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.