With 14 teams, SEC scheduling could get sticky

Welcome to the Southeastern Conference, Missouri and Texas

A&M. Come visit in a decade.

The newly-minted 14-team SEC faces potentially sticky scheduling

issues if it goes to a larger divisional slate, tries to protect

rivalries and keep marquee nonconference showdowns.

While most coaches and administrators say they want to stay with

an eight-game schedule, extra conference games could generate more

revenue and be more attractive to television partners.

SEC spokesman Charles Bloom said the conference will play eight

games in 2012 and a nine-game slate ”hasn’t been discussed.”

Vanderbilt vice chancellor David Williams said all the athletic

directors are expected to gather soon to begin looking into next

year’s schedule in football and other sports.

”We have to look at our schedules in all of our sports and sort

of now figure out how we integrate two more teams in,” Williams

said. ”Once Texas A&M was in, we were sitting around and we

had a bunch of 13-team schedules. And once the Missouri thing sort

of started to heat up, we kind of put those in a drawer for a while

to see what happens.”

Williams said now that expansion appears to be at least

temporarily on hold, all scheduling options will be reviewed.

”A lot of this has moved sort of quickly in the sense that we

were already pretty much have a 2012 schedule in football, and

football is the one you plan most ahead. Now we’ve got to figure

about the 13th team and now we have to figure about a 14th team,”

Williams said. ”I think many of us are happy that we think we’re

at least at an ending point for now, and we can get on with making

schedules and get back to that sort of stuff.

”All of those things will be looked at. I know the commissioner

is trying to get a meeting together for us to sit down for a whole

day and just go over the schedule.”

Athletic directors would prefer to keep an eight-game schedule,

according to a person familiar with early discussions among those

in charge.

The person said they like the current setup, the one that has

led to five consecutive national championships. They want their

extra home games, their non-division rivals and their

non-conference rivals. And even though nine conference games could

create more television revenue, the powerful league figures its

pedigree is enough to command top dollar in any future

negotiations.

A nine-game SEC slate would mean schools would have to give up

one of their four non-conference games, most of which are played at

campus sites. And that would cut into annual revenue, and there

would be no guarantee that future television contracts would make

up the difference.

Not to mention that a nine-game league schedule could make it

more difficult to get two teams into the lucrative Bowl

Championship Series. The SEC has placed two teams into the BCS in

each of the last five seasons.

Currently, SEC teams play their five divisional opponents, one

designated rival and two rotating teams from the opposite division

to comprise the eight-game conference schedules. With two divisions

of seven, there’s one less game available in the opposite

division.

If the rivalries are protected – and that appears to the

priority – and the schedule stays in a similar format with just one

rotating interdivisional opponent, it could mean Texas A&M

would visit the other six SEC East stadiums once every 12

years.

”I’m big on tradition,” said Tennessee coach Derek Dooley when

asked if playing Alabama annually could end.

The other option would be to join other BCS conferences like the

Pac-12 and the Big 12 and play a nine-game conference schedule,

while the Big Ten will do the same beginning in 2017 citing the

quality of playing conference opponents.

”I know there’s a lot of models out there. That would be one of

them. That’s an easy way to preserve the rivalries, I’m sure,”

Dooley said.

A nine-league game model also could make it tougher for the SEC

to fill its bowl commitments and some early season made-for-TV

matchups, like LSU-Oregon and Georgia-Boise State, might not

survive with programs needing seven home games to generate more

revenue.

And while nine games would help the SEC ease the pressure of

keeping in-conference rivalries and mean more cross-division

opponents, half the teams would have an extra SEC home game each

year and lose a nonconference foe.

”It would be a challenge,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. ”We

know what this league already entails. It’s tough.”

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said a nine-game schedule

shouldn’t be a priority because it would threatened instate rivalry

games. They are an especially sensitive subject, even in places

like Kentucky, where the Wildcats and Louisville renewed their

annual matchup in 1994 after a 70-year break. Neither side wants it

to end.

”A lot of us have our in-state traditional rival. Georgia has

Georgia Tech, Florida has FSU, we have Clemson,” Spurrier said.

”I think in golf they call that rub of the green. That’s just the

way it is, they rotate it around. And sometimes, certainly

scheduling plays a big factor.”

AP Sports Writers Pete Iacobelli in Columbia, S.C., John Zenor

in Auburn, Ala., Mark Long in Gainesville, Fla., Beth Rucker in

Knoxville, Tenn., Teresa M. Walker in Nashville, Tenn. contributed

to this report.