To what should be nobody’s surprise, the SEC will soldier on with an eight-game conference schedule for the time being. (Mike Slive’s “the First Amendment is alive and well” schtick is code for “I’m not ready to make a decision”.)
What is a little surprising is how much thought the conference’s coaches have put into the matter of how many times they should face each other in a regular season. (It’s a lot more than I suspect they put into voting in the Coaches Poll.) At one end of the spectrum, you’ve got Nick Saban, who thinks that a nine-game schedule is both smart and inevitable.
Hugh Freeze objects.
“For me, when you add a ninth game, that’s seven more losses for our conference,” Freeze said. “We want to fill all of our bowl slots, we want our kids to represent our conference. When you play that extra ninth game, I know it’ll probably create some more revenue, but it also is seven more losses for us.”
(Did I miss a reference to what the fans might want in there? Hmm… I guess not.)
James Franklin strongly objects. This has to be the most over the top comment of the week.
“We’ll go to nine and people will say, ‘We don’t have enough sexy out-of-conference games anymore so you’re going to have to play nine and another,'” Franklin said. “When’s it going to stop? Two years from now they’re going to say, ‘You know, we probably ought to schedule an NFL team. You’re probably going to have to play the Jets. You’re going to have to play the Falcons.’ Now we’re going to play nine games and and an NFL team. When’s it going to end?”
Dayum. Now that is some Olympic-class whiny-ass bitching there. And I’m not sure how that squares with Franklin’s declaration that “…the Commodores will push for some of the toughest nonconferences schedules in the country in future years.” Except that one way or the other, he’s full of shit, that is. If you’re going to commit to playing a tough ninth game against any school, it’s likely going to be on a home and home basis, so what’s Franklin’s beef here?
As a counter, tune in and listen to the mellow sounds of Mark Richt, traditionalist.
“The one thing I will say I would vote on is to continue to have a rivalry game with Auburn,” Richt said. “Does that involve an eight-game, a nine-game? I don’t know. If (the Auburn game) goes away, then does an eight-game change in my mind compared to nine? I think one of the keys to this whole thing is whether the rivalry games stand. That can change how people think about the big picture.”
I think we know how Slive gets Georgia to vote in favor of a nine-game slate, if that time comes.
There are even some helpful suggestions put forward on the broadcasting front.
Franklin and Bielema also have a solution they believe would satisfy the league’s television partners. “You don’t have to go to nine games to make sure we have more really good games,” Franklin said. “What you do is you force everybody to spread their out-of-conference games out. You can’t open the season with three out-of-conference games and then hold one for late. There have to be three SEC vs. SEC games Week 1. There have to be three SEC vs. SEC games Week 2. And do that the whole year. Now, that’s going to allow the SEC Network or ESPN to make sure there are great games the entire year.” Bielema agrees completely. He said he suggested the same thing to the Big Ten three years ago while he was the head coach at Wisconsin. “I told them I’d gladly play Ohio State the first week of the year,” Bielema said, “just to get that wow factor.”
That may put asses on the couches, but I’m not sure it does much to answer one of Saban’s concerns.
“I’m absolutely in the minority. No question about it, but everybody’s got their reasons,” Saban said. “The biggest thing we all need to do in some of these decisions that we’re making about who we’re playing and what we do is, ‘What about the fans?’ because one of these days they’re going to quit coming to the games because they’re going to stay home and watch it on TV.
“Then everybody’s going to say, ‘Why aren’t you coming to the games? Well, if you play somebody good we’d come to the game.’ That should be the first consideration. Nobody’s considering them. They’re just thinking about, ‘how many games can I win, can I get bowl-qualified, how tough a teams do I have to play?'”
That last paragraph really does sum things up nicely, except for how much money the conference wants to make. Which, let’s face it, will be the deciding factor in the end. This issue really does have much of the same feel as the change in the recruiting rules that were taken up in Destin a couple of years ago. Slive gave the coaches their head for a while and then told them what was going to be done. I expect we’ll see much the same result this time as well once all the information is in on the criteria to be used by the playoff selection committee and the final price tags from CBS and ESPN for expanding the conference schedule.