The SEC coaches cast their votes recently and voted 13-1 against a nine game SEC schedule and affirming the current eight game SEC conference schedule. The lone dissenting vote was Nick Saban. This isn’t surprising as Saban has been voicing his support in the media for moving to a nine game schedule:
“If you look at it through a straw and how it affects you and you’re self-absorbed about it, nobody’s going to be for it,” Saban said. “I shouldn’t be for it. We have a better chance to be successful if we don’t do it. But I think it’s best for the game and the league.”
Nick Saban is saying that he wants to do what is best for the league and college football as a whole even if it is bad for Alabama. Does anybody really believe this?
I believe that Saban only cares about what’s best for the league if what is in question can impact Alabama from getting into the BCS and the future playoff. It is true that moving to a nine game conference schedule could help Alabama in those situations like it found itself in two years ago when it got in to the BCS Championship Game against LSU despite having a loss earlier in the year. Perhaps, Saban is trying to set up Alabama to get a 2nd SEC slot in the 4-team playoff down the road?
Or, Saban could be trying to shift attention away from Alabama’s extremely easy schedule for the 2013 season (easy for SEC schedules; not easy when compared nationally with other programs). By having the media run with Saban’s comments on moving to a nine game conference schedule and run with the SEC coaches 13-1 vote, the media is not talking about Alabama’s favorable schedule in 2013. It doesn’t mean the media hasn’t blasted Alabama’s schedule, however. Some have. But, currently, the focus is on the nine game SEC schedule “controversy.”
Does it matter? It does matter if Alabama ends the season with a loss. It definitely does if Alabama loses to the Aggies, and they’re vying for a spot against Texas A&M in the BCS Championship. In college football, perception is big because it influences the polls. In the future, perception will also impact the selection committee. With something as widely debated as the college football postseason, it’s safe for voters and selection committee members to vote and select along the lines of public perception. It’s riskier to go against the consensus view.
Right now, perception is working in favor of Alabama and the SEC. The SEC finished the 2012 season owning half the top ten. It also ended with Alabama embarrassing an undefeated Notre Dame team. If Nick Saban is indeed working to deflect criticism of a soft SEC schedule for his Crimson Tide, it’s very smart. Saban’s the most influential coach in college football. Why not use the voice you have to steer the media’s conversation?
Alabama’s 2013 schedule is what it is. It’s not Saban’s fault. He’s in control of how his team navigates that schedule during the upcoming fall, but he can also use his voice to help guide the national perception of the Crimson Tide. Smart coaches like Saban do this effectively all the time. My guess is that Saban’s love of the nine game conference schedule is not much more than him doing just that.