Okay, back to cynical mode.
One of the questions Seth Emerson addresses in his most recent mailbag is what’s going on with conference scheduling, in particular the fate of the crossover divisional rivalry games. Part of his answer intrigues me.
Slive is good about not showing his cards, but if I had to guess he’d personally vote to go to nine games, which would keep the two major cross-division rivalries. But if he doesn’t get the votes for that – and I’m not sure the votes are there – then I know Slive is sensitive to the perception that he would be presiding over the end of two more storied rivalries. Slive doesn’t like that Texas and Texas A&M don’t play anymore, nor that Missouri-Kansas has ended. Those aren’t necessarily his fault: Missouri and Texas A&M wanted in the SEC, and those were the consequences. But losing the Georgia-Auburn and Tennessee-Alabama rivalries would be more on Slive’s watch.
Now, first, I don’t doubt Seth’s guess about Slive’s preference there. If you’re not a head coach or an athletic director, a move to a nine-game conference slate makes way too much sense. In terms of broadcast inventory and attractiveness to the playoff selection committee, it’s close to a no-brainer for a conference commissioner who’s paid to look at the bigger picture. Slive’s always been pretty good at leading his presidents where he wants them to go, so I can see him pushing an expanded schedule as a compromise between the block that wants to keep the permanent cross-division rivalries and the one that wants to ditch them.
But what if he’s not convincing enough? It’s pretty clear there’s a lot of resistance to adding that ninth game from the coaches and the ADs. And the restrained comments we’ve heard on the Georgia side about the Auburn game lead me to think our administration already knows the votes aren’t there to keep the status quo. So those of us who want the Auburn-Georgia series to be maintained have to hang our hats on Slive’s concern for his perceived legacy? I know Seth speaks pretty clearly about what appears to be on Slive’s mind, but, dang, so much tradition has already been trashed on Slive’s watch – true, not all his fault – that I question if there really is a bridge too far here. There are plenty of ways to rationalize the decision if it comes to that.
I don’t know; maybe the compromise will be to stay at eight games, keep the two permanent cross-division rivalries intact and let every other cross-division matchup float. That’s a scheduling nightmare – for one thing, it will mean long stretches when Georgia doesn’t play certain teams from the West – but as the current mess in basketball indicates, the SEC seems to have a great deal of tolerance for nightmarish scheduling.
What I feel certain of is that fan preference isn’t driving this bus. I’m just hoping they do enough to let us have a comfortable seat on it. After all, we’re the ones paying for the ride.
UPDATE: If Slive is looking for some more ammo for an argument to go to a nine-game schedule, he might want to take a look at this.