Is this a short-term concern that will happen every time a school changes leagues where non-conf timing is different?
In a Q&A with The St. Louis Post-Dispatch this weekend, Larry Templeton — the former Mississippi State AD who’s become the SEC’s de facto schedule czar — opened up about the difficulties the league has faced in coming up with a new scheduling format:
“It’s difficult just with 14 playing the eight-game schedule where you play everyone in your division, you play one permanent and you play one rotator from the other division. That’s hard enough, but our ADs — and rightfully so — they wanted to continue to honor the contracts we have with non-conference schools. I’m going to give you one example: In 2014, all four of Missouri’s non-conference games are in the first four weeks. Georgia, three of their four non-conference games are in the final four weeks.
When you start looking at Georgia/Missouri you’ve taken seven weeks already off the table for finding a place to put that game. That’s just two schools. We’ve got one other school that has four consecutive non-conference games to start the season and we have about half of our schools that have a non-conference game on the next-to-last weekend of the season. So, it creates some issues for us. But we’re going to try to protect all of those. We’re trying to move some non-conference games, but we’re not there yet.”
Templeton and crew haven’t done a good enough job of getting that particular message out. From fans to coaches like Steve Spurrier, there’s been quite an uproar over Alabama and Georgia playing “easy” league schedules while other schools — LSU and South Carolina, for example — have been dealt tougher hands the past couple of years.
But amidst all the howling, no one has pointed to the fact that locked-in non-conference games have bound the schedule-makers’ hands in several instances. Not only has the SEC office had to try to mix and match teams equitably (which requires pretty good forecasting skills, to be fair), but it’s also been limited by who can play on certain Saturdays.
Taking it a step further, if Georgia and Missouri are locked into a certain date because there are no other options, their game date will impact when Missouri and Georgia can play all their other foes. Who also have built-in non-conference games they’re trying to honor. And so on. Yet this obvious domino effect has not been barked, shouted, or screamed from the top of the Smoky or Ozark Mountains by SEC schedule gurus like Templeton.
It should have been.