The SEC has announced that it will finally unveil its 2013 football schedule this afternoon at 3pm ET. That’s just the 2013 schedule, mind you. The league is still tackling the rotation issue for future years.
Yesterday a league official told The Birmingham News that due to the difficulties of setting up a 14-team, eight-game schedule, the rotation part of things is taking longer and leading to a number of issues. If the SEC decides to stick with such a plan then fans can expect — according to associate commissioner Mark Womack — the following:
* Some “permanent” cross-divisional rivalries may change. (In 2012, the permanent foes were: Alabama-Tennessee, Arkansas-South Carolina, Auburn-Georgia, Florida-LSU, Kentucky-Mississippi State, Missouri-Texas A&M, and Ole Miss-Vanderbilt. South Carolina is expected to become permanent partners with Texas A&M while Arkansas and Missouri will likely be paired together. We’ll have to see if other tweaks are made.)
* Once again, a few SEC teams might have to make return trips to the same foe in consecutive years. (This season, Missouri is playing at Texas A&M for the third year in a row while Mississippi State returned to Kentucky for a second consecutive season.)
* The rotation of cross-divisional foes won’t be even. In order for teams to see each other more often, the league is planning to stop rotating those opponents in two-year home-and-away cycles (as it’s done previously). And in order for everyone to have an even number of home games inside the conference each year, the intervals on those rotation changes won’t all be equal. In other words, Alabama might face Vanderbilt in Nashville in 2013 and in Tuscaloosa in 2019. Meanwhile, Arkansas might face Tennessee in Knoxville in 2013 and in Fayetteville in 2018 or 2017.
* The SEC will likely also have to drop — as it did this year — several “parameters” it had put in place to prevent schools from playing three straight SEC road games, for example. The league will also want to set up the schedule so that each team will face three divisional foes at home and three on the road, but will it be able to do so?
What’s ridiculous about all this is the fact that a nine-game schedule — as we’ve been preaching from Day One — would wipe out just about every issue noted above. The only complication with a nine-game slate would be the fact that seven teams would play five home games one year while the other seven would play just four home games in that year. But that would flip-flop on an annual basis and it’s really no more of an issue than the “luck of the draw” set-up the SEC has used for years with its cross-divisional rotation. Depending on the year, one West Division team might draw Florida while another draws Vanderbilt.
We’ve been told by two sources at SEC schools and one in the SEC office that ESPN and the SEC Network still might lead the league to go to a nine-game schedule. (The money made from such a channel would more than make up for a lost home game every other year for teams like Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and South Carolina who have permanent nonconference rivalries.)
Still, Womack told The Birmingham News that most SEC member still want to stand pat at eight. “I think our guys are always open to looking at things, but at this point in time we’re moving forward for the long-term schedule. That doesn’t mean that couldn’t change during the duration.”
In a few hours we’ll learn the SEC’s 2013 lineup of games. But eventually, we at MrSEC.com still expect a nine-game schedule to become a reality.
(For those who favor a scheduling partnership with another league over a ninth SEC game each year, we’ve already suggested such a tie-in with the ACC. You can read that piece here. Keep in mind that it was written in May, when rumors of ACC disintegration were in the news. Also, the Pac-12/Big Ten scheduling partnership has since been nixed since. And the ACC has added Notre Dame — sorta/kinda — and decided to play an eight-game schedule instead of a nine-game slate)