While this Pete Thamel piece on SEC scheduling got some attention yesterday for this…
One idea certain to be discussed by SEC officials in Destin is the notion of the SEC creating, running and profiting from its own intra-SEC postseason. The most obvious model is an eight-team one, but there are others that will be discussed.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey stressed that no seismic change is imminent. But he did mention that an SEC-only playoff, in a variety of forms, was among the nearly 40 different models that SEC officials discussed at their fall meetings.
“As we think as a conference,” he told ESPN on Monday, “it’s vitally important we think about the range of possibilities.”
Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin echoed that notion to ESPN: “We have an incredibly strong league, one that will be even stronger once Oklahoma and Texas join. The focus should be on how we as a league use that strength to further position the SEC as we face new realities. Commissioner Sankey has encouraged our athletic directors to think creatively, and an SEC-only playoff is a different idea that we should absolutely consider an option.”
… I’m a little skeptical that rates as anything more than a less than subtle reminder to the conference’s peers that the SEC has too much leverage to ignore in the battle to define the CFP’s future format.
What I did find more interesting was one of the options Thamel writes is on the table as Sankey and his member schools debate how to structure regular season scheduling once the expansion to 16 schools occurs.
1 and 7: If the SEC sticks with eight league games, this model would be best for the overall exposure and variety of league games, which Sankey values. (More Texas vs. Alabama and less of annual Georgia vs. Kentucky matchups.) Teams would get one rivalry game that’s played every year — think Auburn and Alabama or Oklahoma and Texas — and then rotate through the other seven. The eight-game schedule would be better suited to the current four-team playoff system, as it allows for the customary cushy SEC non-league game late in the season. When there’s a four-team playoff, there’s little margin for error, and that could bring hesitation to play more league games and risk missing out on a CFP spot.
I know a lot of the conventional wisdom out there from people who are better connected to the decision makers than I’ll ever be is that the SEC is a lock to go to a nine-game conference schedule, but I still have this nagging feeling that there are plenty of coaches and ADs who would prefer to stick with the current eight-game format. Bowl eligibility drives some of that, but Thamel may also have a point about the CFP there.
If all that’s true, the 1 and 7 format leaves a lot to be desired for some fan bases. Georgia, of course, would lose the Auburn annual rivalry. I have no idea what school South Carolina would be paired with permanently, as it wouldn’t be UGA.
On the other hand, the Vols would love the 1 and 7, as they’d lose Alabama as an annual opponent and keep Vandy.
What do y’all think?
UPDATE: Ross Dellenger confirms the gist of Thamel’s story.
A week before the league’s leaders gather in Destin for their annual spring meetings, the 35 has been cut to two: an eight-game format where teams play one permanent opponent and seven rotating opponents (1–7 model); and a nine-game format where teams play three permanent opponents and six rotating (3–6).
While most officials feel strongly that divisions are likely gone, and a pod system first floated out in the fall has been eliminated, the conference is virtually split on what to do next: eight conference games or nine? With this issue—and so many others—the SEC is divided mostly on revenue-generating lines.
Now there’s a surprise.
… For instance, an eight-game model would allow every team in the league an additional fourth nonconference game to, some might say, pick up a needed victory—something the bottom teams need more than their big brothers.
And what do their big brothers want? To make the league more valuable than it already is by increasing the number of inner-conference matchups. A property that is already incredibly valuable could be made more valuable.
“We have to do what’s in the best interest of the league,” says one SEC administrator. That’s why the big boys might get their way. Most feel like at the end of this debate, the SEC will be playing a nine-game conference schedule in a 3–6 model.
Dellenger writes that the pro-nine group has offered a compromise to the others.
Already, there is compromise from one group to the other in regard to the three permanent opponents. In several versions of the permanent opponents floating around the league, it appears that the top eight teams would play two of their three permanent games against fellow top eight teams. They’d get two tops and one bottom. The bottom eight would get two bottoms and one from the top half.
It’s times like these when I can’t help but wonder what McGarity would do if he were still the AD. Probably offer for UGA to play three top tier opponents annually, because, McGarity.