Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel opened up with The Columbia Tribune regarding the Tigers’ switch from the Big 12 to the SEC this weekend the result is a long, interesting Q&A. From recruiting and facilities to style of play, Pinkel explains his views of what’s changing and what’s not.
He also tackled Mizzou’s division placement — in the East — and the league’s plan to maintain an eight-game conference schedule:
“Well, traditionally, if you look over a 20-year period of time, there’s a lot of teams that have won in the (East). Tennessee, Florida, Georgia. Right now, with the situation it is, it’s a really good league. It’s kind of like our league was this year. You’ve got to strap it on, you know? And you’ve got to have it every week. I like the way it’s designed. We play all six teams in our division. Our rival game is going to be Texas A&M, which is really important because it’s in Texas for us year in, year out. That’s really, really important to us. So I think it’s a real plus for us. And the way they do it, you go home and away for the other six teams over a 12-year period of time. So I might not even see some of those other places (in the West Division).
We’ll have four nonconference games, and I think that’s really important, too. This league, when you get into league play, strap it on. Okay? To be able to schedule is really, really important. They got it right there (with eight conference games.”
So says a coach. And there’s not a coach in the SEC who’ll likely want to see a nine-game football slate. But they will.
Eventually — as we’ve said time and again — the SEC will have to go to a nine-game schedule if it wants to maintain the rivalries that have made the league strong. It’s no coincidence that the SEC’s “golden age” begun when the league moved from six to seven and then to eight league games. If the league sticks at eight in a 14-school league, well, as Pinkel himself said: “I might not even see some of those other places.”
When Alabama might not see Georgia or a decade, you’ve got a problem. Ditto Auburn and Tennessee, Arkansas and Missouri, Georgia and LSU, etc, etc.
Eight will be the case next season. And it may be the case for a year or two longer. But by 2017, the Pac-12, ACC and Big Ten are all expected to be playing nine-game conference schedules. The Big 12 is already at nine, too. If other leagues are beating each other up while the SEC feasts on the Elons, Furmans, and Georgia States of the world, expect some of the national respect for the SEC to dwindle.
When Texas A&M re-upped with the Big 12 last summer and talk of the Aggies cooled, this website stated emphatically that A&M and the SEC made so much sense that the two would definitely still marry up at some point. A year later, that’s happened.
We’re just as sure that Mike Slive and the SEC presidents — coaches be damned — understand that fan passion is fed in large part by seeing the other teams in the league. The SEC has been at the forefront of every major good move in college football for 20 years. The powers-that-be would fail spectacularly if they allowed all other conferences to remain regional via rotating schedules while their own was basically split in two thanks to a fraidy cat, eight-game slate.