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SEC Commish Opens Up About Scheduling On Eve Of Spring Meetings

mike-slive-smileTony Barnhart of CBSSports.com has produced the perfect kickstart to this week’s SEC spring meetings in Destin.  The longtime writer and radio host recently sat down with SEC commissioner Mike Slive for a lengthy Q&A about the league and its future.  Everything from the SEC Network to player stipends to the new College Football Playoff is covered right here.

With possible changes to the SEC’s scheduling format sure to be a hot topic this week, Barnhart asked Slive about that particular hubbub:

 

“Remember last year we overwhelmingly voted to keep the current 6-1-1 scheduling model and we are currently building the 2014 schedule on that basis.  The question is whether or not we keep that model for a longer term.  As I have always said, the First Amendment is alive and well, and will be on display for the next few days.  We understand there are different points of view on this.

Should we stay with the 6-1-1 model?  Should we eliminate the permanent crossovers?  Should we go to nine games?  There is going to be a lot of discussion during the week on this and a lot of media interest…

If I had an opinion (on permanent cross-division opponents), I wouldn’t tell you.  But I am open-minded on this issue.  The test for me is what is the principle in play?  There are scheduling principles in play, but for me, the overriding principle is: What is in the long-term best interest of the Southeastern Conference?  That is a simple principle but it can be very difficult in application.  It takes some forecasting.  It takes some thinking.

We’ve always been very creative in this league.  We have always been deliberate and careful.  All those characteristics have to go into this discussion about the schedule.  Where it comes out, I don’t know, but everything is important — every element.”

 

First, it didn’t take the commissioner long to work in his favorite “First Amendment” quote.  Betcha it won’t be the last time you hear that one this week.

As for the takeaway from the above quote, it’s clear that as a sly businessman and strategic thinker, Slive has always been and will always be focused on “What is in the long-term best interest of the Southeastern Conference?”  From signing two landmark deals with CBS and ESPN in 2008 to pushing through an unpopular (with coaches) soft cap on football signees to launching an SEC Network, Slive keeps his eyes on the big picture.

Turning our attention to the current dust-up over permanent cross-division opponents, the vast majority of schools seem to be in favor of keeping them as a part of the league’s scheduling format.  Those games help to keep three old rivalries alive (Alabama/Tennessee, Auburn/Georgia, Ole Miss/Vanderbilt).  They also aid overall conference parity by matching the SEC’s traditional “winners” against one another (and the traditional “losers” against one another, as well).

Are permanent rivals good for everyone?  LSU says “nay.”  But are they good for the Southeastern Conference as a whole?  The majority of schools to date have thought “yay.”

For that reason, after the topic has been discussed, we suspect Slive — who has a reputation for building consensus quietly — will hush those in attendance and ask “What is in the long-term best interest of the Southeastern Conference?”  The status quo will likely be the answer.

But will the answer be the same regarding a possible switch from eight to nine conference football games?  That one is a bit more difficult to predict.  Readers of this site know that we believe a nine-game schedule will eventually be adopted by the league.  Whether this will be the meeting when such a change is decided upon remains to be seen.

If the league’s leaders believe a nine-game schedule a) would be worth more money in the long-term, b) would help schools’ strength of schedule, c) would help drive more fans into stadiums and away from their living rooms, d) could be created without forcing teams with in-state non-conference rivals from having five home games in some years… then a nine-game schedule will probably be agreed upon this week.  Obviously though, those are a lot of ifs.

Over the last year the SEC office has been working hard to create a schedule rotation using an eight-game plan.  It’s unlikely then that the league will walk in with a nine-game sample slate for presidents and ADs to consider.

For that reason, we believe it’s likely the SEC will put forward only a 2014 schedule in Destin.  At a later date — after the league office has mocked up a nine-game rotation for everyone to examine — the decision will be made to stick with eight or jump to nine.  It’s hard to imagine the ambassadors from each school voting through a nine-game schedule without first seeing exactly how such a rotation would play out over a five- or 10-year period.

If the SEC surprises us and does walk in with a nine-game sample schedule, that will mean that the commissioner is ever-so-gently pushing for the switch from eight to nine.  And if that’s the case, well, Slive usually gets what Slive wants.  And what Slive wants is what’s best for the Southeastern Conference long-term.

 


4 comments
cjhadley
cjhadley

Why not switch The LSU-Florida and Arkansas-South Carolina match-ups around? I think an LSU-South Carolina and Arkansas-Florida cross-division match-up would be a fair compromise to be able to keep the others. Also, I think the SEC should go to a nine game schedule.

JarrenBlake
JarrenBlake

One big reason is that the TV networks would balk abit. The LSU Florida affair is a favored game amongst CBS and ESPN. To lose is and put nothing of equal value in place would be troublesome. Also many want to see both arkansas and South Carolina continue their success beyond the first and only coaches to have sustained success at those schools (Petrino and Spurrier).

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