SEC MEETINGS PREVIEW

Nine-game football slate draws detractors

First in a series of stories by Josh Kendall, previewing the key issues at next week’s SEC meetings in Destin, Fla.

jkendall@thestate.comMay 20, 2013 

THE ISSUE: NINE CONFERENCE GAMES

Almost a year after they planned to set the future football schedule model for the conference, the SEC’s administrators once again will talk scheduling next week as presidents, athletics directors, football coaches and basketball coaches from all 14 schools meet in Destin, Fla.

There are several options, the most contentious of which is adding another conference game, meaning each team would play nine SEC games instead of eight each year. The addition of another conference game would mean another must-see game each year for most fans and eventually put more money in the pockets of the conference and TV executives because it would certainly mean more dollars in media rights deals.

Schools who are fighting the in-home experience to sell tickets also would welcome replacing an out-of-conference game with a conference game.

Many coaches, though, don’t like the prospect of a playing another big boy game, and the change, while it would help the strength of schedule, might cost an SEC team a spot in the upcoming College Football Playoff.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner told the school’s flagship radio station that “only a couple” schools in the conference are for the change, but Alabama is one of them and the Crimson Tide have the bully pulpit at the moment. Alabama coach Nick Saban has pointed out the change would allow an SEC football player to play every team in the league at least once during a four-year career. The current scheduling model does not allow that.

Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier is not for the change, pointing out that his team — along with Georgia and Florida — already have what amounts to another conference game thanks to annual, instate rivalry games against ACC teams.

“I think most coaches like eight games,” Missouri’s Gary Pinkel said. “One of the reasons is that it’s such a tough league as it is. It would have a huge effect on your non-conference games. TV will have something to say about that also about what they would like.”

WHAT OTHERS ARE DOING

The Big Ten recently announced it will move from eight conference games to nine beginning in 2016. “We want to get out of the business of scheduling games that feel like scrimmages to our fans,” Michigan athletics director Dave Brandon said at the Big Ten meetings.

The ACC decided against the change last week at its conference meetings. “You can overschedule, too,” Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said in Amelia Island, Fla. “If your schedule’s too tough, it may give you two or three losses. You may be a heck of a team, but you’re not getting in at the end if you have two or three losses. There’s a balance. You want to have strength of schedule, but you don’t want your schedule so strong that throughout the course of 12 games you’re not going to win but eight or nine.”

The Pac-12, meanwhile, reportedly is considering going the other direction and moving from nine conference games to eight because its coaches feel playing an extra conference game puts them at a disadvantage against other leagues.

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