SEC administrator Larry Templeton, a former athletics director at Mississippi State whose official SEC title is consultant to the commissioner for television, has been instrumental in the process of building football schedules in the wake of Missouri and Texas A&M joining the conference. He answered several questions about future SEC schedules:
Q: How much more difficult is piecing together this puzzle of a football schedule with 14 teams?
A: It’s difficult just with 14 playing the eight-game schedule where you play everyone in your division, you play one permanent and you play one rotator from the other division. That’s hard enough, but our ADs, and rightfully so, they wanted to continue to honor the contracts we have with nonconference schools. I’m going to give you one example: In 2014, all four of Missouri’s nonconference games are in the first four weeks. Georgia, three of their four nonconference games are in the final four weeks. When you start looking at Georgia-Missouri, you’ve taken seven weeks already off the table for finding a place to put that game. That’s just two schools. We’ve got one other school that has four consecutive nonconference games to start the season and we have about half of our schools that have a nonconference game on the next-to-last weekend of the season. So, it creates some issues for us. But we’re going to try to protect all of those. We’re trying to move some nonconference games, but we’re not there yet.
Q: At the SEC spring meetings in Destin, the league decided to stay with an eight-game conference schedule for now. Any update on the eight vs. nine debate?
A: That’s where we are. I think that’s how we’ll move forward. We have a rotation developed for the eight-game schedule for the full cycle of everybody playing everybody home and away through 2026. But we can change that. That’s not that big of an issue.
Q: Where do things stand with permanent cross-division rivals?
A: When we took Texas A&M first, the decision was made they’d be in the West. The presidents made a decision when we accepted Missouri that they’d go to the East so that we’d be balanced with the same number of teams in the East and the West. The first two years of scheduling, because there were issues with our permanent opponents, we put a bridge schedule together … actually that didn’t have Missouri and Arkansas playing as permanents even though that’s the way we accepted it when we brought them in. Everybody understood the first two years would be a bridge schedule. But the (athletics directors) reaffirmed going forward with 14 in the future that Missouri and Arkansas would be in opposite divisions and be permanents. And South Carolina would be Texas A&M’s permanent. That’s where we are and that’s how we’re moving forward.
Q: From the league’s perspective, how important is it for Missouri to establish a rival in the SEC as it continues to make the transition into the conference?
A: The Southeastern Conference is made up of great rivalry games. It’s not only just the year-end in-state rivalries. Mississippi State and Alabama is a huge rivalry game. Auburn and Georgia is a huge rivalry game. Florida-Georgia is a huge rivalry game. It won’t take long for those two fan bases to not like each other. And the two institutions will develop a competitiveness not just in football but every sport we compete in. It’ll develop pretty quickly.