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More Complaints About SEC Hoops Scheduling, But Nothing Can Be Done Now

A quick rundown on how things in the media cycle work:


* Coach says X.

* Media members ask local coaches about X.

* Some local coaches — not all, but some — discuss X.

* Media members now have a column topic for days on end… good ol’ Topic X.


That’s what’s happening now with complaints about the SEC’s basketball schedule.  Kevin Stallings got the ball rolling, pointing out that Kentucky is not having to play a Thursday-Saturday turnaround for the second year in a row.

Billy Donovan then said that some teams like Alabama — coached by his old friend Anthony Grant — are at a disadvantage having to play on a Thursday night and then early on a Saturday.  (Agreed.)

For his part, Grant simply said, “It is what it is.”  But Mississippi State’s Rick Stansbury also says the league needs to make the schedule balanced for everyone.  “You all research where Kentucky’s at,” he said.  (Auburn and LSU also avoided Thursday-Saturday matchups this year, but no one seems to mention them.)

On the media front, columnist Kevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News — one of the SEC’s top scribes, by the way — went so far as to say that the current set up “is patently unfair.”

As for the fans, well, many fans are always up for a good conspiracy theory and if it’s possible in any way — right or wrong — to say that their team is getting screwed, they’ll say it.

So the SEC office is under fire.  A better schedule, equal to all must be created!

A good goal, no doubt.  But an impossible one to reach.  There are 12 teams — soon to be 14 — having to play 16 games — soon to be 18 — over the course of nine weeks.  That’s tricky enough.  But ESPN is also paying the league $155 million a year to get top-flight games and top-flight games usually involve Kentucky.

So just as there are more Alabama, Florida and LSU football games at 3:30 on Saturdays (which leaves the Kentuckys, Mississippis and Vanderbilts to play at 11am in syndication, at 9pm on ESPNU, or on Thursdays), in basketball there will be more Tuesday and Saturday night games featuring UK.

I’m not saying it’s right.  Don’t put words in my mouth.  I’m just not a fan of whining over things that will never be viewed as being fair to all.  In a nine-week schedule, for example, it would be awfully difficult to line up all 14 teams for Thursday-Saturday games.  Someone will always complain.

A “fair” schedule is a myth.  Fairer?  Okay, go for it.  Here’s hoping that the league can come up with a plan that makes all coaches happy (good luck) and ESPN happy as well.

But if that’s going to happen, it won’t occur during the current basketball season.  Mike Slive isn’t going to start shuffling game dates on January 25th.  To bark, bitch and moan now is to waste energy and to shine a bad light on the league itself.

A better option?  Slive might want to contact the league’s presidents and have them encourage their coaches to pipe down on the “what about Kentucky?” talk until the SEC convenes its spring meetings in Destin.  The coaches will be there.  The ADs will be there.  The commissioner and the schedule-makers will be there.  Save the airing of grievances for Destin (or Festivus). 

At that point, everyone’s voice can be heard and the media — folks like me — won’t be around to rant and rave that School X is getting jobbed… which only leads some fans to believe the whole league is somehow against their favorite school.  (And trust me, dealing with all 12 schools, I know that fans of all 12 truly believe Slive and the SEC have it in for them and them alone.)

In 2009, Slive had to start tossing out fines to coaches who fired barbs at one another or at the conference’s officials.  (That’s standard operating procedure in most conferences and pro leagues.)  Perhaps it’s time he put forth the same kind of edict regarding schedule moans.

If the commissioner doesn’t do that, then we’re probably going to continue to hear this topic right on up through March.  When there’s absolutely nothing that can be done about it before the SEC Meetings anyway.

Fix it, find a solution, please all.  But until the league’s in a position to do so, its coaches should start adhering to the same words so many of them have for their players: “No excuses.”

 


7 comments
Dynamite fan
Dynamite fan

One thing in all of your Hate-Stallings articles you seem to omit is. It wasn't him that brought up the UK scheduling advantage to begin with. He was asked to comment on it. Add to that this is a Quote from him. "It's not Kentucky's fault," Stallings said. "They're going to do what we're doing; they're going to play their games when they're scheduled. So it's not a Kentucky issue. It's an issue with the league office, and I understand that television dictates certain things, and that's fine. But in stead of pointing those facts out it's easier to call him a whinner. Donovan is saying the same things after being asked to comment on it yet he gets a Big "pass".

Andy
Andy

It's not just avoiding playing in the Thursday/Saturday games, which everybody understands is about tv and Kentucky is/will be the main basketball draw in the conference. It's also getting to play a team coming off the Thursday game more than anyone else in the league. Like you said, nothing can be done about it now but if Stallings and Donovan don't bring it up publicly, probably nothing gets changed for next year.

Chris
Chris

Really John! I agree there is nothing that can be done about it now, but to suggest that the coaches should just keep their mouts shut or be fined is a little overboard. If the coaches bite their lips until the offseason, no fans will be listening then. Without fans listening, there will be no additional pressure applied to the league. I am not saying the current schedule is fair or it isn't. I am saying that if change is desired, the coaches are playing their cards perfectly. Without additional pressure from the outcry of fans, the probability of significant discussions and potential change at the spring meeting would be considerably less.

Mattox
Mattox

Kentucky had a Thursday/Saturday tilt scheduled and then CBS moved the Kentucky @ Florida game to Sunday.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

Dynamite fan...

Sure. Must be because I LUUUUUUUUV Florida and Donovan and HAAAAAATE Vandy and Stallings.

I'm so worried that you've seen through my obvious pro-Gator, anti-Commodore bias.

John

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

Andy...

I don't think that's true. If every coach in the league squawks about it in Destin, the league will have to respond as best it can. The public won't have a thing to do with it. Trust me, Mike Slive feels no pressure from the messageboard/talk radio crowd or else Missouri would still be in the Big 12 and the SEC's officials would be replaced on a weekly basis.

Thanks for reading,

John

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

Chris...

The coaches don't need to apply pressure via the fans. The coaches -- more accurately, the schools -- ARE the SEC. Mike Slive works for the presidents and the schools. If the schools demand a fairer schedule, the SEC office has to provide it, if it can.

There's no need for public suggestions that the league is favoring one school over another. And if the commish was ready to hand out fines to protect the league's image when it came to coach-on-coach and coach-on-ref barbs, I don't see how it's that big of a leap to do the same for coach-on-schedule-makers barbs.

This should've been talked about when the schedule came out or it should be discussed when something can be done about it at the SEC Meetings. To talk about it now is bad for business. And as I pointed out in the piece, when it's done publicly, it also appears to be excuse-making. What message is that sending to the players?

Many thanks for reading the site,

John

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