Coaches corner: conference scheduling

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.

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “Coaches corner: conference scheduling

  1. Go Dawgs!

    Dammit, rest of SEC, don’t make me like Nick Saban. Because he’s completely and utterly right here. James Franklin is full of it… he wants to go out and schedule the bottom feeders from BCS conferences so his schedule can look tougher. Here’s the thing, Jim, if your team is good enough they’ll win that ninth game. Don’t worry about the seven losses for the conference. As long as you’re not one of those extra seven what does it matter to you? Giving half the league that extra loss might get you closer to New Year’s Day! Except, we all know what you’re talking about. You don’t want to play an extra league game because you think you’ll lose it, and thus lose ground towards bowl eligibility, and thus lose your mystique.

    • Slaw Dawg

      It’s getting harder not to grudgingly like ol’ Nick, when he combines what should be obvious common sense (“I just think if you increase the size of the league by 15 percent, you really need to increase the number of games”) with continued respect for my favorite team (“As he did before last year’s title game, he lamented on Georgia’s free fall from potentially playing in the BCS National Championship to landing in the Capital One Bowl.”) and actually giving a rat’s posterior about the fans. And for those who point out (rightly) that Bama doesn’t have a permanent OOC in-state rival, it’s worth noting that he also insists that # of wins should not = strength of schedule. I interpret that to mean that a Dawg win over Tech (even if typically mediocre) should weigh more than a Bama win over Coastal Carolina, as indeed it should.

      I’m a broken record on this, but I just don’t get why preserving 2-3 cupcakes a year and/or building the whole thing around a shot at a national title seem to be the Holy Grails. Can we develop a new Prime Directive, which is “Every Saturday Should Matter?”

    • AusDawg85

      When I agree with Nick Saban it’s time to rethink my position.

      Mmmmmm,…..cupcakes.

  2. burt

    I think Saban is ahead of the curve on this issue. I know Bama’s sold out every home game since sometime in the 80s but I noticed during several games last year some empty seats in the upper endzones, even for the aTm game. I would imagine this is not exclusive to Bama, either. All the SEC schools with these monstrous stadiums had better figure a way to keep folks coming to them or we’re going to look pretty silly on national TV with a lot of empty seats.

  3. Dog in Fla

    Nick Saban: The Huey Long of the SEC

    “A man is not a dictator when he is given a commission from the people and carries it out.” — Huey Long (Williams p. 762)

  4. Ah Franklin takes the slippery slope analogy to places unheard. ‘What next? NFL Teams?’ He does realize he took a job at Vanderbilt and they are in the SEC right?

    • Chopdawg

      Love Franklin’s NFL analogy…taking that reasoning and twisting just a little bit, I think NFL teams should get some minor-league cupcakes three weeks/year. I know how much I’d pay, for a Falcons-Georgia Rampage matchup (an in-state rivalry!–should be at least as engaging as GA-GA Southern)

  5. Athens Dog

    Bama doesn’t have an in state rival outside the SEC like UGA, SC, and the booger eating gators. It’s easy for him to push for 9. He still gets 2-3 cupcakes.

  6. Cojones

    Franklin: There will be no friggin’ n the riggin’ while I’m Captain of this ship!

    Bama wants to keep our cupcake, Auburn, all to themselves?

  7. FCDore

    I love CJF and all he has done (and will continue to do) for us, but he’s wrong on this issue. I don’t mind throwing a gone to one local FBS team per year to help them with their budgets, as we are doing with Austin Pear this year, but I’d rather see Vandy play — and probably lose to — LSU than host UAB or travel to UMass.

  8. cube

    I’m wondering if one of the reasons Saban is so keen on 9 is indeed b/c of Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina’s OOC games the week before the SEC game. Having those pretty much set in scheduling stone and adding another conference game makes it that much more difficult to have your team somewhat fresh going into Atlanta. Here’s why…

    A lot of teams (including Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and Alabama) try to schedule an OOC cupcake at some point in November to allow their team to heal and rest up a bit. But if we go to 9 and only have 3 OOC games, it’s going to be awfully tough for us, Florida, and South Carolina to schedule 2 of those 3 OOC games in November and then have only 1 to use in September/October. Alabama wouldn’t have that problem b/c they could still schedule 1 in November and have 2 for September/October.

    Saban probably realizes this and sees it as an advantage for his team in Atlanta since the opponent is often either Georgia, Florida, or South Carolina. The guy thinks of just about every angle and is possibly the most thorough college football coach of all-time.

    And if for some strange reason you think we could still schedule 2 of the 3 OOC games in November, think about this. Georgia and Florida always try to schedule their off week for late October (the week before the Cocktail Party). It doesn’t always work out that way but they both always request it from the conference. Well, what do you think the chances are that the SEC is ever going to give either one that week off, along with 2 weeks off in November to use for a cupcake game and their in-state rivalry game? I’d say slim and none…and slim just left town. In the typical 13 week season (this year is a rarity with 14), that would mean they’d be using 3 of their 4 conference off weeks in the last 6 weeks of the season. Ain’t gonna happen.

    In theory I like the idea of playing 9 conference games. But I think everyone should realize that it could result in Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina not being as fresh in the Dome as Alabama, LSU, Auburn, or Texas A&M.