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
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
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
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
”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,”
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
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
”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.