SEC commissioner Mike Slive announced yesterday what everyone expected to him to announced — that his league would head into 2014 with an eight-game conference schedule and a 6-1-1 format. He also said that the 2015 season will “probably” use the same plan.
“Probably” being the key word.
As we’ve noted on numerous occasions, if SEC officials find themselves being snubbed by the College Football Playoff selection committee for strength of schedule reasons, they’ll vote to go to nine games ASAP. If SEC officials see an opportunity to improve attendance and/or make more money by going to nine games, again, they’ll do it.
As for Slive, he says nothing will happen until Friday at the earliest:
“I do want to tell you in capital letters that the First Amendment is alive and well… I just came out of the football coaches’ meeting and we had a healthy discussion there. They’re gonna continue that discussion tomorrow. We had a discussion with our ADs and we’ll continue to have discussions throughout the week. I certainly don’t believe we’ll come to any closure here, but my hope is that everybody will weigh in on the discussion. We’ll see where we are by Friday as to what the next step is.”
There is little chance of a nine-game schedule passing for 2015, 2016 or any other year by Friday. But that didn’t keep a pair of coaches from sounding off on the league’s scheduling issues yesterday.
“You talk about trying to create some kind of strength of schedule (component). That’s difficult to do when we have six teams at the end of the season last year in the top 10 and other teams that are vying to get into the (BCS) championship game. Then to think the team that loses (the SEC) championship game wouldn’t have gotten in the final four if we had one. That’s not taking strength of schedule into consideration at all. It’s taking how many games you lose into consideration. But I think if we all played more good opponents, you could lost more games and still have a chance to get recognized as being a good team.”
While Saban has been the most vocal proponent of a nine-game conference schedule, Vanderbilt’s James Franklin has been the loudest opponent. That was true yesterday as well:
“Every coach, every administration wants the best out-of-conference schedule they possibly can have. But why should somebody else dictate to us what that is? Nobody knows what’s in the best interest of Vanderbilt, and I would argue what’s in the best interest of Vanderbilt is in the best interest of the SEC and so on and so forth…
We’ll go to nine and people will say, ‘We don’t have enough sexy out-of-conference games anymore so you’re going to have to play nine and another.’ When’s it going to stop? Two years from now they’re going to say, ‘You know, we probably ought to schedule an NFL team. You’re probably going to have to play the Jets. You’re going to have to play the Falcons.’ Now we’re going to play nine games and an NFL team. When’s it going to end?”
Amazingly that wasn’t even Franklin’s biggest spin of the day. He also suggested that an extra conference game would be bad for players’ health:
“It’s funny that we’re also talking about player welfare and health. Well, now you’re going to play another game like that a year. Couldn’t you bring up player health and safety for those games?… I think you just have to be careful that the things we’re saying are consistent.”
Now that’s a spin cycle.
For the time being, expect to see SEC teams playing an eight-game schedule in 2014 and 2015. After that, we suspect the league will move to a nine-game format. Whether the league’s teams will be forced to play the Jets or Falcons remains to be seen.