You knew there had to be something on conference realignment, right?
Andy Staples is reporting ($$) that the SEC isn’t rejecting the concept of a nine-game conference schedule out of hand, which is either a magnanimous gesture on the part of Greg Sankey or (more likely) the short term way of dealing with the pressure ESPN is bringing in return for paying out more money to its broadcast partner.
Staples says there’s another financial consideration in play.
Administrators want a more frequent rotation of conference opponents to excite potential season ticket buyers. With Oklahoma and Texas coming into the league, no one wants to have to wait five or six years to see the Sooners or Longhorns in their stadium.
I’m sure the majority of conference coaches are all onboard with that. Bottom line, though, it’s a business move and you don’t make those if money doesn’t trump all. (In other words, tough luck, coach.)
Answering the eight/nine question is just the first scheduling step the conference has to take. Who plays whom comes next. Besides the pods vs. divisions talk we’ve heard, Staples says there’s another option that’s getting some traction, a three-permanent-opponent format.
Each team would have three opponents that it played annually. The other 12 opponents would rotate through twice every four years. So a player who spends four years at a school would get to play in every stadium (except at schools that play neutral-site rivalry games). The original suggestion for the current 14-team lineup was to do this with an eight-game schedule, which also would have allowed the other opponents to rotate through twice every four years. Adding a ninth game allows for a full rotation every two years with the 16-team league.
He calls that the cleanest option, but I imagine there would be some pretty fierce infighting over which schools get stuck with ‘Bama and which schools lobby for Vanderbilt.
I still think sticking with divisions and moving Alabama and Auburn to the East is the path of least resistance, but I’m not Greg Sankey.