A few thoughts on the SEC’s scheduling call

First off, it’s hard to argue with Ross Dellenger’s take on why the SEC chose to play an all-conference schedule.

… Why try to squeeze in out-of-conference affairs during a pandemic? It puts even more risk on your teams—injuries, viral outbreaks, etc. The goal is to complete a conference season and crown a conference champion. It’s easier to do that without intertwining these non-conference games.

Also, the league basically ran out of Saturdays, as Florida AD Scott Stricklin aptly put it Thursday during a news conference. The SEC is kicking off its new season on Sept. 26, three weeks later than previously scheduled. It has built in a mid-season bye week for each team (spread over a three-week stretch, according to commissioner Greg Sankey), and there is a shared off week of Dec. 12 for any games interrupted by virus outbreaks (there almost certainly will be some). They’ve also pushed the championship game back to Dec. 19.

Where it all starts, though, is putting off play until that September 26 date, which looks to be later than any other conference, at least for now.  Andy Staples ($$) explains what might be the thinking behind that choice.

By starting on Sept. 26, administrators at SEC schools can watch two full NFL game weekends to attempt to discern the best way to go about trying to play games. They also may get a look at some college games. Oklahoma and Kansas have scheduled non-conference games for Aug. 29 — pending any Big 12 scheduling decisions — and the ACC plans to start playing the same week as the NFL (that Saturday is Sept. 12). The delay will give SEC leaders more data to make an informed decision about how exactly the season should work or if it should start at all.

Also,

… During an interview on The Paul Finebaum Show, Sankey suggested that the surge of students returning to campus next month was a big reason why. “Over the last two weeks of August, we are going to have tens of thousands of people back on our campuses. We need to make sure that happens and happens well,” he said.

The league’s medical experts advised officials to delay the season to (1) monitor what happens in the professional leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA, etc.) and (2) account for spikes when students arrive on campus and football camp begins.

In other words, simply announcing a schedule doesn’t mean they’re out of the woods yet.

Besides that, though, the late start has its own set of issues.

Also, the league basically ran out of Saturdays, as Florida AD Scott Stricklin aptly put it Thursday during a news conference. The SEC is kicking off its new season on Sept. 26, three weeks later than previously scheduled. It has built in a mid-season bye week for each team (spread over a three-week stretch, according to commissioner Greg Sankey), and there is a shared off week of Dec. 12 for any games interrupted by virus outbreaks (there almost certainly will be some). They’ve also pushed the championship game back to Dec. 19.

That’s what killed the ACC rivalry games for most of the SEC East.  Sankey is hoping that they’ve created enough breaks in the schedule to provide schools with enough mid-season flexibility to weather any COVID storms that may come up, but that meant something had to give, as Stricklin noted.  Whether that actually works is something we’ll just have to wait and see.

So, it’s fair to say that one primary motivation for the league was to maintain as much control over the schedule as the pandemic might allow.  Another… well, you can probably guess another:

A conference-only slate accomplishes two other things that people haven’t discussed enough, both involving money. It provides television partners with juicy marquee conference collisions on a weekly basis and it supplies colleges with a potential way out of their “buy game” contracts. At least two SEC ADs tell SI that their contracts feature a clause allowing them to void the deal if the league office changes the scheduling format. This is significant, as these “buy games” can cost schools upwards of $3 million in a single season. That’s not to say these games against Group of 5 and FCS teams won’t be rescheduled for later in the decade. It’s to say these teams (barring a court battle, which is possible) won’t immediately get their money.

Hardly surprising.

Which brings me to the final topic of this post.  And it’s got real potential to be a mess.

Screenshot_2020-07-31 (1) Brandon Marcello on Twitter Arkansas AD Hunter Yurachek says longtime SEC administrator Mark Woma[...]

Mess might be too low key a description there, now that I think about it.  Unleash the SEC-‘Bama conspiracy talk!

Marcello writes that the conference already has a few scenarios gamed out.

The Southeastern Conference has already set its schedule.

Now it’s just a matter of which of several versions the league’s 14 athletic directors will approve in the coming days, an industry source told 247Sports on Thursday.

“Schedules are ready,” the source said. “Just have to decide which one the conference ants to use.”

There are more than three models up for discussion among the SEC’s athletic directors. The athletic directors are scheduled to meet Friday, but it’s not clear if they will vote at that time, a separate SEC source said.

Staples speculates about meshing money and scheduling:

If the SEC wanted to improve its television product to ensure the biggest possible payout from partners ESPN and CBS — remember, no one is worried about selling out stadiums this fall — then Georgia (which plays Alabama and Auburn but not LSU) would get LSU added to the schedule and Florida (which plays LSU but not Alabama or Auburn) would get the Iron Bowl duo added to its schedule. That would create the most optimal matchups from a national viewership standpoint, but it also would righteously tick off the people at the league’s best programs because they drew the toughest matchups. Expect a more egalitarian distribution of games, even if that isn’t necessarily the best thing for the bottom line.

Egalitarian, eh?  All I can say about that is this had better be the hill Greg McGarity is prepared to die on.  If Georgia has to give up the Tech rivalry and doesn’t at least get a tougher Florida schedule out of the deal, that will not be a happy outcome for me.

49 Comments

Filed under SEC Football

49 responses to “A few thoughts on the SEC’s scheduling call

  1. We’re going to get screwed in the scheduling discussion. You can bank on that. All of it will be done in the name of the greater good.

    The Occam’s razor solution to this would be to accelerate the next 2 rotating opponents on the home/away rotation. That would mean Arkansas at home and Mississippi State away.

    I still don’t understand why they didn’t go for 9+1 solution to preserve the year/end rivalries and form a 1-year alliance with the Big 12 and ACC. You could have played every one of those games the first week of the season and then entered conference play without compromising the bye weeks.

    Liked by 2 people

    • stoopnagle

      Per the above: by cancelling ALL OOC games, the schools have an out clause to not pay out for the cancelled “buy games”. That is, we gave up COFH so as to have a reason to not pay ETSU and ULM. If we kept one OOC game, then, by my reading, those out clauses (should they exist) may not be triggered.

      Liked by 1 person

      • HiAltDawg

        As much as I hate us losing a free ass kicking to put on Tech, Tech getting the chance at an extra home game pisses me off. Maybe they will schedule Mercer or KSU and get punked!!!!

        Like

  2. KingMackeral

    My prediction:

    In the surge of student’s physically returning to campus (and subsequent 24X7 physical social interaction) will result in spikes in cases that affects a significant amount of players, Multiple games will be cancelled by November and the season will be called a wash-out.

    ED

    Like

    • PTC DAWG

      Yeah, kids gone get the Rona..with no symptoms…keep cancelling shit.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Atticus

      100% agree. This is a complete waste of time unless they are ok with the risk of cases.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jdawg108

        This; or the summer has raised our immune systems and lowered the intensity of the infections. Come fall it goes back to what it was when it started, and a couple of athletes die of it, statistically speaking. Easy to roll the dice when it’s someone else’s money on the table.

        Like

    • Starbreaker

      I am of the same mind on this. The fact that everything hinges on college aged males on campus expected to social distance/wear masks and not take risks sounds…unrealistic, at best. I would be surprised if the opening weekend even materializes, as I think the other conferences will already be seeing cancelled games and all teams will have a surge in players with the virus. Having said that, the idea of a 10 game SEC-only schedule made me momentarily excited…would be fun to watch.

      Liked by 3 people

    • I think the (not totally unreasonable) thought is to get them back to campus, prepare for the inevitable surge, but use the delayed time to get a handle on campus wide behavior and the sort of player bubble / isolation dynamics. Then hopefully you can scare enough students into “no football season” off that initial surge and get them to mask up….. The recovery period has gotten down to about 10 days or so. The science is more refined and, at least in theory, we have time for a quick surge and recovery……which is probably a pipe dream, but maybe the initial shock will make all these little assholes put on a mask. They’ll have time to do things like maybe cancel fraternity parties, etc., and make other campus wide changes over the first month as they are able to contact trace spread and behavior. If it were all kicking off at the same time, it’d be guaranteed to fail.

      At least this way, you can maybe protect the team better, refine your bubble ops and already have a “curve flattening” going on within the UGA sphere.

      Like

      • stoopnagle

        This is close to my thinking. All speculation, of course, but I would alter it somewhat. Residence halls open on Aug 16th and, as far as I can tell, Rush is still on. That moves the timeline up a bit IMO. Classes start the 20th. By Labor Day we could see spikes in cases (if testing can get beefed up — how are we 7 months into this and still so far behind the testing curve?) and shortly thereafter UGA could go full remote again. That could happen fully 2-3 weeks before the first game. In that scenario, we can isolate the players in a bubble, they won’t have to go to class, and most of the students will go home (which presents some problems, albeit not football related). Kirby and crew have apparently got the social isolation part down. I’m thinking if we get through August without significant cases in the program, then the above would give football season a chance.

        Like

        • Insanity that they are still going to do rush in the fall. Jesus, just move it to the spring like many many schools. If the campus is actually doing its part to control the pandemic, there will be no point in freshman joining greek letter orgs this fall. The time for getting to truly know hundreds of new people is, unfortunately, not right now.

          Now look, I’m a reasoned person….if this crap still hasn’t let up by spring but we don’t have a whole bunch of campus serious illness, then you probably have to just dive back into life. That’s basically a year of pandemic life. But goddammit, how fun are your fall parties going to actually be if they cancel football ?

          Like

  3. 79Dawg

    I think it was Stewart Mandel that had a tweet last night to the effect of, “Once fans see a 10-team conference schedule, the cupcakes are gone forever” – can only hope he’s right, but I have my doubts…

    Liked by 2 people

    • How many “cupcakes’ continue to have football?

      Liked by 1 person

    • Reverend Whitewall

      Yeah I made a Comment about this on a post further down. I think it depends on who you cheer for. I’m not sure Vandy/Purdue/etc fans would be interested in the cupcake games going away. It would make bowl appearances for those teams few and far between.

      Like

      • Do fans (as opposed to coaches &admins) actually give a shit about bowl games other than a couple and maybe the playoff ? Maybe Vandy fans do, I guess that’s understandable, but for my money I don’t get why some folks (not uga fans really) are so tuned in to the bowl scenario and its destination as some sort of Promise Land that the regular season should be sacrificed for. A HUGE regular season game is more fun than even the modern sugar bowl IMO.

        So I actually pull for Memphis (where i live) and they have a sizeable portion of their fanbase that fully supports the dumbing down of the schedule and playing as few Power 5 teams as possible, lest it screw with the opportunity to…..play a Power 5 team in a bowl. So a program that used to play a ton of SEC west teams on a regular basis (and occasionally knock of a few), has fans that prefer to not take on that challenge, lest it screw with their opportunity to maybe…possibly… not necessarily play Penn State in the cotton bowl. I want to pound my head against the wall.

        Like

    • mp

      Coaches care. Administrators care. 2-3 free wins increase bowl probability immensely for all those mediocre teams. Justifies their pay.

      Like

  4. Runlindsey

    Our AD is NOT the man for the job. (That said, I do think it was important to keep TWLOCP in Jacksonville…..not sure why all the angst over that I read on here yesterday…). For whatever reason, be it the concept of greater good or just because he has no backbone, when it comes to protecting and even promoting our program, he is weak as a kitten. I’m not seeking an unfair advantage, but maybe just an advocate in the room? I guess we will all find out together.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ben

      After playing Auburn on the road back to back a few years ago (and the November matchup going now), McGarity is not the bulldog (sorry for the pun) that we need as an AD. He’s a money counter, and he fell into the Smart hire, but when it comes to making sure we don’t get screwed either on traditions or competition, you can bet on him giving the conference what they want.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. PTC DAWG

    I like the idea of UGA/UF both playing Bama/LSU and AU…tee it up.

    Like

  6. Castleberry

    If he dies on the hill and loses, I’d be ok with that.

    How many times you think we’ll play at Auburn?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Russ

      Well, I’m sure the SEC would appreciate it if we could play at Auburn this year. Of course, we’ll get back to the regular schedule next year…when we play at Auburn.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. ApalachDawg aux Bruxelles

    If there is a season, I predict it won’t start until the end of October or November.
    Just about every kid I know(including my own) that went to Athens this summer came back with Covid…now fast fwd with all students back on campus and you have your own private mini pandemic. No way they start in Sept.

    Like

  8. I have pretty mixed emotions over all of this and don’t know whether to be excited, disappointed, or pissed.

    Like

    • Dude, I think it’s ok to be all 3.

      Excited that the Handbags are probably getting Alabama at a minimum.
      Disappointed that we didn’t at least have the guts to cast a protest vote like South Carolina did
      Pissed that we’re losing a game that’s been played every year since 1924.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Otto

        Agreed and the 2 extra SEC games should be the next 2 in rotation.

        I was excited for CFB to return but now the changes maybe such that my dislike of an expanded playoff may become real. I have been posting less on here as my interest in the game is fading.

        Part of me is hoping the season is called off, and next year we reboot like 2020 never happened.

        Like

  9. Rocketdawg

    If the Turds don’t end up with a tougher schedule out of this I am going to be livid. Especially if we end up with LSU

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Corch Irvin Meyers, New USC Corch (2021)

    Senator, being willing to die on any hill means he would do ANYTHING to stand up to the SEC in Georgia’s best interests.

    When has that useless, milquetoast, factotum DAMN BAD DAWG ever done ANYTHING that is in our best interest? When has that piece of shit spineless politician every done ANYTHING that proves he is willing to stand up to anyone anywhere about anything?

    Yes, it’s true… that man has no dick.

    Like

  11. Dylan Dreyer's Booty

    For the longest time, I assumed the SEC didn’t have a clue and that they were just kicking the can down the road. The Staples article made it clear, that they were kicking the can down the road, but for a good reason; i.e., to benefit from the experience of the NFL and see how that worked and that explains why they put the start date off until 9/26/2020 – there is no reason to do that except to learn from the NFL (and other college teams that don’t wait). So, I am pleasantly surprised that there was in fact some thought behind the delay. I am old enough to recall when we played a 10 game season beginning in late September (you couldn’t even stand in lines at the Coliseum and register for classes until about the 20th of September), so this is pleasantly nostalgic for me. If it works, so much the better, but I am still not predicting that it will work. I do think it gives us the most information we can get in order to make it work.

    I am not going to bitch about the schedule until I see what it actually is. Florida better play Bama, though. Hopefully, the week before they play us. 😉

    Like

  12. W Cobb Dawg

    If Kirby has learned anything since taking the HC job, its to never give Greg Mediocrity any space to f*#k things up. So I’m guardedly hopeful we come out okay on this.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. stoopnagle

    In case you’re wondering, here’s a link to the cross-divisional rotation games planned out to 2025.

    I look at that and think about travel. Florida going all the way to College Station and Arkansas coming all the way to Athens, Missouri at Auburn… not to mention we’re going about as far in-division as we can already to Mizzou and Kentucky. Is there a chance that they have one schedule which minimizes travel for all the teams? One where Auburn and Bama are playing more East teams and Vandy and Mizzou more west? I don’t know, just wondering “out loud.”

    Like

  14. FlyingPeakDawg

    Unable to make the math work, the SEC elects to have Bama play themselves 10 times in their own division and advance to the championship game. #bamaconspiracy

    Liked by 1 person

  15. This season, God willing and the creek don’t rise, may be one for the ages. It’s like someone invented ribs with only meat. Not that reconstituted meat like on a McRib* sandwich, either. It’s like a rack of ribs with all the flavor of ribs, but you can cut into it like a steak.

    This is not intended in any way as a slight to the greatest fast-food menu item of all time. I’m just saying, no one would ever confuse a McRib patty with an authentic rack of ribs.

    Like

  16. UGA '97

    will be very interesting who we and gators play during bye week…

    Like

  17. 123fakest

    You’re high if you think more than two games will be played in 2020.

    It ain’t happening folks.

    Like

    • Baseball couldn’t make it a week!

      I stand by my idea that 4-6 exhibition games could have been played, allowing to keep the machine rolling. No playoffs. Maybe a ton of bowls. The second week games will be canceled and things will all go to hell…along with players sitting out, mailing it in..

      Like

      • The fact that baseball – which has the most powerful player-centric union in all professional sports – is playing on, and in fact is acting like it expected this all along, should suggest to you that there will most definitely be a season of footbaw.

        Like

  18. Well that’s an extreme hypothetical, but I’ll bite. Keep in mind, I’m not casting judgment on whether teams “should” do anything. I’m just predicting what will happen. In your extreme and unlikely scenario, no of course not. But there are three dates built into the calendar for make-up games. My guess is that before a big game between ranked opponents, you’re not going to see many positive tests. Likewise, as baseball nears its season’s end, and there are pennant races at stake, you won’t see all these positive tests then, either. Coaches and players play games with injury reports and concussion protocol all the time. Maybe I’m more cynical than you, but I imagine any symptom-free athlete who wants to play in a big game, will. And if you think there won’t be any creative testing and reporting protocol taking place during the season to ensure the best players are on the field in the biggest games, then like I said, you are less cynical than I am.

    Like

  19. Hobnail_Boot

    Spoiler alert:

    9/26 @ Alabama
    10/3 @ Auburn
    10/7 @ Auburn
    10/14 @ Auburn
    10/21 BYE
    10/28 vs. Florida, 3:30 CBS
    11/4 @ Auburn
    11/11 @ Auburn
    11/18 @ Auburn
    11/25 @ Auburn
    12/1 @ Auburn

    Like

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