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Slive Says SEC Will Have To Unravel A Knot And Make A Decision On Schedules

40knots1Earlier this week we brought you a quick comment from SEC scheduling czar Larry Templeton regarding the issues faced by the league when trying to build a schedule that pleases everyone.  Now commissioner Mike Slive has weighed in on the topic and he, too, makes it clear that scheduling isn’t as easy as most fans and media members believe:

 

“We try one (scenario), and there’s a knot.  We try another one, and there’s a big knot — whether it’s permanent (games), whether it’s traditional game or whether it’s too many games.  At some point in time, we’re going to have to unravel one of those knots and just make a decision.”

 

When the knots are unraveled, we expect — as we’ve written for years — that the league will move to a nine-game schedule featuring a 6-1-2 rotation with the league mandating that a 10th game be played against a school from a power conference.

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WOW Headlines – 6/10/13

Auburn has installed the words “Beat Bama” in giant letters in its football meeting room
Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel attended last night’s NBA Finals game and says he bought his ticket from StubHub…
The Texas A&M compliance staff has admitted to working overtime to keep tabs on their high-profile quarterback
SEC schedule czar Larry Templeton says the league’s decision to honor non-conference contracts has made scheduling much more difficult as the conference adjusts to having 14 teams
The latest odds from Las Vegas list six SEC teams among the top eight favorites to win the BCS Championship Game in January…
Alabama is the overall favorite at 5-2 odds while Georgia, Texas A&M, LSU, South Carolina and Florida are all 15-1 or better
Follow the Southeastern Conference each day at MrSEC.com and twitter.com/mrsec

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SEC Schedule Czar Templeton Reveals Domino Effect That Has Impacted SEC Slates

gfx - they said itIn 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.

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SEC Coaches Vote Down 9-Game Schedule; 6-1-1 Rotation Approved Though 2026… But None Of It Matters

changes-next-exitThe Earth is round.

The sky is blue.

The SEC’s football coaches are against playing an additional conference game each season.

There’s nothing new or shocking about any of those statements.  And the fact that the league’s coaches voted 13-1 on Wednesday to stand pat with an eight-game conference schedule really doesn’t mean a whole heckuva lot.

Anyone remember the SEC’s coaches voting unanimously to not change the conference’s rules regarding oversigning during the 2011 spring meetings?  Well, the league’s presidents promptly overruled them a day or two later with a unanimous vote in the other direction.

Coaches’ votes are for show.  Presidents’ votes matter.

Now, as we’ve written a blue-million times over the past few years, coaches have always been against strengthening their schedules.  Only Nick Saban at Alabama dared to cast a vote yesterday in favor of making his own job tougher.  Every other coach did exactly what their predecessors did when the league moved from six to seven conference games… when it moved from seven to eight conference games… and when the league tacked on a championship game at year’s end… they fell victim to fear.  (It should be noted that all of those coaches who were against tougher schedules and a conference title game were obviously dead wrong.)

Regardless of how the coaches voted, the 2014 schedule was going to be bound to the eight-game format.  According to Mike Slive, the 2015 schedule will likely be an eight-game format as well.

But beyond that?  We’ll see.

Former Mississippi State AD and current SEC scheduling czar Larry Templeton said the SEC has already approved a 6-1-1 scheduling format that could take the league right through the year 2026.  The fact that a 6-1-1 plan has been rubber-stamped suggests that — as expected — the permanent cross-division rivalries are here to stay.

Even if — sorry — even when the SEC goes to a nine-game format in 2016 or 2017, those permanent rivalries are going to be part of the plan.  To dump them would require an 8-6 vote among the league’s presidents and right now, there aren’t close to eight schools who want rid of those contests.  Sorry, LSU.

As for the debate over eight games versus nine games, one coach who voted against the ninth game admitted afterward that his ballot likely won’t mean much in the long run.  Florida’s Will Muschamp had this to say:

 

“Personally, I think we’ll end up moving to nine games eventually.  My personal opinion (is) you create an SEC Network, at the end of the day, it’s going to be driven by the dollar, and having those games is going to be important, and having enough quality games on television promoting a nine-game SEC regular season, in my opinion, will eventually happen.”

 

According to ESPN.com, Alabama AD Bill Battle and Tennessee AD Dave Hart — two men in favor of a nine-game schedule — also believe that a nine-game plan is inevitable.  In addition, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said that he believes financial motives will push the league toward a nine-game slate (even though he’s not in favor of such a move).

So when and how will the league finally settle on a long-term model?  The fact that Slive made the following statement at all suggests that the 6-1-1 plan — the one Templeton said has already been approved though 2026 — isn’t likely to actually make it to 2026:

 

“I think we’ll take the various thoughts people have and we’ll model them out.  We’ll create schedules through models, take a look at it and see if that tells us any more than we know right now and we’ll bring it all back and tell our folks it’s time.”

 

Way back on October 21st of 2011 — before Missouri had officially decided to join the SEC — we wrote the following:

 

“… It’s our bet that Missouri will find itself in the SEC East if/when it finally comes aboard… We also expect the SEC to eventually go to a nine-game conference schedule featuring a 6-1-2 format in order for non-divisional foes to face one another more often.”

 

We were right about the Missouri-to-the-East part.  And we see no reason to back away from the second part of that prediction.

Coaches vote or no coaches vote, everyone in the SEC seems to believe that a nine-game conference schedule is becoming more and more likely.

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