The nine-game conference schedule talk won’t die.

Seth Emerson takes Greg McGarity through a lengthy interview, the most interesting part of which comes at the end.  McGarity begins with a response to a question about attendance trends in college football.

You can look at programs now, and very successful programs can’t fill their basketball arenas, football stadiums. So it’s up to us to make sure that we’re being as creative as possible to give that person a reason to come to the game. I think our use of the scoreboard, of the video board in the stadium this year was exceptional. The replays, the clarity of the board. Our ability to look into other games. Little things like our ‘stadium defender’ (commercial), the little spoof we did. You can only see that in Sanford Stadium. So we’ve got to think of things you can only see at Sanford Stadium that you can’t at home.

Because the thought is, If I’m home and I’ve got my (remote control) out I can toggle between Game A and Game B, and if I wanna cut it off I can cut it off. Well, we’re thinking that way in the stadium, to where if I can do it at home, hopefully I can do some of that stuff at the stadium. … That’s our charge next year: What more creative ideas can we generate? And have a little fun. Can we do a better job in certain areas of how we present the game? Sure we can. Can we do a better job with concessions? Maybe we have more hawkers in the stands. Instead of Greg and Seth having to go up in line and wait 30 minutes for a Coke, let’s bring the Coke to you, and maybe that’s doubling the amount of hawkers you have in the stadium. Those are all things we think about daily. …Locally we have to do that.

It’s nice that he’s thinking about it, but this is just nibbling at the edges stuff, at best.  How many Georgia fans get up on a Saturday and say, “let’s go to the game so we can watch the new stadium defender ad”?

To Emerson’s credit, he takes the conversation where it really needs to go – quality of scheduling.

Q: Would it also impact non-conference scheduling?

McGarity: I tell you what, if you think about our schedule (in 2011) if we had not played Boise State. We would have been playing in Louisville this year, sandwiched in between two SEC games. Now we saw what Charlie (Strong) and the job they did. That would have been another game where you have to be at peak performance, you can’t just think you’ve got that one in your back pocket. But I think the strength of schedule, that’s something we have to study. We don’t know what that means. That’s why we haven’t done any scheduling in the last year, moving forward, because we want to see what is the strength of schedule.  [Emphasis added.]

I can only think of one thing McGarity could be waiting on, and so could Emerson.

Q: Are you also waiting to make sure the SEC schedule stays at eight games?

McGarity: Yeah, yeah. We are going to discuss what a nine-game model looks like, at least have that discussion. But you want to be sure that you’re not over-scheduling and making it more difficult to be in the BCS games, by adding an SEC game.

Q: Will you also discuss that in Destin, at the SEC meetings?

McGarity: It’ll be a topic, yeah. We’ll cover some of that in Nashville at the next A.D. meeting. But yes that nine-game schedule we’re going to take a look at it, to see what it looks like. But no commitment, either way.

They know.  These guys know.  The fans want less cupcakes in their scheduling diet.  One less Sun Belt opponent is going to do more for attendance enthusiasm than ten stadium defender ads would.  The networks want more conference product (and if the SEC is the best conference in the country, why wouldn’t they?).  And a nine-game conference schedule is far less unwieldy in a fourteen-team conference than what they’re struggling with now.

What’s holding them back are the same two things:  the fear of revenue reduction from a loss of a seventh home game every other season and the potentially negative impact of tougher regular season scheduling on the SEC’s postseason chances.  My bet is they’ve already heard enough from the networks to conclude that a nine-game conference schedule will result in nothing worse than a revenue wash.  (McGarity’s silence on that is a pretty good indication that it’s not really a concern to the ADs.)  So what’s left is waiting to hear how this whole selection committee thing for the new playoffs gets structured.  Bottom line:  if the ADs feel like there’s a reasonable chance two conference teams playing a nine-game SEC schedule can make the four-team playoff field, they’ll make the move.

If not?  Well, expect more stadium defender ads and unstable conference scheduling in the short term.  And don’t be surprised when Mike Slive decides that an eight-team playoff is the direction where college football really needs to be heading.  Because these guys know.

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55 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Georgia Football, SEC Football

55 responses to “The nine-game conference schedule talk won’t die.

  1. Cosmic Dawg

    I wonder how many crankshafts like me don’t go to games because I hate being distracted and screamed at by a hundred foot television…that is truly the only reason I won’t go see GA or The Braves or any live sports anymore.

    I know the revenue is too big to go back, but the reason it works as revenue is because it taxes my senses, and the tax is too high.

    • Always Someone Else's Fault

      Agree. When the game-day experience is trying to emulate the home-viewing experience, you’re probably moving in the wrong direction.

      Maybe I’m just older and crankier, but little things seem way more annoying now – traffic, parking, crowd congestion, seating comfort, crowd disposition. You don’t notice the idiot dropping F-bombs and cursing the QB/play-calling four rows back when you’re 19. You do when you’re 44 with your 11 and 7 year old sitting beside you.

      I just don’t enjoy it as much anymore, and the kids seem to enjoy an afternoon hiking more than they enjoy going to a game. The first couple of times were a blast. After that, enthusiasm seemed to drop markedly.

    • Amen. I want less blaring lights and more band. If I want my kid to know what an hd tv looks like, I’ll leave him at home. The noise and flashing lights pacifies the crowd too. No need to yell if the loudspeakers drown you out.

  2. Go Dawgs!

    With respect, Cosmic Dawg, I think you are in the minority there.

    I gotta say, though, as great as it is that McGarity wants to improve the stadium experience (and they have, no doubt) it doesn’t matter. The fire-up videos, the stadium defender (did he really bring that up as something fans get excited about? Really?) and whatever else they do, he is still asking us to plop down a lot of money to watch Georgia face a team that I wouldn’t even be willing to watch on TV if UGA wasn’t involved.

    And that is the key, forget the fans… I don’t see how our broadcast “partners” continue to allow these schedules. If UGA is playing North Texas, NOBODY besides UGA fans are tuning in for that espn3 or CSS broadcast. NOBODY. So how does TV let it happen? Enough people are going to come to Georgia games as long as we’re winning. Season ticket sales may suffer. But I just can’t imagine TV putting up with that much longer.

    I skipped a cupcake game this year for a family crisis. I know that i would have gone if it was a better game (the crisis wasn’t dire). I have found myself really not excited about going to Athens for a midseason cupcake. I know i am not the only one. We have a decent home schedule this year because LSU rotated on. But most odd years are going to be SC and nothing else unless McGarity decides to really improve the Sanford Stadium experience by scheduling football games there.

    • TennesseeDawg

      Also, playing a directional cupcake in August/early September during the day is not a great way to attract a crowd not to mention HDTVs, higher prices, the parking issues and various drunken idiots to contend with

  3. Skeptic Dawg

    Is McGarity really that be of a puss regarding scheduling? While I did not, nor do I now, agree with his cupcake schedule philosophy, I at least understood his rational. However, this quotes, “Now we saw what Charlie (Strong) and the job they did. That would have been another game where you have to be at peak performance, you can’t just think you’ve got that one in your back pocket” really bothers me. Fear of an opponent, nor fear of a potential loss, should ever factor into your thought process while creating a schedule. And McGarity comes off as scared of a loss. To be the best you have to beat the best. Stop being such a puss!

    • Alkaline

      I just took that as a little shout out to his boy Charlie, and nothing more. (they were at UF for a few years together, right?)

      Whatever McGarity says, the reason he got out of the UL games was because ESPN and Chick-fil-a ponied up the cash to make it worth the while. It’s the same with scheduling cupcakes; true you don’t have a possible loss to contend with, but the guaranteed home game with no return visit is where the money’s at. And make no mistake, the 2011 game vs. Boise was a transplanted home game for UGA financially.

  4. 81Dog

    the continual assault on one’s senses during every microsecond the ball is not in play won’t stop because the bean counters know it’s a profit center.

    I am a fan of Greg McGarity’s, but his revolutionary idea for improving the in-stadium experience is “let’s bring the Coke to you”? Welcome to 1974, Greg. If you really want to improve the atmosphere inside Sanford, start with getting rid of those seizure inducing ribbon boards, quit hawking every second of non-action on the jumbotron as the “Crap you didnt care about, brought to you by AT&T/McDonald’s/Ford trucks/etc.” and just let us know the down, distance and score.

    I dont come to a game to enjoy some guy on the PA screeching at me on behalf of some sponsor, I dont come to a game to “enjoy” fake juice on the jumbotron on behalf of some sponsor, I dont come to a game so UGA can hustle some sponsor or “dignitary” onto the field at every possible chance. I come to the game to WATCH THE FREAKING GAME. I realize the “paradigm has shifted,” and the fans inside the stadium are relatively small potatoes compared to the eyeballs watching ESPN. Unfortunately, all this “we want to improve the in-stadium experience for fans” sounds like PR designed to disguise what they’re really trying to do: squeeze every possible cent out of the suckers who actually go to the games.

    Thus, we get bombarded with stupid advertising at ear splitting levels (But look! We’re providing our fans with valuable consumer information in an entertaining way!). We get gouged at the concession stand after being treated like cattle to get there, and relieved of the cap to the extortionately priced bottle of Coke because they think we’re idiots who can’t be trusted with them (But look! We’re “enhancing consumer options”!!!!!!). We get gouged for programs. We get gouged for tshirts. We get gouged for parking (But look! We have a super duper improved plan for game day access!!!!). We get herded away from buildings with restrooms, we get forced to park a long way from where we would tailgate, and with no place or way to dispose of trash besides dragging it all back to our distant parking space and putting in our car. We get gouged for tickets and “contributions” to have the right to buy the tickets and enjoy the exquisite pleasure of all the above things. And on top of all that, we get treated to a steady diet of North Texas States and Central Michigans at home.

    If Greg McGarity really wants to improve my gameday experience, just quit “marketing” me inside the stadium, put out a few dumpsters at key points around campus for tailgaters, and find a decent non-conference game to play at home once in a while. Oh, and let me keep my freaking Coke caps. I suppose it’s too much to hope for that he and Czar Mike will quit insulting my intelligence by telling me how interested they are in “improving the game day experience.” Just admit you’re squeezing us, or quit talking about it.

    • Russ

      great post. You covered it.

    • Cosmic Dawg

      Awesome.

      • Debby Balcer

        I being caps in with me and park for free on East Campus. There are never genders in our club section. I love being in Sanford Stadium.

        • Debby Balcer

          bring not being.

        • 81Dog

          I love being there, too, Debbie, in spite of the marketing geniuses best efforts to run people like me off. Actually, they’re not trying to run me off. They’re trying to figure out what the point is where people like me would quit going, and stop just short of that. A lot of us go to games in person in spite of the “improvements” (sic), rather than because of them.

          I bring caps in, too! They can have my caps when they pry them from my cold, dead fingers. Remember, when Coke caps are outlawed, only outlaws like you and me will have Coke caps.

          • Cojones

            Snarkey-funny as hell! Intended or not.

          • Ausdawg85

            The best tasting Coke ever was one full of ice on a Fall Saturday served in a Posse’s red cup delivered by a young kid to my seat in Sanford stadium. How that bourbon got in there I have no idea. :-)

    • Slaw Dawg

      Well said, ’81Dog. I’m an ’82 Dog myself, and the game day enjoyment from those days compared to these is magnitudes of different. No doubt part of that is age, but even players from that era (of which I was not one) agree that the rhythm of the game is just no longer there. Once upon a time, we could be and often were on our feet almost the entire game, alternately yelling and holding our breath from one play to the next. Now, you could write Gone With the Wind during the collective time outs. Sometimes I struggle to remember what the Hell was going on waaay back before the commercial break or the play review time out, especially after the information barrage from the jumbotron.

      I’ve said it a million times. I don’t remember a better year than 1980. Our non SEC schedule was Clemson, So Carolina, TAMU, TCU and Tech. A couple of those teams were having down years, but there was no guarantee of that when the schedule was made–every opponent was a legitimate foe with a going in chance to beat us, and 5 of them (before the bowl) damn near did. But even the Vandy game was exciting.

      If you make the thing more expensive, less interesting, longer and harder to get to, and use my precious time to hawk things I don’t want, then you’re just plain stupid to wonder why I don’t come as often as I used to.

    • The coke caps thing seems like a big issue to you. What’s the deal there. They keep the caps? Why?

  5. gastr1

    There’s another reason for the hesitancy regarding nine-game conference schedules: No one wants to have five away games and four home games. Can you imagine the whining from the Ol’ Ball Sack when that happens? Or Saban, who will question if that’s really what we want football to be?

    Obviously we would never be in that position because we have a neutral-site game (and maybe that’s where the answer lies for the whole league), but what else would the solution be? Seems to me there are certain schools that would never go along with an unbalanced home/away schedule.

    • You do realize that washes out every other year, right?

      • gastr1

        Do you think it matters to Saban, Spurrier, and Miles? I don’t.

        • gastr1

          Let me put it another way: They’d be facing a substantial competitive disadvantage every other year on a permanent basis. I have a hard time believing they’d accept those terms.

          • Coastal Dawg

            Why not do a 4 home, 4 away and one neutral site? We have GA – FL and I am sure that impacts McGarity and Foley as we move to 9 games. If our 5 away falls on the year we are the “home” team for GA-Fl we are screwed.

    • tbia

      Then why do we voluntarily give ourselves only 3 home SEC games every other year by playing in Jacksonville?

      • gastr1

        I’d say because it’s a long-standing tradition from a time when there was less concern about such matters, and remember– it’s not an away game, it’s a neutral game (please don’t insult my intelligence by claiming it’s the same as playing at Ben Hill–it’s not).

        If it had never been that way, can you imagine the outcry to make it so now in order to create a balanced conference schedule?

        • Don’t forget that both schools make more money with the game in Jax than they would on a home-and-home basis.

          • gastr1

            Which is part of the reason I think that each school embarking on a permanent neutral site game could be the answer to the home/away schedule issue. Could be, anyway…

          • gastr1

            (…doesn’t mean they’ll do it.)

            • Coastal Dawg

              I should have read farther down before posting. But I agree that if you give schools the option to sub a neutral site it could be a win win for them and the league. We have Jax, you could play UT and USC in Charlotte, Vandy and Miss state in Memphis, KY and MZ in St Louis, Al and The Barn in Bham, Ark and Ole Miss in Little Rock them LSU and A&M in Houston. Each of those cities would pony up big money to each school to host the games.

          • Cojones

            Unfortunately that reasoning doesn’t include the monies that the cities of Athens and Gainesville would make, Senator.

  6. Bright Idea

    81Dog, Did I write that? Great post. I take my own bottle caps!

  7. Bright Idea

    And don’t forget revolving game times.

    • Indemnitor

      Agreed- this jumble of start times is a huge problem . Didnt we run the gamut from 11.39 am to 7.44 pm this yr ?
      Getting to athens if yr farther out then atlanta can make it a logistics headache.
      But i guess espn lets us know what time we need to be there – although i dont remember signing their employment agreement.

    • 81Dog

      thanks for adding that to the list, Bright. You are exactly correct (and clearly, a person of great taste and intellect)

  8. yes people are falling all over themselves to see this

    • Cojones

      Sure, instead of this upbeat skit build for the PG13 crowd, they should put signs all over the place: “Put your trash in the can, aholes.”. Or an occasional: “Keep the stadium clean, numbnuts.”. That ought to send an innocuous message better than the mascot tackling idiots who should know better. Right?

  9. Mayor of Dawgtown

    The solution isn’t a nine game conference schedule. The solution is for the SEC to require ALL its teams to play at least one more quality OOC opponent every year instead of a cupcake. UGA’s doing that by scheduling Clemson and Boise. Bama’s been doing that already. I’m looking at you FU. What are you guys doing? South Carolina? Same. The SEC is gonna have to make ‘em do it.

    • tbia

      FU plays Miami in 13

    • You’re not going to get that without agreeing to a home-and-home deal. I suspect the ADs, if it comes to that, would rather keep the money in the conference.

      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        Good point. That is also another reason behind playing cupcakes. They do not require a return game at their place. I suspect that is the real motivation behind playing cupcakes beyond just getting an easy win. The home team gets the gate, just pays the cupcake $400K-$500K and keeps the rest. Remember, we are now in the mode in CFB where the only thing that matters is money.

    • Bob

      How is Alabama doing that? They play one team a year, usually at a so called neutral site. They should be playing 2 OOC BCS level opponents and at least one of them home and home.

      Since 1992 Alabama has played 14 OOC BCS level opponents. That is way below 1 per year. They have played 5 at home and 5 on the road with 4 at neutral sites. In the same time frame, Georgia has played 33 OOC BCS opponents and that does not include the 2 additional games against Boise State. The Dawgs have played 18 at home and 15 on the road. There is absolutely no comparison in the scheduling of Bama and Georgia. Bama is all too typical of just about all the teams in the SEC West….weak ass out of conference scheduling, except for LSU.

      Hell, Florida doesn’t need to be looked at by anyone applauding Alabama. The Gators have played 26 out of conference games against BCS opponents, with 14 at home and 12 on the road. In other words, Florida has played more than twice as many OOC major opponents on the road than Alabama has.

      We need more schedules like next year with Clemson and Tech than a home schedule like the one this year. Vandy is definitely much improved, but its a sad day when Georgia has to admit that Vandy was the best team on their home schedule.

      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        “Gator Bob” is that you?

        • Bob

          Gator Bob? I would pull for Al Qaida before I would ever pull for those puke orange and blue punks. But facts is facts and no one with a straight face can laud Bama’s scheduling by knocking the Gators, even though they have not left the state of Florida for a regularly season OOC game in more than two decades.

          Bottom line from “Gator Bob” is that Georgia has had by far the best out of conference scheduling of anyone in this conference. But if this year is any indication, I only hope the next two years are not an anomally.

      • Scott

        Good stuff. Thanks

  10. The other Doug

    It’s interesting that he didn’t mention working to make the tailgating easier and more enjoyable as a way to enhance the game day experience.

    • Coastal Dawg

      Amen. Hopefully Adams replacement will remember that they game day experience is about more than the game.

      • 81Dog

        not for Mike, it isn’t. It’s about getting us in and out as quickly and cheaply to UGA, and cashing in as much as possible while we’re there. Winning and losing games is only important to Mike in so far as it affects his ability to shake money out of our wallets.

        Mike’s paradigm seems to be Disneyworld. There is no more relentlessly efficient group of cash vaccuumers in the world that those found in the Happiest Place On Earth. They’re so good at it, you actually feel grateful for the chance to get shaken down. Mike Adams is no Walt Disney.

  11. The problem of stadium attendance and stadium experience has very little to do with the quality of our OOC opponents.

    You are talking about 5 better home games every decade. That’s it. Not 5 MORE home games. 5 home games against more challenging teams. Oh, and if you screw up that game, you get a worse bowl game that your fans will be even less likely to attend.

    There is a huge problem right now in all sports that the home viewing experience is, quite frankly, 1000000 times better than the stadium/arena experience.

    * Grossly overpriced tickets.
    * Grossly overpriced parking.
    * Grossly overpriced concessions.
    * Extreme overcrowding.
    * Bad, limited, distant parking.
    * Tiny, uncomfortable, cramped seats.
    * Takes 6 hours to watch a 3 hour game when you count parking, travel, negotiating crowds, etc.
    * Tons of extremely rude people shouting obscenities and spilling beer on you.

    Furthermore, there are a lot of people who would prefer to watch “tough” games from home.

    You know what sucks worse than fighting through a crowd to get to your car after a win?

    Fighting through the crowd after a loss.