The tradition that just means more

Seth Emerson’s opinion piece today ($$) about the SEC’s football scheduling dilemma — his suggestion is for the conference to ditch divisions in favor of a 4-4 pod system — is the perfect jumping off point for a reminder why we’re in this mess in the first place.

This is college football, so you only get one guess.

The problem has its origin in Roy Kramer’s decision to expand the conference to twelve teams and create a conference championship game.  It worked brilliantly on more than one level.  There was more money for the schools and there were more conference games for the fans.  An eight-game conference schedule meshed neatly with a 12-team SEC.  Life was good, for a while at least.

Then came Mike Slive’s crappy TV deal.  The presidents became unhappy with being outdone by other conferences with better contracts and pushed Slive to look for a way to renegotiate a long-term arrangement that didn’t sparkle like it used to.  Slive found his lever:  expansion to a 14-school SEC.

That got them the new money they craved, but at a cost.  Cracks began appearing immediately, as it proved far more difficult to shoehorn fourteen schools into an eight-game conference schedule than what the schedulers faced by in 1992.  For example,

Texas A&M is entering its eighth season as a member of the SEC, or at least that’s the rumor, because as someone who covers Georgia I have never seen the Aggies play in person. The two schools have yet to play in football. And while they finally will this November, it won’t be until 2023 that Georgia goes to College Station.

The SEC’s real problem now isn’t the schedule.  That’s the symptom, not the root cause.  The real problem is that the conference doesn’t have a financial incentive to work up a fix.  There’s no interest (other than from us fans, of course) in adding a ninth conference game in part because there’s no profit in it, and, in fact, to the extent it might harm some programs’ postseason choices, there could be a financial downside.

You can say the same thing about Seth’s suggestion.  You can say the same thing about eliminating the permanent cross-division game.  You can say the same thing about the status quo, with all the fumbling around that requires on a recurring basis.  There’s no financial upside, so there’s no groundswell for one specific change.

So when should we expect such a groundswell?  Just ask Greg McGarity.

Meanwhile, it does not appear that the Bulldogs will get to host Auburn at Sanford Stadium in back-to-back years. Georgia had to play at the Tigers’ Jordan-Hare Stadium in consecutive years in 2012-13 to accommodate conference expansion to 14 teams in 2012.

“I doubt that’ll ever happen,” said McGarity, speaking after the meeting in which his contract was extended by a year. “That was a one-time deal, unless the conference expands again. That may be another discussion. But this was the same situation as seven other schools that had to make changes to the rotation of their games. That was done strictly for conference realignment.”  [Emphasis added.]

Don’t worry, they’ll get back to us on it.

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45 Comments

Filed under SEC Football

45 responses to “The tradition that just means more

  1. Russ

    So, to McEars’ point, which other teams had to play consecutive years at an opponent like we did with Auburn?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s all about the Benjamins. Unless TV is willing to pay more for the 9th game or a different scheduling mechanism, nothing is going to change because the formula has worked.

    It’s still ridiculous we’ve done all of this to accommodate Missouri’s entry to the SEC.

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    • Beer Money

      Except for Johnny Manziel upsetting Alabama a week after they had a death march in LSU, I cannot think of one significantly notable moment from either Missouri nor Texas A&M since they joined. And let’s please pause to count all of the SEC Championships they have won.

      Gotta love too that by joining the SEC, Missouri and A&M fans no longer play their biggest respective rivals anymore in anything. WIN-WIN!

      Liked by 2 people

      • CB

        Which is why I hate them both and will never consider them to be true SEC schools.

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      • Otto

        We could expand that ti Arkansas and SCe. However in the bigger picture, how often was the SEC winning Nationals before the expansion and how many after?

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        • Winning national championships consistently didn’t happen until the high school talent in the South caught up with the fan fervor. Once those two intersected, everyone else is playing for 2nd place behind the states stretching from Texas/Oklahoma to South Carolina. Ohio State is going to continue to be relevant because high school football still means something.

          Sam “Bam” Cunningham and USC did more to lead to the rise of Southern college football when the Trojans whipped Alabama in 1970.

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  3. Otto

    I don’t see what the problem with the 8 game SEC schedule is. Prior to the expansion to 12, UGA would go sometimes decades without facing a fellow SEC team, such as LSU.

    UGA;s closest rivalries were preserved and I had rather play them every year than complain UGA doesn’t play a team just because we’re in the same conference. I had rather do a home/away with ND, Texas, or UCLA more often than worry about playing Arkansas or A&M.

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    • Tony Barnfart

      I too am fine with 8 games but i want to see 3 permanent rivals with 5 rotating. As someone who went to Lexington last November, I can say it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, but not so enjoyable that I want to continue that EVERY year at the expense of playing another conference opponent once every 12 years. Variety is the spice of life.

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      • Otto

        No changes to the SEC slate other exploring ways to adjust schedule such that Auburn does not get UGA and Bama at home on the same year, and UGA does not get Auburn and GT at home on the same years.

        Traditional rivals is the heart of College Football, variety is a condiment sprinkled in lightly, and as I posted above I had rather have more interesting out of conference games.

        UGA has the mix of cupcakes and out of conference games ND at home, GT away, I would like to shuffle the order of the games moving a cupcake to November and A&M earlier but thankfully GT dumped the triple option.

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        • Tony Barnfart

          A 3-5 rotating format literally does NOTHING to the quality of non-conference games a team can schedule. That’s a red herring.

          So is the “traditional rivals” argument beyond about…..oh, 3 permanent rivals (what I’m advocating). Other than Roy Kramer gave them to us in 1992, what “tradition” do we have with Vanderbilt, Kentucky, hell even Tennessee or South Carolina (even though we’re their super bowl). And now Missouri is an every year affair. GTFOH with “tradition”. The only 2 can’t lose SEC games are Florida and Auburn and then we’d get to have a fight over whether the 3rd permanent would be UT or South Carolina, neither of which I’d give a flying flip if we went to playing them every other year.

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          • 79Dawg

            We have played Vanderbilt, Kentucky and South Carolina for almost forever… That includes all the pre-1992 years when South Carolina was an OOC opponent.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Tony Barnfart

              Wow, I do stand corrected ! I thought I knew everything about UGA (and clearly I’m showing my age or lack thereof), but I suppose I’d never bothered to look at the consistency of those games before the 92 split……..I’d just always assumed everything not Auburn/Florida/Clemson was like the infrequency of the Tennessee series, but never bothered to look at the annual games list with Vandy/Kentucky because they generally suck so much that I’ve never been interested. I am genuinely shocked I never knew this.

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            • Otto

              Agreed on SCe, UK, Vandy.

              A good place to start poking around at the length and frequency of rivalries:
              http://www.winsipedia.com/georgia

              Compare and then full games list will give the record with yearly detail.

              UGA and Miss St were in the same conference since 1921 yet did not play until as conference members until ’51. I am going back to research the 1914 game.

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          • Otto

            A 3-5 does nothing but a 9 game conference schedule does make it more difficult to schedule out of conference.

            I am of the opinion, the SEC should mandate 2 P5 or BCS crasher out of conference games per year.

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        • southernboisb

          “No changes to the SEC slate other exploring ways to adjust schedule such that Auburn does not get UGA and Bama at home on the same year, and UGA does not get Auburn and GT at home on the same years.”

          The SEC allowed the following:
          2015 UF @ LSU
          2016 UF @ LSU
          2017 LSU @ UF
          2018 LSU @ UF

          NO OTHER SEC teams were impacted & due to this, they were able to correct the H/A rotation in 2 years (2016-2017) putting UF as the H team in even years.
          & before anybody says “they can’t due to the 4H/4A scheduling being unfair”, LSU HAD 5 H games in 2015-2016 while UF HAD 5 in 2017-2018.

          The SEC should have enforced this with UGA & Auburn which then would put UGA playing @ Aub. in odd years/GT in even years; Aub. @ UGA in odd years/Ala. in even years.

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      • southernboisb

        “I too am fine with 8 games but i want to see 3 permanent rivals with 5 rotating.”

        & I disagree with that in the fact of the tie-breakers needed to determine how you rank compared to everybody else due to the lack of common opponents. For example, you have “Team A”, “Team B”, & Team “C” who all go 6-2, but they only have 3 of the “5 rotating teams” in common. “Team D” comes along at 6-2 with only 2 of the “5 rotating teams”. What then?

        Divisions help compare 1/2 the conference to each other because they have a true round-robin style format just amongst those 7.

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        • Tony Barnfart

          I am not saying get rid of divisions. I’m saying this, which keeps “divisions” but said divisions have different teams each year. https://theroommateswitch.wordpress.com/

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          • southernboisb

            I’ve seen “TRS”, but don’t like how they’ve broken the teams because they have now put Tn./Vandy as an every other year game. They should have put TN in Pod A, LSU in Pod B, Ark. in Pod C, & SC in Pod D.
            While I understand the concept, it still bugs me with the Tn/Vandy split. & I don’t see any way to keep that game UNLESS you, somehow, keep TN & Vandy in the same group. Just like keeping Ala. & Auburn together. As well as Miss. & MSU as a duo.

            As I’ve said numerous times, 14 teams is a difficult # to get a good scheduling format.

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    • 79Dawg

      FWIW, during the decades in which Georgia would go without playing LSU, there were only 1 or 2 games on a tv a weekend. Now, there is an almost limitless thirst for games (and big games!) by the Big 3 networks and dozens of cable networks for inventory.
      It seems almost unfathomable now that a Georgia-LSU game would not be on (network) TV, much less cable, but I can distinctly remember watching a Georgia-LSU game in the mid/late ’80s at a party because it was on PPV… (Can also remember watching a Georgia-Clemson game on PPV, etc.)

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    • CB

      Decades? I’m pretty sure that’s wholly incorrect.

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  4. W Cobb Dawg

    The only hope I have comes down to Kirby’s attention to detail. Since Kirby has to live with the results, I trust he’s not gonna give McG a long leash for the negotiations.

    Can we send Sexton as our representative for the negotiations?

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  5. JCDawg83

    As long as the stadiums are full, the conference has no incentive to change anything. If the time comes when the fans stop buying tickets because the schedules are not worth paying to see there will be change. Until then, there is no point in even talking about it.

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    • 79Dawg

      Some (many?) of us would desperately like not to be forced to buy tickets to the cupcake games, but, alas! The past few years, even the cupcake tickets have become harder to even give away though, so attendance is definitely slipping for those games….

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    • That is already happening. When you see two Top 10 teams like AU and LSU last season not sell out, the cracks are becoming more and more visible. That one was a wake up call to me. I expect to see fall off like we have seen at TN as they were having multiple back to back seasons, but a big rivalry with teams that were felt to be playoff contenders, in a big match-up in September was something I hadn’t seen before with winning teams. Remember the big falloff in attendance in The Swamp which got national attention as the Gators made an effort to fill their seats for the LSU game? Another alarm bell sounding. And that is in the SEC, where it definitely means more.

      We have seen it all over the national landscape for many years. Live attendance is falling off, and is masked by free tickets given by season ticket holders for the really crap games. It is also another issue due to the aging of season tickets holders who die off, or become too unhealthy for several hours of traveling, frivolity, or just climbing the steps to and from seats and restrooms. Who will fill all those seats when it requires so much to attend increasingly weak schedules? It just isn’t there, expect this trend to accelerate.

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      • Otto

        It just isn’t the weak games. The weak games have always been there. It is rising costs of everything. Couples with children are pressed for time and money as sports and other activities take more time, more expenses on equipment and hotels, travel ball is insane in many sports compared to 20 years ago.

        You combine the shrinking time and budget with the ability to watch just about any game for a competitive program on TV, and yes attendance is going to drop.

        The tricky thing is gauging interest with viewership as MGW posts below:

        There’s no financial incentive until it’s too late. The “fan interest” is what drives advertisers to pay money, which results in money to the schools

        What is so tricky is gauging that and if you get it wrong fans leave and don’t come back. Racing series both Indy and NASCAR have been dealing with fallout from this. Pools and Fantasy leagues are helping March Madness and the NFL. What will CFB have?

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      • Gaskilldawg

        Yeah, The J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics doesn’t get long term. You are exactly correct, the pool of prospective Magill and Hartman donors gets smaller over time due to the reality you cite. Those donors tend to be older fans whose passion for ATTENDING the games was fueled when there were only one or two UGA games on television a year.
        The younger fans, accustom to the high def and comfort of home viewing have not been courted by TJRPDOA to make giving and attending a habit. The strategy is to go back to septegenarians and octogenarians such as Tarkenton and Leeburn to give even more, rather than reward young alums and fans to contribute and get tickets. A recent grad with kids cannot get season tickets and Florida tickets at and affordable price from UGA because the Magill crowd control so many. Kirby Smart won’t do fan meet and greets with that young fan because he can’t afford Magill, so the young fan goes not get the pep rally to join. Once Tarkington and Leeburn die and Kirby has to find new blood the younger fans will be just fine with the “watch on TV and buy occasional ticket on StubHub” routine and see no reason to pay $25,000.00 to join a club.

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  6. Mayor

    Even if the SEC expands again, we’ll never get the back to back home game against Auburn makeup we are owed. Or compensation in any other way. McGarity is so weak the SEC feels like it can push Georgia around and we’ll just take it. This has manefested itself on the field in the numerous bad calls that in some cases have cost the Dawgs championships, with no repercussions.

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  7. CB

    What say you about this point Senator?

    “But there’s a reason the financial pot is as big as it is. It’s not just all the winning. It’s the fan interest, manifested in television ratings (most importantly), attendance and apparel sales. That comes from the pageantry of unique game experiences and, yes, historic rivalries.”

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  8. MGW

    There’s no financial incentive until it’s too late. The “fan interest” is what drives advertisers to pay money, which results in money to the schools. Right now fan interest is on cruise control, living off of nostalgia for the glory days. As in, the people spending the money actually lived the glory days. They complain on one hand about student attendance and interest across the sport, and yet they believe those same disinterested fans are going to pay the big bucks down the line for shitty home schedules? No, they don’t believe that, because they don’t give two shits about what happens down the line. Money Today is the name of the game.

    Fan interest wanes and the money dries up? Who gives a shit? I’ll just retire or take a job in some other sport; I’ve got plenty of experience milking as much money as possible out of a cash cow (cow be damned).

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  9. Pingback: SEC scheduling solution??? – Riverbend Rundown

  10. CB

    I took some time to work out what each team’s 4 permanent opponents might look like under Seth’s proposal.

    https://riverbendrundown.wordpress.com/2019/02/27/sec-scheduling-solution/

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  11. southernboisb

    Does anybody have the full Seth Emerson article? I’m NOT going to do a free trial or sign up just for 1 writing..

    Like