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That Didn’t Take Long: Whines About “Unfair” SEC Schedule in 2014 Begin

gfx - honest opinionIt was just a matter of time before someone somewhere found a reason to call the SEC’s just-released 2014 schedule unfair.  For Mike Bianchi of The Orlando Sentinel, it took less than eight hours to go from “schedule released” to this: “Forget about Gators winning 2014 SEC title: League schedule unfair to UF.”

Yes.  Unfair.  Because the Gators get Alabama as their rotating West Division foe next season.  Florida also plays LSU each year as their permanent foe (though Gator AD Jeremy Foley has thankfully never complained, cried or whined about that fact).

In 2014, UF will have Alabama and LSU from the West and Georgia and South Carolina from the East.  For those with head injuries, Georgia and South Carolina are always on the Gators’ schedule thanks to that whole round-robin-inside-your-division thing.

With big, bad Bama on the Florida schedule — and some Gator-backers quaking in their jorts — here are the options for UF’s fans and fans of every other school who will begin to file their own schedule complaints soon enough:

 

1.  Convince your favorite school to leave the SEC because your favorite school’s football team is just too darn weak to compete.

2.  Shut the hell up and let your team play the games on its schedule.

 

The number of people who can’t get it through their heads that no schedule rotation can ever be “fair” to all teams — I’ll pause so you can read that again — is astounding.  Bianchi knows this, of course, but he’s an A-1 pot-stirrer.

Unless all 14 SEC schools play all the other 13 SEC schools — both home and away, mind you — a fair schedule is completely and totally unattainable.  And I don’t believe a 26-game schedule is currently under consideration by Mike Slive, Larry Templeton or the league’s athletic directors.

So let’s just dump the permanent rivals, right?  What happens when Florida lands both LSU and Alabama via rotation?  If it’s a random rotation, a team could land Alabama and LSU anyway.

Or should the rotations be based upon everyone’s preseason expectations?  Oh, right, Texas A&M kind of jumped up and bit everyone in their rears just last year, didn’t they?  So that won’t work.

Well, how about someone just program a computer to toss out the schedules at random (as Les Miles has suggested)?  Sure.  And you’ll hear nary a peep from fans or columnists when Alabama draws from Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and Mississippi State each year while LSU is randomly assigned Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.  If a computer is just throwing stuff out at random, that could very easily happen.

Look, fans will be fans.  I get that.  Your passion can sometimes be blinding.  It’s a major reason the SEC is the #1 football league in America.  So despite the yearly whines and moan, you’ll get a pass on this one.

Bianchi and columnists who fan the flames of this sort of nonsense are the real problem.

How many times have you read that School X needs to schedule tougher non-conference opponents.  “No one wants to see Ypsilanti State come to town.  School X’s schedule is too weak.” Happens all the time.  Hell, the SEC as a whole gets blasted for scheduling patsies and tomato cans every single season.

Ah, but as soon as there’s an opportunity to fire people up about a schedule that’s too tough, well, many of us in the media reverse field quicker than Johnny Manziel.  Too weak, too tough, we can always find some way to complain about schedules.

In case you haven’t picked up on it by now, this particular writer is tired of hearing people beg and moan for a “fair” schedule when such a set-up simply can not be created.  It’s impossible.  So we keep coming back to the same thought and the same solution.

The Southeastern Conference is the toughest conference in America (outside of the NFL, which also has unbalanced schedules, thank you).  If a school can’t hack it in the SEC when the schedule-makers’ rotation throws them one extra tough game in a season… I say, leave.

 


31 comments
the_voice
the_voice

Just so I understand. A fair schedule is impossible, so it's a good idea to make it even more unfair with annual cross conference "rival" games that lock some teams into annual easy games and others into annual hard contests. Fascinating logic. Oh well, it's not like it really matters who wins the SEC football championship anyway, does it? 

SouthernBoiSB
SouthernBoiSB

Also, which comes first - the SEC schedule or already scheduled OOC games?

I read that UGA & USC had to swap OOC teams (don't know if still on the same planned date) of Troy & South Alabama.  I'm guessing that solution could be used again in the future.

SouthernBoiSB
SouthernBoiSB

John,

Something I've seen floating around the net is the complaining that the rotation set up in 1992 (when there were only 12 schools) is/should be continued now......but somehow with Mizz. & TA&M thrown into the picture.

Is there any truth to that?

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

One of the best ways to make the schedules more fair is to add conference games.  9 games would make for more fair rotations.  Heck, 10 games would be outstanding and that way you could have 5 home and 5 away.  Of course, the whiners don't like that either because that's too many "tough" games.

orangecherokee
orangecherokee

Oh Lawd, the unfairness of it all!! Tennessee has to play Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Oklahoma and Florida in 2014. How about giving them a break? It's football, it's not a cake walk. There's a reason this is the best conference in land. All teams play tough opponents, which require playing at the top level. I would think he would welcome such a challenge.   

MIZ58
MIZ58

Mizzou had the toughest schedule in the nation last year (according to Sagarin)...I don't recall much complaining about this, in fact I think MIZ will have fared better for what they are faced with year in and year out in the SEC because of what they endured in their inaugural season.  To be the best you must beat the best. 

VolTN
VolTN

Am I the only person who thinks that if my team plays a tough schedule, that it's better?  If you get to the SEC or National Championship beating the likes of Kentucky, Mississippi State and Bowling Green, do you really feel like your team accomplished something?  The best way to prove you're the best team is by beating the best teams.  Regardless, you're still going to have to play the best team in the SEC Championship whether you play anybody else or not.  And that's when you'll either be shown as legit or a fraud.

BonzaiB
BonzaiB

I remember when the schedule came out last year, how everybody said A&M was going to do so much worse than Mizzou in their first year, as the East was going to be tougher than the West , blah, blah, blah. We went to College Station and got out of there with a W only because Sumlin called timeout just as his kicker tied the game, nullifiying the kick. We went home saying those guys were a damn good football team  and warned the others going up against them that things were not as advertised in the preseason. 

Mizzou, well we know the story, but the overall point is that SEC schedules can rotate on a single play, in more than one game. The Gamecocks almost got their heads handed to them by a surprisingly good Vandy team, A&M beat out Ole Miss in the last seconds of the game, LSU lost to Bams in the last seconds of that game, and  Bama almost beats A&M in the last seconds of that game. And that was just what was happening in the West. 

Swampcat
Swampcat

"Georgia has made out like a bandit in all this SEC schedule reshuffling madness." AJC Bulldog Blog

Somehow, UGA gets another scheduling break by not having to play in Baton Rouge next year and you want to complain about people whining; of course it will never be fair, it just seems to be consistently more fair to one school in the East.

kaffeen
kaffeen

Bianchi is calling it right on this one. It is unfair to Florida. I think if you rate the strength of schedule, you would find that Florida has earned the distinction of having the toughest SEC schedule - not just in the SEC, but in the Nation (and not just for this schedule, but for a couple of other years too). This wasn't a random scheduling. It was arranged for television and ratings. I'd argue that the best team in the SEC should have the toughest schedule the next year. The other scheduling should be based on how each school finishes the prior year too. Wouldn't that be more "fair"?

Bobo2468
Bobo2468

John, While you have made it abundantly clear on numerous occasions that perfectly fair schedules is any one season is impossible (though adding a 13th game and playing everyone every year would come closer), might you be able to give us a list of the Won-Loss records of each team's cross-division opponents in SEC games since, say, 2000? Sometimes a snapshot does not provide the perspective that a look over time does. Thanks.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

@the_voice 

Thanks for the smart aleck response.  

You believe the cross-division rivalries make the system more unfair.  I do not.  I think looking back over the past 20 years, we've seen that -- as expected -- the top six teams that were matched together in 1992 have indeed been the top six teams since '92.  The good teams have faced one another every year and the traditional cellar-dwellers have faced each other every year.  

Surprisingly, this whole argument is stirred up because Tennessee happens to be down at the moment.  But I don't recall anyone whining about "unfair schedules" when Tennessee was dominant and Alabama was struggling.  

If the league wants to tweak the permanent rivalry games -- they already are with Arkansas/Missouri and South Carolina/Texas A&M -- fine.  But having good vs good and bad vs bad is better for conference parity than a full rotation that throws several SEC traditional rivalries into the trash bin.

That's my response, without any sarcasm.

Oh, and also, keep in mind that so far, LSU officials and Steve Spurrier seem to be the only folks really screaming for change.  For now, it appears that the majority of SEC leaders believe the current system IS fair.

Thanks for reading the site,

John

MIZ58
MIZ58

@BonzaiB I think MIZ was a bit in over their heads last year, but then again, some would argue they had the toughest schedule in the country last year.  Their overconfidence heading into the season certainly didn't help!

SouthernBoiSB
SouthernBoiSB

@kaffeen What does SOS have to do with whom from the other division you'll be playing any given year?  Everybody has to play everybody.....but you only hear about those who think theirs is horrible for that given year.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

@kaffeen 

You know who was involved in the scheduling process and signed off on this one?  Florida AD Jeremy Foley.

Thanks for reading the site,

John

SouthernBoiSB
SouthernBoiSB

BTW, was Steve Spurrier screaming when he was @ UF about schedules?  Don't remember him doing that.

the_voice
the_voice

@the_voice John, you missed my point. There is always a team that has been excellent historically that currently isn't. There is always a historically mediocre team that is outstanding (or abysmal) for a few years. To be fair, history can help predict future performance, but it is far from perfect. Some teams elevate themselves over time, such as Oregon, Kansas State, and Oklahoma State, Some decline, such as Miami, Colorado, and SMU.

If you look at world history over the last 100 years Great Britain would be considered the venerable leader, the US would be considered an up and coming team, and China would be a bottom dweller. Not very helpful for predicting the future, in my opinion.

Your system argues for attempting to make the poker game more fair by looking at each card as it is dealt to see who should get them based upon how the game has gone so far. At some tables that would get you shot. 

If the SEC wants to keep their present system because their fans like it or it makes them more money, I'm fine with that. Just don't bother trying to convince us that black is white, hot is cold, and a stilted scheduling system is more fair.

As with many of your responses, the sarcasm is free. Enjoy or ridicule it as you wish. I try to save it for the weakest arguments I choose to respond to.

kaffeen
kaffeen

@John at MrSEC @kaffeen 

So, Foley runs the SEC now? No politics at all now! The SEC may want to be warned that he was also an Amway salesman once. All kidding aside - didn't he just sign off on keeping a certain *type* of scheduling (6-1-1) and keeping certain teams of priority? If he had more of a role, please provide a link to that information. 

Thanks for reading my comment.

Kaff

the_voice
the_voice

@SouthernBoiSB Griping about life is standard operating procedure for humans. Coaches and administrators always try to influence change (or the lack of it) in the direction they want.  I do think it is selfish to say we're all in this together but I don't want to change X, whatever X is. Tennessee wants to play the best basketball team home and home every year and the best football team annually. Call it what you want, but that is the opposite of selfless. They're hardly alone.

The Big Ten wants teams of high academic standing in as many new eastern seaboard states as they can. It won't be that long until they are at 18 (VA, NC, Duke, GT?), and are probably headed to 21 or 24 (FSU, BC, UConn, Syracuse, ND, Kansas?). Vanderbilt and Missouri may also be targets of the Big Ten. It is all about cable money, recruiting, and academic reputation. The SEC would like North Carolina and Virginia institutions at minimum (would like NC and VA but probably would settle for VT and NCSt). It is harder for the SEC to leave its traditional footprint too much because of their identity as southeastern. The Big Ten needs to expand into more fertile recruiting territory for their teams to be competitive. The Big 12 has totally different economics without their own network while the Pac 12 has a huge geographic hurdle to overcome (the Rocky Mountains). Say goodbye to big time athletics for the ACC (and maybe the Big 12) at some point.

The only thing constant is change. Adapt or perish.

SouthernBoiSB
SouthernBoiSB

You think they'll be 16 team conferences - even with the possible addition of another NCAA level?

There are plenty of schedule formats out there (1 famous dealing with "roommates") & I'm sure there is somebody who's got the perfect solution.

& I agree with we need to come together as a group....but you also can't throw out the past for some.  I know I'll get flak over this, but how about those not wanting to go to 9 conf. games because they seem to only strive for enough wins to be bowl eligible?

I don't think John was talking about selfish behaviour.  To me, he was pointing out that those who seem to be complaining about schedules (one coach in particular) hails from a school that didn't object to the scheduling when the rotation was created for '92.  The other coach came from a former SEC school & I don't remember him complaining about scheduling either.

But back to a prior post by John, the ONLY "fair" schedule people will agree on consists of 26 games where you play @ everybody & host everybody.  But it wouldn't surprise me if somebody gripes about when they play somebody compared to another team.

the_voice
the_voice

@SouthernBoiSB The conference won't shrink in the foreseeable future (16 is coming - another discussion entirely). Going to a 6-1-2 format would allow for maintaining an annual crossover game and still playing the other 6 cross division teams two times every 6 years (one home game every 6 years). Definitely more equitable than the current system for the fans.

I get a UGA fan not wanting to change their annual game with Auburn. I would like those like yourself who want to hang on to what you have to understand that the SEC gets stronger as EVERYONE in the league gets stronger. All the fans, all the coaches, all the administrators need to let go of being bound to the past and grow into the SEC's future. Change isn't necessarily bad. The SEC is one team of 14 teams. There really isn't any room for selfish behavior by any of the league members (or fan bases).

SouthernBoiSB
SouthernBoiSB

I won't go into details about the split & rotation starting with 1992 (I'm not too sure about specifics myself), but I'm sure there is history behind why certain teams were paired up.  & also to the reasoning behind dropping to 1 cross-division opponent starting in 2001.

The only way(s) to do a fair schedule would either to be shorten conferences to a specific # of teams OR expand the schedule to a certain # of games.  Both have their +/-.

If the SEC goes to a 9 game conf. schedule, that would be 6-1-2 setup & you could go through the entire other division in 3 years (that 4th year would be a repeat of year 1 with sites flipped).  This allows your school to play everybody & see everybody.  Now, this is by me taking your comment about "seeing certain players" as in being a HOME game for your team, correct?

& I agree that since the SEC expanded 2 teams, the conference games SHOULD BE expanded.

As to the rivalries, those who have them enjoy them.  Those who don't, don't.  As for me, being a UGA fan, I'ld hate to see the "Deep South's Oldest Rivalry" (played about 117X in 120 years) be thrown to a "whenever" game or have it not counting as a conference game.

So, the only options I personally see are what I listed above - either shrink conferences to X # of teams where everybody plays everybody yearly, or increase the schedule.  Either way, something has to give.

the_voice
the_voice

@SouthernBoiSBThere are two problems with the current system, SB. Teams in one division play 6 of the seven teams in the other division twice over a 12 year cycle (one home game against the other 6 every 12 years). Imagine being a fan of a west division team and missing out on seeing Jay Cutler, or Hershel Walker, or Payton Manning, or Jadeveon Clowney, or Tim Tebow; all to see your team play Kentucky every year. Turn it around and an east division fan could easily miss Eli Manning, or Cam Newton, or Billy Cannon, or Darren McFadden, or Joe Namath; all to see Mississippi State annually. How is that fair to the fans? A league ought to share its stars with all the fans of the league to the best of their ability. If you're only playing 2 cross division games they must rotate so the SEC can share their stars (both individual players and teams). Three cross division rotating games would allow every fan the opportunity to see each team in the league come to their stadium over 5 years. 

The other problem is competitive balance over time. John argues that the best should play the best and the least should play the least, and that this is more fair than everyone in one division rotating their cross division games against the other division. Most of his supporters historically have centered on who is whining and how this team and that have played each other since the beginning of time and the world would end if that changed. I don't care about who is whining (or not), and I don't think the states of Tennessee and Alabama would cease to exist if their rivalry game occurred less often. This next line is important (thus the caps). YOU CAN'T CREATE A SCHEDULE FOR ANY ONE SEASON THAT IS COMPLETELY FAIR TO ALL THE TEAMS IN THE LEAGUE. You can, however, create a regular, predictable rotation that is fair to every team versus their respective divisional opponents over time. That should be the SEC's goal.

SouthernBoiSB
SouthernBoiSB

I don't understand this comment, Voice.  In a way, it sounds like you're almost talking about parity scheduling.  The trouble with that is it'll be making teams almost impossible to meet (Alabama/Vandy for example).

True, a round robin schedule of 13 games against each team is the fairest way.  HOWEVER, would there be no need of a CG or divisions since the top team would have been decided by the head-to-head game over the 2nd place team (or from a few tiebreakers)?

SouthernBoiSB
SouthernBoiSB

@John at MrSEC

John,

How do we know what a school's rotation is?  I mean, it's easy to do your division (just swap the host sites).  But now the SEC is throwing the cross division rotation into some kind of new format.  Also, the order you play your teams.  For ex.:  3rd Sat. In Oct. is a given;  & WLOCP is always the weekend of Halloween.  But who's to say UGA can't start off with Kentucky instead of SC & so forth?  Like I pointed out above, some people are under the impression that the 1992 rotation should continue but somehow have Mizz./TA&M added in there as well.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

@kaffeen @John at MrSEC 

The trouble with applying the NFL model to the SEC is that the NFL has more games.  They can play entire divisions from their own conference and the opposite conference... plus their own division.  Minus that ability, using a 1st vs 1st or 2nd vs 2nd formula could leave certain SEC schools apart from each other for years and years.

The bottom line is this -- no one will ever like scheduling.  Even in the NFL what's the first thing that's done after the schedule is announced?  ESPN and the NFL Network both show the winning percentages of each team's upcoming foes.  If someone catches a bad division as part of their rotation, they can have an easier schedule than a team in their conference that actually finished with a worse record but drew a better division on the rotation.

In addition, the league's home/away formula left Indianapolis traveling to New England -- for example -- for a number of years in a row.  Think LSU or Florida fans wouldn't complain about having to play in Tuscaloosa for four years in a row?

There is no solution.  Aside from playing all 13 teams at home AND away.  If everyone just played 13, there would be immediate complaints that "All of our tough games are on the road while all of their tough games are at home."  So it would have to be a 26-game schedule... and even then, there would be complaints like: "Why do they get Alabama both times after playing cupcakes, while we have to play good teams right before we play Bama?"

Not trying to be argumentative, just pointing out that this is a problem with no solution.

Again, thanks for reading,
John

kaffeen
kaffeen

@John at MrSEC @kaffeen 

I agree it isn't easy and is a long and painstaking process - fortunately we have computers these days to help (I don't mean that in a snarky way either). I just believe that the SEC should adopt a scheduling strategy similar to the NFL. That involves "home and away" against division opponents, teams from another division on a rotating basis, and all other games based on a first place team playing against the first place team - second place, third, fourth and the rest being matched the same way. Obviously, some variation would take place due to differences in games played, location, strength of schedule, and number of teams - but it is a reasonable and logical place to start I think.


John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

@kaffeen @John at MrSEC 

The SEC office created a schedule.  Seven of the eight games were known -- six versus your division, one versus a permanent cross-division foe.  That left seven East vs West games to schedule.  As the SEC has tried to explain again and again, schools have contracts with non-conference foes that make scheduling very difficult.  Basically, each school has four dates that can't be used by the SEC.  So, the league has to schedule all those games that are already on the docket around each school's four non-conference dates (so they won't have to cancel and pay a fee to their foe).

If you think about it, that's not easy.  Then you come to the remaining holes on the schedule.  Who needs a home game and who needs a road game?  That limits the options further... because everyone has to play four at home and four on the road.

Now, of those, which schools have open dates on the same weekend?  

See how complicated this is?

Along the way, the ADs keep the conference abreast of their non-conference schedules, their preferences for home dates, etc.  

Unfortunately, no one wants to hear any of that or believe it.  It's much easier to simply say, "We wuz robbed!" or the SEC loves Alabama... or Georgia... or whoever a certain school's big rival is.

I've written on this topic a dozen times, but people just ignore it.

And guys like Mike Bianchi stir it up even though they know better... or SHOULD know better.

I would challenge anyone out there to start from scratch and try it for themselves.  Use the four dates for each school's non-conference games in 2014 and mark them off each team's calendar.  Then match up each team's seven known games with the appropriate home and road rotations (from scratch... don't use the schedule the SEC just handed down... do it as they do it).  And then try to pair the remaining 14 teams on seven Saturdays ensuring that each school plays an equal number of home and road games.  

And then make sure that the schedule is "fair" for all 14 teams.

I think folks would find that it's not as easy as it looks, which is why teams have had to be sent back to play at the same school two years in a row over the past couple of years... and why the league and its ADs -- all except for LSU's anyway -- all agree that everyone has to give a little to make it work.

If this was a confusing read... I apologize.  I couldn't think of a better way to simplify it.

Many thanks for reading the site,

John

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