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The SEC’s Mr. Transition Talks Scheduling

Former Mississippi State AD Larry Templeton — the head of the SEC’s transition team — has opened up again regarding schedule issues facing the conference moving forward.  Speaking with The Birmingham News, Templeton revealed the following (some of which is new, some not):


1.  The SEC’s television partners want the league to start scheduling more games in the first two and last two weeks of the college football season.  “TV wants them,” Templeton told Jon Solomon.  “For instance, right now the next-to-last weekend of the season is a real weak weekend for us as it relates to games that we want to put on television as part of our conference package.  Now that we have more games, we need to space some of them more.”

Our take: Some schools traditionally close with one another: Alabama-Auburn, Arkansas-LSU, Florida-Florida State, Georgia-Georgia Tech, Kentucky-Tennessee, Mississippi State-Ole Miss, South Carolina-Clemson.  It’s unlikely that any of those games will move from the final weekend, which leaves Missouri, Texas A&M, and Vanderbilt open for the last week of the season. 

Barring any major changes, it makes sense then that Templeton would target the next-to-last weekend for better games.  This past season, the SEC’s slate on that Saturday featured (and we use that term loosely): Alabama-Georgia Southern, Arkansas-MSU, Auburn-Samford, Florida-Furman, Georgia-Kentucky, LSU-Ole Miss, South Carolina-The Citadel, and Tennessee-Vanderbilt. 

Aside from a few traditional rivalries that have always been held around the same time of year, now is an excellent time for the SEC to create a new rotation of game dates.  One year, for example, East Division foes Florida and Missouri could meet in the heat of the Sunshine State, early in the season.  The following year, the Gators could be shipped to Mizzou in chilly November.  With television driving so much of this, it’s time for the SEC to start considering venue and game date when laying out its schedule.


2.  Templeton remains interested in asking the NCAA to drop its requirement that leagues must have two divisions and round-robin play within those divisions in order to hold a conference championship game.

Our take:  SEC coaches and ADs want to stick with an eight-game league schedule.  To do so, the league would either need to dump permanent cross-divisional rivalries or live with the fact that rotating just one inter-divisional foe every two years would result in schools facing one another just twice every 12 years.  (Currently, schools face each other twice every five seasons.)

Convincing the NCAA to change its championship game requirements would allow the league more options, without question.  But for that rule to change, the SEC would have to vote on such a measure at this year’s spring meetings and then send it to the NCAA for approval.  Other conferences might not be to eager to help the SEC do anything, however, and might block the move at the NCAA level.

We continue to believe that the SEC should move to a nine-game league schedule that includes two cross-divisional foes on a rotating basis and a permanent cross-divisional rival.  Other BCS conferences are going to nine-game schedules.  The Big Ten and Pac-12 schools will also begin playing each other on a yearly basis in 2017.  If the Big Ten and Pac-12 move to what would be 10-guaranteed games per season against BCS conference competition, the SEC will have to follow suit.  That or it could find itself the victim of voters and pollsters who will claim that SEC teams — in a real change from the current set-up — face the weakest schedules in the country.


3.  The SEC will move to an 18-game schedule for basketball next season.  Templeton says there will be no return to divisional play.  “Basically, you’d play everybody once for 13 games and then you would have to pick out another five, whether they were five from your division or five rivalry games.”

Our take:  This makes perfect sense, but we believe the league should go to a 4-1-8 format.  That would require each school to lock in four permanent rivals for home-and-away games each year.  In addition, one of the remaining nine teams in the league would rotate on and off each season as a home-and-away rival.  That would be five home-and-away rivals each year, plus eight games against other league foes — four at home, four on the road.

Such a rotation would save old rivals, create new rivals (it’s a way for Missouri and Arkansas, for example, to meet twice per year), and maintain an even number of home and road games for each school.

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