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Bama’s Saban Not Backing Spurrier’s Division-Records-Only Plan

Oh, this story just won’t go away.

In January, a South Carolina trustee cooked up a plan for the SEC to adopt an NHL-like point system for counting wins within the league — one full point for a divisional win, one half point for a cross-divisional win.  That idea came and went.  Maybe because the SEC region is such a hotbed for professional hockey.

Steve Spurrier then came out last month and suggested that division games only should count toward determining division champs.  This would make the SEC the first major league or conference, college or pro to play games that didn’t really count in its standings.  South Carolina-Auburn last year — ultimately, the game that cost USC a trip to Atlanta — would have been nothing more than an exhibition when it came to the SEC leaderboard.

LSU’s Les Miles then came out in support of Spurrier’s plan.  Vanderbilt’s James Franklin did likewise late last week.

Now, if you read this site, you know that we’re part of the vocal majority who can’t imagine the league doing any such thing.  Even commissioner Mike Slive has said he would have a hard time conceiving a plan in which some SEC games meant more than others.  And Georgia’s Mark Richt said he didn’t think Spurrier’s plan would pass muster.  

(Perhaps this debate is another reason for the SEC to petition the NCAA to drop divisions as a pre-requisite for a championship game and to just go divisionless.)

As we’ve pointed out, there are scenarios possible under Spurrier’s plan that are much more troubling than what his Gamecocks went through last year.  Say Carolina (or LSU or Vandy) goes 7-1 in league play overall.  Subtract the two cross-divisional wins which are meaningless and the Cocks (or Tiger or Dores) would finish 5-1.  Now let’s say their loss comes to a divisional foe.  The foe wins the rest of its division games and thus holds the tie-breaker over Carolina (or LSU or Vandy).  But if that opponent drops its two cross-divisional games and finishes 5-3 in league play, don’t you suspect Spurrier (or Miles or Franklin) would quickly complain that the teams weren’t really 5-1 each… their team was 7-1 while the other guy’s squad was just 5-3.

At least Alabama’s Nick Saban seems to get it.  Like yours truly, he understands that opponents rotate year to year and what might be an easy schedule this year might not be next year: 
“I just think that’s one of those things that’s not always going to be controlled.  It’s not manipulated with who you play.  We have a rotation, we have to go through it. 

I think the other division games you play on the other side are important to our fans and there’s a lot of tradition involved in some of those games.  I think if you minimize the importance of those games, that wouldn’t be in the best interest of our league.”


The Tide coach went on to say that he would listen to Spurrier’s proposal in Destin in a few weeks.  Here’s hoping the majority of coaches and athletic directors agree with Slive and Saban and Richt rather than Spurrier, Miles and Franklin.  If they don’t, we’ll just be addressing this issue from a “change it back!” perspective the first time some team gets “jobbed” (in their view) by the new system.

Interestingly, many supporters of Spurrier’s plan say they favor it because it would create fair scheduling.  How long would it take, though, for cries of “Why do we have to play three tough games on the road while they get their toughest games at home” to ring out?

Not long.

There’s no such thing as a “fair” schedule.  Until the SEC mimics English soccer’s Premier League and everyone in the conference plays everyone else twice — home and away — there’s nothing even close.  And even then teams would still play on different dates.  Injury factors, weather factors, and discipline factors would all play a role in keeping schedules uneven.  ”You got ‘em when they were weak, but we played ‘em when they were healthy!”

Spurrier, Miles and Franklin can speak their minds in Destin.  But God help the league if they win over their fellow coaches and the ADs and the presidents and the commissioner.  We’ll guarantee you right now that such a change would only lead to more belly-aching from more coaches in the future.

SEC games that don’t actually count as SEC games?  Yeesh.



I understand the desire to have just divisional champs based upon divisional records and how that can work out poorly in certain circumstances but my solution is based upon the tie breaker rule.  let the divisional champ be based solely on the division record UNLESS there is a tie.  Instead of making the tie breaker head to head (obviously team A would say  we beat team B head to head but team B would say taht we beat team C and team A lost to team C), make the tie breaker based upon OVERALL conference record.  This puts a premium on division games but also the cross division games may factor in very heavily if needed.  What think ye?!  harv


"SEC games that don’t actually count as SEC games? Yeesh"


Do you even support having divsions (or conferences for that matter)?  Would you be in favor of the Big 12 counting both conference and non-conference games for determining their champion?  After all, each of the 10 teams are NCAA teams and each plays 12 games against NCAA opponents so why not count all 12 NCAA games?  You'd be likely to get the highest ranked team as your champion, after all.  Wouldn't it be awful for an 11-1 Oklahoma to lose out to a 9-3 Texas team because of a single bad day in Dallas? You might say they are non-conference games so they shouldn't count in the conference standings.  I say that in the SEC they are non-divisional games so they shouldn't count in the divsion standings.  It's not that foreign of a concept.


There are actually benefits to subdividing leagues or conferences in most cases.  For example, it is difficult to discern the relative merits of undefeated Auburn, Oklahoma, and USC teams that have zero common opponents.  It is actually possible to allow teams to win it on the field if they are playing in small enough subdivisions.  The winner of a round-robin in division play playss the winner of another round-robin division to determine the conference champ.  The conference champ plays another conference champ and before you know it there's only one team left.  Oh, wait - that's another topic.


"As we’ve pointed out, there are scenarios possible under Spurrier’s plan that are much more troubling than what his Gamecocks went through last year. ..."  Those scenarios are only troubling if you subscribe to the conference record being more important.  You don't need to make up hypotheticals.  If you look at the 6 existing examples I provided in the Miles story, I think you might find 3 that you would consider "troubling" per your standards.


"Mike Slive has said he would have a hard time conceiving a plan in which some SEC games meant more than others" - I understand that one win equals one win and one loss equals one loss in the standings but the reality is that those games are already of less importance.  This is because of the tiebreaker system (with head-to-head being the foremost tiebreaker).  FWIW, of the 40 SEC divisional races, the results of interdivisional games have changed the divsion winner only 6 times (vs. what the proposed plan would have produced.  I posted details of those scenarios the Miles endorsement story).  So, interdivsional games affect the divion winner in about 15% of cases.


. "There's no such thing as a fair schedule ..."  - Essentially, your argument is that a fairer method shouldn't be pursued because it can't be made perfect.  I don't follow that logic.


Didn't we just have this discussion like "Yesterday".  Well, I guess it's "Yesterday Once More".  I guess "We've Only Just Begun" and  "It's Going To Take Some Time" to work through this issue until there's "A Kind of Hush".  Then, I guess you'll be "On Top of the World".


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