The 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.