. No permanent lock, no choice in the matter, just luck of the draw.

      • The other other Doug

        Or both Miss schools to the East and send Kentucky and Missouri to the West.

  7. Jrod1229

    We don’t love a weak home schedule, but love that we could potentially cruise to the SECCG and thus onto a much bigger prize.. where’s the happy medium? I rather like the feeling of being undefeated going into November..

    Before USCe was good this is basically how it played out regularly.. except for a few years of Damon we’ve never had what I would call the hardest OOC SOS.. maybe I’m missing the overall picture here?

  8. Hell, give me a 10-game schedule. I absolutely hate cupcake games. I’d rather my team lose half the time to a conference (or other high-quality) opponent than automatically beat a cupcake. I don’t care about padding win-loss records. Nothing beats the excitement of the days before (and day of) a game against a high quality opponent, where you don’t know if your team will win or lose. The highs/lows after the game are better/worse, but that’s what makes it great.

    • 10 games? They’re saving that for when they move to a 16-school conference.

    • 79dawg

      All McGarity gives a damn about is winning games, regardless of the quality (or lack thereof) of our opponent – he actually said as much in a reply to me several months ago.

      I’m glad he’s grown half a sack since then (hopefully because other fans let him here it about potentially losing Auburn and/or Tech) and at least seems to be saying publicly that we have to keep Auburn. Of course, compared to the LSU cowards (the administrators, not the fans who mostly seem in favor of keeping the permanent rival), McGarity looks like he has a steel beam for a backbone.

      I am all for 9 conference games. We would have 4 at home each year, Tech every other year, half the money from Jacksonville each year, and (potentially) 2 cupcakes every year. That gives us 6 home games a year when we play on North Avenue and 7 when the we get the nerds at home. (Of course, we could always replace one of the cupcakes with a decent out of conference home-and-home series arranged so it is played at Sanford Stadium in the years when we are at Tech). If McGarity wants to get me more excited about making my donation and buying tickets (like I used to be), this is the way to go!

      Like the Senator, I too fear that if the powers that be will keep trying to squeeze every last dollar out of college football, it will die and might as well become the NFL’s AAA league, and I worry I might not give a shit about it either in that event.

      • Cojones

        I can remember some lone voices in the wilderness within the last couple of months and it seemed as if we got shot down by those so quick to agree with McGarity with his cupcakes and not playing 9 games. Beginning to think that a few loud recent grads had too much say somewhere. Why is it only now , in the middle of a projected mess, that some can now see the advantages of 9 games? It’s these times that I can’t seem to write well enough to be forceful with logic.

        Senator, I nearly fell over to see the word “logic” in your title. Very few of us wrote in favor, but I thought the “logic” now being expressed was expressed so at that time. It’s like everyone has just come off a hangover. All I saw was the “logic” of 8 games ballyhooed by several and I thought one of them was you. I know that you are excellent in presenting forums for opinions (both sides of a question) and you seem to keep away from beating us over the head with your own opinions, but did I read you wrong on this question? I thought that you came out four-square for the 8 game SEC schedule on several occasions. I’ve seen you take both sides and promote other issues while not giving away your position.

        I never have understood the protracted effort to schedule in games from a prechosen magic number and still don’t. Guess I’ll have to brush up on my “logic”. Nine games was and will be the least number of SEC games that we can play and still keep traditions and good games. McGarity leading the “wussie parade” won’t change that, only makes it look like we are copying FU’s shitty path of disrespectful scheduling.

  9. Dawg Captain

    Is it too irrational to propose getting rid of the divisions? I mean having an east and a west division is kind of a problem (Missou is not an eastern team). Getting rid of the division would allow the best two teams to play against each other in the SEC Champ game regardless of their geography. The only downside i can see from this is there wont be any SEC East Champ shirts anymore :( (sarcasm) It could be cool to turn to the old gold, silver and bronze medals for the best 3 teams… (way cooler as a playoff)

    • JudgeDawg

      NCAA rules do not allow a conference championship game unless a conference has 13 or more members divided into 2 divisions playing round robin in the division. You can have a SEC with no divisions or you can have a SECCG. You cannot have both.

      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        JD you may have read in the past my proposal that the SEC kick out the 2 new teams plus South Carolina and Arkansas–then play a round robin schedule among the remaining 10 teams where all teams play each other every season. That is the only way to get a true conference champion IMHO. Of course, the SEC then would lose the revenue from the defunct SECCG.

        • Cojones

          Let’s not confuse all the fans on other logical choices. We barely can handle one-at-the-time. :)

    • Cojones

      DC, I could see the Bulldog Captain taking the podium for second place and, as the silver medal is draped around his neck, he jerks it off and trounces it in the dirt like the Bad News Bears. We don’t need no stinkin’ 2nd or 3rd place designations medals. To claim it one has to say the name of the rival who might have won first place. You win or lose champiuonships, you don’t say you placed second.

  10. shane#1

    An AD is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. I remember all the bitchin’ on the blogs when Evans was scheduling cross country games against D1 teams and UF was feasting on cupcakes and winning NCs. Be careful what you wish for Dawg fans.

    • Connor

      That’s a huge part of this. AD’s and Coaches know that 9 game schedule means that many more losses. 7-5 becomes much more likely than 8-4 for an average year, and we as fans are not inclined to adjust our expectations. The smoldering anger some fans will feel about crappy home schedules and long periods between playing elite teams is much easier for an AD and Coach to deal with than the visceral fan reactions over a loss.

  11. Slaw Dawg

    I’ve said it here and elsewhere: 9 conference games, Tech, a quality OOC opponent and a cupcake if you must. That’s a season, man.

    In some sense, every other conference team should be a rival. Maybe not at the hate-their-guts level of our Big Three (if I have to tell ya who I mean, you’re on the wrong site), or even at the high intensity level of our slugfests with the Chickens and Vowls, but still at a higher octane level than a respectable Big Whatever or ACC foe.

    Astonishing to me that anyone even gives a bloody damn whether some other school MAY have a theoretically softer schedule because they draw, say, Ole Miss every year rather than AU. If you don’t want your team to play the best your conference has to offer on a regular basis, what is it you’re in it for? Just the title games? Every Saturday in the fall should count, not just the last 2 or 3. If it’s all about the post-season for you, then stick with the NFL.

  12. FCDore

    Agree, agree, agree, Senator.

  13. A school’s proclivity to schedule cupcakes doesn’t totally correlate with adding a 9th conference game.
    Also, some teams have actually expanded their stadiums twice since 2005 – and one of those expansions came at the end of a pretty down period of football.
    it’s time to re-adjust our view of traditional things in the SEC. Our leaders gave up an hold we had on tradition when #13 and #14 were admitted. It’s only going to get worse too.