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How To Schedule A 13-Team SEC Football Season; And Have You Noticed That The SEC Hasn’t Officially Released Next Year’s Schedule?

If Texas A&M is voted in as a member of the Southeastern Conference and begins competing in football next fall, it appears that the league will have to figure out a way to squeeze 13 teams into its current divisional format.

Why keep divisions?  As we’ve already stated once today, in order to hold a championship game, the NCAA requires a league to have at least 12 teams split into divisions.  Unless the SEC wants to petition the NCAA to change that rule, there’s little chance of having one big free-for-all league.  In the current set-up, if you want a title game, your league has to be split into divisions.

If divisions are a must, would the SEC just place A&M in the West Division?  Makes sense.  But we can’t imagine West schools would like the idea of having a harder road to Atlanta than their neighbors in the East Division.  Also, under the SEC’s current scheduling format, schools play every other team in their own division.  Would the league force West Division teams to play more league games than East Division teams.  It’s hard to imagine anyone in the West signing off on that even for a year.

Eventually, if the league does go to 14 schools, you can expect a nine-game conference schedule to emerge.  Coaches would howl.  Those of us in the media would shout that no SEC team would ever win another national title.

We’ve lived through that scenario once before.  In 1992, when the SEC split into divisions, went from six conference games all the way to eight, and added an SEC title game, league coaches suffered a collective conniption.  (Correction: SEC coaches complained as the league went from six to seven games in 1988 and then from seven to eight in 1992.)

“There’s no way we’ll ever win again with such a brutal schedule!”

And Alabama promptly went undefeated and won the national title in Year One of the new set-up.  Matter of fact, in 19 seasons of eight-game, divisional play the SEC has won nine national crowns (handed out to five different schools).  In the 19 seasons prior to 1992, the SEC had won just four national titles (and three of those went to Alabama).  The SEC went 11 seasons without a title before the tougher set-up.  It’s since won nine in 19 years.  The tougher schedule gave the league more credibility.

At any rate, the SEC currently uses a 5-1-2 format.  Each school plays five divisional foes, one permanent foe from the other division, and two rotating foes from the other division.  If the league were to expand to 14 schools and bring in another Western team, Auburn would likely move to the East and that would require the league to go to a 6-2-1 format.  Doing so would enable the league to preserve some longtime rivalries — namely Alabama-Tennessee — that might otherwise disappear.  If, however, a team is added from the Eastern part of the US, the league could go to a nine-game schedule and use a friendlier 6-1-2 format.  It all depends on who School #14 turns out to be (if there is one).

To recap:

1.  It’s unlikely the league would do away with divisional play.

2.  It’s also unlikely that West Division schools would agree to put themselves at a disadvantage by adding a team to their side of the ledger.

So how can the SEC add Texas A&M to the 2012 football schedule?

The best possible fix might be a single “transition” year schedule for the Aggies.  The key would be finding eight league schools — four from the East and four from the West, if the league wanted to keep things balanced — that would be willing to schedule the Aggies in what would amount to “non-conference” conference games.  A&M would get a full schedule and full share of SEC money, but they wouldn’t be eligible for a trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.  They would, however, be eligible for an SEC-connected bowl trip.  (And, yes, new bowl contracts will have to be drawn up once the league expands, too.)

Arkansas already has Texas A&M on the books for their rivalry game in Arlington, Texas next year.  That means the league would need to find just three teams in the West and four in the East willing to schedule A&M.  Sounds easy enough.

But what about the non-conference foes already locked on to SEC schedules next fall?  The schools adding A&M in this scenario would each have to buyout one non-conference foe from next year’s schedule.  Would they be willing to do that for the good of the league?  Would the SEC office be willing to kick in the cash to cover seven buyouts (a figure that would probably total about $7 million)?

Also, most SEC schools play the majority of their non-conference games early, leaving one spot later in the season for a homecoming dud (in most cases).  Could A&M find seven SEC dance partners and make sure all those games fell in such a way that the Aggies would have 12 games spread neatly over the NCAA’s 13-week season?

We wanted to examine next year’s schedules to determine which schools might best be able to finagle their schedules.  So we grabbed this year’s SEC Media Guide.  Usually one can find the current year’s schedules as well as upcoming year’s schedules right there in the guide.

But…

This year the SEC has not officially released its schools’ 2012 schedules yet.  Not in its media guide.  Not on its website.  Not on its schools’ websites.

In addition, every 10 years the SEC re-examines — and possibly re-works — the schedule rotation for non-division games.  This is the final season of the current 10-year rotation.  But to date the SEC hasn’t announced a new rotation of non-division foes either.

Why is all this interesting?  Because Texas A&M and the SEC have said that the Aggies first made contact with Mike Slive in late-July.  Yet the SEC has — for some reason — not released its 2012 schedules or even set its non-divisional rotations.

Again, it’s pretty standard for the SEC schedule to be put to bed early enough that it’s listed in all of the media guides and on all of the league’s websites by mid-July.  But that’s not the case this year.

Why it’s almost as though league officials knew that something might change.

Now, do we find it odd that in a year when the SEC looks to be bringing in a new school, the league has coincidentally been historically slow in its schedule-setting?  Uh, yeah.  We do.  (We’re sure the SEC will provide a perfectly good explanation for the delay, however.)

We also believe that it’s likely the league is — and has been — prepared to take the path of least resistance with regards to A&M’s 2012 schedule.  And that’s most likely an eight-game SEC schedule for A&M that doesn’t figure into the league’s standings at all.  For a year.  And that’s if the SEC doesn’t surprise us all with the announcement of a 14th school (or 15th or 16th) in the next few days.

After 2012, however, all bets are off.  Whatever the league does schedule-wise next season — with presumably a 13-school conference — will not be perfect.  It will be makeshift.  It will be a case of making lemonade out of lemons.  Or chicken salad… well, you get the picture.

If the SEC doesn’t have School #14 lined up for entry by the 2013 football season, then Slive’s office will have a bigger problem on its hands.  At that point, A&M will surely want a shot at Atlanta.  At that point, current league schools surely won’t want to play in a division that has seven teams when the other has but six.

For a 13-team 2012, there appears to be a solution.  Beyond that, who knows?

Good thing the SEC just happened to take such an unusually long time to announce its 2012 schedule.

 


35 comments
Don Stubblefield
Don Stubblefield

Using open dates and cupcakes on SEC team schedules:

Texas A&M

Sept. 8 - vs Vanderbilt

Sept. 15- @ Georgia

Sept. 22- vs Tennessee

Sept. 29- @ Arkansas

Oct.. 6 - vs Ole Miss

Oct.. 20 - vs Mississippi State

Oct.. 27 - @ Alabama

Nov.. 3 - vs Auburn

Nov.. 10- @ LSU

HoustonVol
HoustonVol

I think it is clear why the SEC has not pursued an 14th+ team yet. There may be a lot of free players in the marketplace that the SEC can scoop up. This will be an interesting September.

Brother Ben
Brother Ben

Six non-permanent rivalries begin next year:

Florida vs. Ole Miss
Georgia vs. Alabama
Kentucky vs. Arkansas
S Carolina vs. LSU
Tennessee vs. Miss St
Vanderbilt vs. Auburn

Texas A&M will just break up 4 of these games. So, they should play at least Arkansas and Kentucky. There is NO WAY, teams will buy out OOC foes. They will stick to an 8 game schedule for the next 10 years unless they go to 16 teams.

Alternatively (if you want to put them in the west), they can break apart 3 of these games and then break apart one SEC-West game (I picked Arkansas vs. Mississippi State). That way they have a MAC-style schedule and A&M can compete for the SEC Championship.

Here is an article outlining a 13-team schedule: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/829355-texas-a...

JbeTide
JbeTide

Utilizing the 8 game schedule in which A&M would play 3 of these pairs (the best three for marketability: FL v. Ole Ms, GA v. AL, and S. Car. v. LSU) and retaining Arkansas due to that proud rivalry. The only choice left would be to pick b/w Miss. St. and Auburn. The bleacherreport article gave as a reason the desire to keep the Aub. v. Ark. matchup rather than the Ark. v. Miss. St. matchup. I add that Auburn would be a tougher opponent to what would be an already difficult schedule.

Utilizing the open dates and "cupcakes" on SEC team schedules (of Stubblefield below ):

A&M's most demanding schedule for 2012 could be the following:

Sept. 8 - vs. Florida

Sept. 15- @ Georgia

Sept. 22- vs South Carolina

Sept. 29- @ Arkansas

Oct.. 6 - vs Ole Miss

Oct.. 20 - vs Mississippi State

Oct.. 27 - @ Alabama

Nov. 3 - v. non-conference opponent (I-AA)

Nov. 10- @ LSU

Nov. 17-v. non-conference opponent

Nov. 24-@ Texas

JbeTide
JbeTide

Add:

Dec. 1-v. non-conference opponent

JbeTide
JbeTide

Revised:

A&M's most demanding schedule for 2012 could be the following:

Sept 1- @ Florida

Sept. 8 - vs. non-conference opponent

Sept. 15- @ Southern Methodist

Sept. 22- vs. South Carolina

Sept. 29- @ Arkansas

Oct. 6 - vs. Ole Miss

Oct. 11- BYE-WEEK

Oct.. 20 - vs. Mississippi State

Oct.. 27 - @ Alabama

Nov. 3 - vs. Georgia

Nov. 10- @ LSU

Nov. 17-vs. non-conference opponent (I-AA)

Nov. 24-@ Texas

@dubbs12
@dubbs12

Why not schedule the Aggies to be a "member" of the West one season and a "member" of the East the next season, at least until a 14th team is settled on? The Aggies can play in the SEC title game and have a (long)shot at winning a national title.

Brother Ben
Brother Ben

Teams have to be placed in 1 division. They can slot A&M in the West, but give them a balanced schedule and disallow (or allow) them a chance at the SEC Title.

Oh, I saw you meant switching them after 1 year. Hopefully the SEC has a 14th team by then.

@Cougar_High
@Cougar_High

The MAC has been playing with 13 teams, 2 divisions, and each team playing exactly 8 conference games the last couple of years. Why can't the SEC use the same format especially since getting a 14th team isn't going to be as easy as Slive first thought it was.

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

Yeah, but who cares about the competitive fairness of the MAC? Most people in the MAC probably don't even care. There's no BCS title on the line either when they get results that aren't so favorable.

houstonvol
houstonvol

As far as TAMU not being happy with the inability to compete for a SEC cahmpionship the first year, that is partially their fault. They are the one that pulled the trigger on changing conferences, and made this a rushed marriage. If one year of "independence" is required, then that will have to work.

I find the Pitt to the B12 chatter interesting. If I was Pitt and willing to consider cahnging conferences, I would look at the SEC before going halfway across the country to join the B12. At least with the SEC, you would have the great basketball rivarly with Kentucky and would have schools to play in your own time zone.

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

houstonvol...

Agreed. We've mentioned Pitt as one of the four or five "realistic" candidates available at this point... if you believe the "gentleman's agreement" story. (We don't, by the way.)

Pitt is a tremendous school with solid football and basketball programs, but it doesn't fit the SEC profile as it's an urban school. With the exception of Vandy, the other 11 SEC schools are the biggest draws in their respective towns. Pitt would not be. So the "culture" thing might come up.

But on paper, I think Pitt would be much better off in the SEC than the Big 12.

John

Bulldog
Bulldog

Let the East have another really good year and they will all vote to do away with divisions as they have in basketball.

@capnken
@capnken

Note that you're incorrect about the growth of the SEC conference schedule. The conference didn't go from six to eight games in 1992; they had moved to a seven-game schedule in 1988.

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

@capnken...

Note that you're correct and we've made a change to the text above. The league did go from six to seven league games in 88 (with coaches complaining about the move) and then went from seven to eight in 92 (with coaches REALLY complaining about the move).

Many thanks for catching that... and for reading the site.

John

@neerraw
@neerraw

One option not mentioned is having the west division teams not play every team in the division for one year. So LSU would add A&M, but not play Mississippi State that year. Could make it where a tie-breaker has to be used to determine who gets to play in the championship game without head to head as an option. Similar to what the Big 10 did to determine who got to go to the Rose Bowl when they had 11 teams and undefeated co-champs, but this would be on the divisional level. Even with that as the plan, I think the odds are against a tiebreaker like that having to be used. It's definitely not the ideal situation, but it would work for one year until the 14th team is selected.

Erika Smith Jones
Erika Smith Jones

no offense but this is non-sense. no one is going to join the league and not be eligible for the championship. its n ot right, its not fair and texas a&m wont go for it. what you have described sounds like something the big 12 would come up with. we're all treated equally in the SEC and thats why the aggies are joining. theyre not going to play an SEC schedule "just for fun". if youre a member you play for the title. period.

Rob
Rob

I love your reading your work, but on an unrelated note, I can't see the SEC not having a 14th team lined up. They may be playing it safe, by saying that 13 will be okay, but it's hard to imagine that they don't have finding a 14th team at the top of their list of 'things to do'.

One thing you didn't mention is how A&M feels about your 13 team scenario. Specifically, would A&M be willing to endure the laughter they'll surely receive when their former peers find out that they're unable to compete for the SEC Championship, yet? Texans are a proud people, and while that may not be a problem for some schools, I can't see it working with Texas A&M.

Hopefully, the SEC will find a team from the East, so we can keep the 6-1-2 format. Thanks for enlightening me on how that would likely work and thanks for all the great work you put out here for SEC fans.

Jamie Thornton
Jamie Thornton

lol, hey, atleast we know. I would think the Aggies wouldn't be dumb enough to go this far and not know they have the 9 needed votes.

tate99
tate99

I think as a "Welcome to the SEC" in 2012 every team in the SEC should replace one cross-division game with a game against Texas A&M, and the Aggies would run the gauntlet of all 12 SEC rivals for the season with no OOC games. A&M wouldn't be eligible for the SEC championship game that first year; expectations would be very low given that they would have the toughest schedule in the country; and a respectable showing would be considered a huge success for A&M given that everyone would know they had the toughest schedule in the country. Plus it would draw a lot of attention, and it would be a great game each week watching A&M meet a new conference member. And imagine if the Aggies won a few games no one thought they would.

UofA72
UofA72

That would certainly insure the SEC would never get a 14th team. It would be fun to watch though.

Most schools have anti-hazing policies now. Maybe no one would notice. lol

Jamie Thornton
Jamie Thornton

does anyone have an idea how long it might be before the sec would announce texas a&m as it's 13th team? Or how they would do it?

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

Jamie Thornton...

With the SEC getting into action tomorrow night, it would be a surprise if anything was announced before next week. Also, there will still have to be a meeting -- or perhaps a conference call -- during which the league's presidents would vote in A&M.

And it could take a while -- who knows how long? -- for A&M and the Big 12 to reach a buyout agreement. Might have already happened, could take a couple of weeks.

So basically, an announcement could come anytime between tomorrow morning and Christmas. Big help, huh?

John

Lainey Cothran
Lainey Cothran

I think the SEC may go completely outside of the box with this schedule, and if a petition is needed, so be it. I'm thinking the end game is to have 3 playoff games: two qualifying games, with the winner of each proceeding to the SEC championship. The revenue for these extra two games would be substantial.

ShannyDeridan
ShannyDeridan

no chance that would happen thats just ONE MORE game you have to play as an SEC team that other conferences dont

if the SEC has a 2 game championship... thats 2 more games than the Big East or Big XII play, and 1 more than everyone else

So while Oklahoma runs the table and gets to be undefeated and in the title game, the undefeated SEC team still has to survive TWO additional games, which could cost injuries, fatigue, and of course a potential loss. that would put SEC teams at a disadvantage nationally and it wont happen b/c it just doesn't make any sense. We aren't gonna make the SEC even more difficult- its hard enough as it is

also, depending on who is in the SEC championship game, its not always a sell out. so its hard to imagine the semi finals being a sellout unless its a home game for somebody. not to mention trying to put together a game on a weeks notice- none of the logistics make sense. also if it were a down year and all four teams in the "playoff" had 2 losses... ratings would be pretty unspectacular

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

ShannyDeridan...

If the SEC thought it could make money off such a system, it could work. And it would bring college football closer to a playoff. And it would basically guarantee that an SEC team made the BCS title game every year. The SEC would underscore it's claim to being a mini-NFL.

As we wrote in this very piece, 20 years ago the idea of 8 conference games and a title game were unheard of. Now it's the norm.

John

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

If we are indeed heading for the superconference model then a lot of things are going to change. People may not like it, but the only constant is change. People will get used to whatever happens.

ShannyDeridan
ShannyDeridan

true- but this just seems almost over the top

maybe if there were 16 teams, but most of the "semi finals" would be rematches, and possibly the title game as well. on a down year a 2 loss team that wins the mini playoff is not going to go to the BCS championship game, unless its a really fluky year a la 2007

The only way I'd support something like this- would be if they cut down the SEC schedule to 7 or 8 scheduled opponents, then the last 2 conference games were the mini playoffs (and even the bottom teams were matched up according to how they finished the year, like flex scheduling i guess)

kind of like the SEC championship for basketball, last week of games is the "playoff" and you are matched up by seed. But only 2 of the games are for a trip to atlanta

so it would be kind of a playoff, kind of just a regular season game. but that way we wouldn't be putting ourselves at any more of a disadvantage than the other conferences

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

Lainey Cothran...

We actually pushed the idea of an SEC "semifinals" last year as a possible "next big thing" for the SEC. The NCAA would have to okay it -- and who knows if they would -- but it is a great outside the box idea.

Thanks for reading the site,
John

ShannyDeridan
ShannyDeridan

I can't imagine Alabama being one of the teams to add A&M for next season if they aren't forced to

Bama already opens the year in Dallas vs Michigan, we aren't gonna buy out of that one, and with that on the schedule I doubt we'd want to trade North Texas for A&M if we dont have to

What bothers me about the potential 9 game SEC schedule is the fact that it will most likely lead to the death of bigtime OOC games like LSU / Oregon, UGA / Boise, and Bama / Penn State (or Bama / Michigan) next year

with a 9 game SEC juggernaut you might as well just schedule 3 cup-cakes the other weeks if you want any chance at running the table...

so it will be VERY interesting to see how that impacts the future of annual OOC rivalries like... Florida / FSU, UGA / GT, SC / Clemson, and I guess now Texas A&M / Texas (if they are still gonna play)

Brother Ben
Brother Ben

The SEC won't go to a 9-game schedule until they at least have 14 teams, and even then they benefit more than other conferences from their current OOC scheduling, so a move to 9-games should be a ways away.

This article outlines a 13-team schedule: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/829355-texas-a...

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

I don't think it will effect traditional rivalries or at least not in the short term. Those type of annual OOC games are usually contracted for several years at a time so these teams should get several years with some experience at playing this kind of schedule. I don't think they'll change it when they have the next opportunity.

I have no idea how it will effect the other OOC games.

ShannyDeridan
ShannyDeridan

great article

this news has brought so many more questions than answers

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