Sixteen games or 18? What about 19? Divisions or no divisions? What about brand new divisions?
These are some of the topics being kicked around by the SEC’s transition committee regarding the league’s basketball schedules for 2013-14 and beyond. The chair of the committee — former MSU AD Larry Templeton — and others around the league have already confirmed that next year’s transitional slate will feature 18 games without divisions. But what about the long-range plan?
In our view, an 18-game slate is the best model for the league moving forward as well.
Below, you’ll see an example of what we call the 4-1-8 plan for SEC scheduling. This layout would give each SEC school four permanent home/away rivals (meaning two games per season against each), one rotating home/away rival (meaning that eventually, everyone would have a season featuring two games against top draw Kentucky, for example), and one game against each of the remaining eight league teams.
There would be no divisions. Each team would play nine home games and nine road games. If structured correctly, most of the oldest basketball rivalries in the league would be protected and the newest members of the SEC would be given more games against nearby schools in order to develop rivalries.
Keep in mind, nothing is fair. Unless all 13 teams play each other twice, someone will always think that his school is getting it rougher than another school. Also, success is cyclical. Twenty-five years ago, who would have projected that Florida would become a two-time national champ in basketball? Ten years ago, who would’ve predicted Tennessee’s fast rise and subsequent fall? Complaining about a schedule being too easy or too difficult makes little sense long-term. Give it time and things change, just as the power has shifted from the SEC East to the SEC West and back over time.
With all that in mind, we created a schedule to show you exactly how a 4-1-8 rotation might look. We’ve attempted first and foremost to protect the league’s most-played rivalries. In fact, each current league member has been given its two oldest rivals as permanent home/away foes each season. In some cases, we were able to protect three or even four of a school’s oldest rivalries.
We knew that Arkansas, South Carolina, Texas A&M and Missouri — having less history in the league — would be difficult to schedule for, but in the end we think all four schools would be happy with the set-up we’ve designed.
So let’s get into it…
It’s our belief that the following year-in, year-out, home/away rivalries for each school should be protected (or in some cases created) as Permanent Foes. The number beside each foe is the number of times two current members of the SEC had played against one another entering this season:
|School||Permanent Foe 1||Permanent Foe 2||Permanent Foe 3||Permanent Foe 4|
|Alabama||MSU (186)||UM (168)||AU (143)||UT (138)|
|Arkansas||UM (68)||LSU (51)||TAM||MU|
|Auburn||UGA (175)||UF (156)||ALA (143)||TAM|
|Florida||UGA (201)||AU (156)||VU (121)||USC (59)|
|Georgia||FLA (201)||AU (175)||UT (144)||USC (96)|
|Kentucky||UT (212)||VU (178)||USC (53)||MU|
|LSU||UM (200)||MSU (200)||ARK (51)||TAM|
|Miss. State||UM (243)||LSU (200)||ALA (186)||MU|
|Ole Miss||MSU (243)||LSU (200)||ALA (168)||ARK (68)|
|S. Carolina||UGA (96)||UF (59)||UK (53)||VU (48)|
|Tennessee||UK (212)||VU (179)||UGA (144)||ALA (138)|
|Vanderbilt||UT (179)||UK (178)||UF (121)||USC (48)|
Now here’s what such an unbalanced plan would do for each program:
Alabama — protects four of five most-played rivalries
Arkansas — protects two most-played rivalries and provides two games each year against bordering Missouri and old SWC rival Texas A&M
Auburn — protects three of four most-played rivalries
Florida — protects three of five most-played rivalries
Georgia — protects three most-played rivalries
Kentucky — protects two most-played rivalries and provides two games each year against bordering Missouri
LSU — protects two most-played rivalries and provides two games each year against Arkansas and Texas A&M
Miss. State — protects three most-played rivalries
Missouri — provides two games each year against bordering Arkansas and bordering Kentucky, plus two against Big 12 rival Texas A&M, and two per year against MSU (a five-hour drive from Southeast Missouri)
Ole Miss — protects three most-played rivalries
S. Carolina — protects four of five most-played rivalries
Tennessee — protects four of five most-played rivalries
Texas A&M — provides two games each year against Big 12 rival Missouri, old SWC rival Arkansas, and LSU.
Vanderbilt — protects two most-played rivalries
Now, let’s say for 2013-14, the following schools are Rotational Foes for home/away games:
Alabama — LSU
Auburn — Miss. State
Arkansas — Tennessee
Florida — Kentucky
Georgia — Vanderbilt
Missouri — Ole Miss
S. Carolina — Texas A&M
Using the 4-1-8 MrSEC.com Plan for 2013-14, the home/away league rivals would be as follows (with the other eight SEC teams to be faced once at home or on the road):
Alabama: Miss State, Ole Miss, Auburn, Tennessee and LSU + 8 others
Arkansas: Ole Miss, LSU, Texas A&M, Missouri and Tennessee + 8 others
Auburn: Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Texas A&M and Miss. State + 8 others
Florida: Georgia, Auburn, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, and Kentucky + 8 others
Georgia: Florida, Auburn, Tennessee, South Carolina and Vanderbilt + 8 others
Kentucky: Tennessee, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Missouri and Florida + 8 others
LSU: Ole Miss, Miss. State, Arkansas, Texas A&M and Alabama + 8 others
Miss. State: Ole Miss, LSU, Alabama, Missouri and Auburn + 8 others
Missouri: Texas A&M, Kentucky, Arkansas, Miss. State and Ole Miss + 8 others
Ole Miss: Miss. State, LSU, Alabama, Arkansas and Missouri + 8 others
S. Carolina: Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M + 8 others
Tennessee: Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Georgia, Alabama and Arkansas + 8 others
Texas A&M: Missouri, Arkansas, LSU, Auburn and South Carolina + 8 others
Vanderbilt: Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida, South Carolina and Georgia + 8 others
Now that’s a lot of typing and despite our double-checks and triple-checks, there might be a typo or two in there. If so, we hope you’ll chalk it up to a mistype rather than to a conspiracy against your favorite school.
A 4-1-8 format like this or close to this would enable the league to move forward while also preserving its history. And while a “balanced” schedule is a myth, the one we’ve put forth above would be about as close as one could get to a fair schedule based on league history.