Let the debate begin: SEC coaches meet to discuss an 8- or 9-game league schedule

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SEC head coaches met in Birmingham yesterday to discuss future scheduling, and the main agenda was for 2016 and beyond and whether or not the league will move from an eight-game to a nine-game conference schedule.

The current schedule consists of the 6-1-1 model, with six division games, one permanent cross-divisional rivalry and one rotating cross-divisional team.

RELATED: What’s the real reason Nick Saban supports nine league games?

Positives, negatives, advantages and disadvantages consists in both models, and those were laid out to the coaches, but nothing was finalized. The definitive decision should be announced before the SEC’s spring meetings in Destin later next month, as confirmed by Mike Slive this week.

Three head coaches – Gus Malzahn, Mark Richt and Nick Saban – met briefly with the media before making stops on fan tours.

Saban said yesterday he’s still stuck on his nine-game vote, and he added there is little support for that among the other coaches, according to AL.com.

“I don’t think there’s any support for that, it doesn’t seem like” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “I think there’s a little bit more support for staying with an eight-game schedule and everybody playing a ninth opponent that’s in the five major conferences.

“My thing is I’m for playing nine conference games and still playing another team in the major conferences, so you play 10 games because of fan interest, people coming to games looking forward to seeing more good games.

“So that’s the starting point for me. I think it’s important for the players to be able to play more teams in the SEC East, on the other side, which we only get to play one now. I don’t know if we stay with the 6-1-1 or 6-0-2. I don’t know.”

If Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn has his way, it will stay as an eight-game league schedule, he told reporters.

“I’m in favor of the 8-game, but you know, they’ve not made any decisions about that,” Malzahn said. “I think our conference speaks for itself.”

Georgia head coach Mark Richt has been an advocate for an eight-game schedule in the past, but he remained rather mum yesterday. Richt added he doesn’t think the coaches will decide the outcome anyway, according to the Athens Banner-Herald.

“That conversation was more of ‘There ‘s a lot of different options and think about them and we’ll talk about it in Destin’ kind of thing,” Richt said. “It was not a vote or a discussion really. It was kind of ‘Here are some possibilities, look them over and at least between now and then try to figure out what you like. It doesn’t mean we’re going to get to vote. I don’t think we as coaches will decide.”

The move to a nine-game league schedule could preserve the traditional rivalries of Alabama-Tennessee and Auburn-Georgia. If the league stays at eight games, there’s a sense that traditional rivalries could be in jeopardy, as the league could move from a 6-1-1 model to a 6-0-2 model where both cross-divisional opponents would rotate. LSU is a big proponent of removing the annual rivalry with Florida.

RELATED: Les Miles is tired of playing Florida every year

The Big 12 and Pac-12 are both moving to nine conference games. The Big Ten announced they will move to nine in 2016, and the ACC said there is ‘considerable support’ for nine games and will likely move in that direction. So, where does that leave the SEC if the league sticks with eight games? Making a decision on future scheduling prior to moving into the College Football Playoff era where strength of schedule will play a big role is tricky.

Still, it seems, Saban remains in minority favor of a nine-game league schedule among coaches. But if Richt is correct, the coaches may not make the final decision anyway.

Photo Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

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COMMENTS

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  • Hate to agree with Nick Saban, but the fans want to see 9 games and legit non-conference opponent. You want to have more people coming to games? Play better games against better teams (and lower the cost of attendance)!

    • Same here. Agreeing with Saban seems odd to me, but I absolutely agree with him here. Staying with an 8-game schedule benefits my team. However, I would still rather play 9 conference game (which means more games vs. the East), one good OOC game & 2 cream-puffs. It’s better for the fans & the players. Every player should get the opportunity to play every conference team at least once in his 4 years on campus.

  • The problem with a nine conference game argument is that most of the East (UF, UGA, SC, UK) have in-state home & home series rivalry games that are out-of-conference every year, so those schools essentially already play a 9th “conference” game… UF/FSU, UGA/Ga Tech, SC/Clemson, UK/Louisville. I think if Tricky Nick had to play Auburn, as a a non-conference game every year (along with the reamining SEC schedule), he’d be singing a different tune. By the way, didn’t ‘Mr. Player Safety’ just try & schedule Old Dominion?? If you’re gonna talk the talk Senator Saban, you need to walk the walk.

  • As a UGA FAN I’m in favor of the 6-0-2 Model. If we do not play gt every year I can live with that.

  • As I’ve said before, the better option would be keep the 8 game schedule and dissolve the divisions. Doing this you’d keep two rival schools permanent and rotate six. Rotate the other six games every two years staggered three new teams each year similar to what happened when we were under the 5-1-2 model. This guarantees each team will play one another at least twice during a four year student tenure AND offers our highly touted rivalry games to stay in tact. And yes it would require the NCAA to amend the rule to championship games played only between division champions. Just amend it to allow the best two to play in the championship game if the conference has 14 schools. Also require an additional game if a conference increases membership by 2 each time (because we know more conference realignment is coming.) Eventually.

  • If this changes to 9, it will move the league quickly and dramatically toward being a lower tier league. Simple math illustrates that every time two teams meet one get a W and the other gets a L. Don’t create a situation where simple math forces a league to look average in a year when all 14 teams could be great teams but all still have a record of 4-5 or 5-4. Keep the league in a position to schedule games where they match up well against PAC, Big 12, Big 10, ACC, etc. leagues. In other words, don’t force a program with average pass defense to miss out of conference opportunities to get 4 wins against opponents with average passing attacks. This is a question of whether you want the whole league to look strong or do you want only one or two programs to look strong. What side of the debate do you expect Saban wants for Alabama. He doesn’t like the idea of having to face 7 other SEC strong programs every year. He knows that if the whole league gets beat up in a free for all he will stay in the top half year after year and eventually one of the only contenders every year. On the other hand if most of the league can recruit closer to what he can then it’s possible that every year 8-9 SEC programs could finish the year ranked in the top 15. This means that every year Alabama could face 3-4 SEC opponents just as strong. Fans are very interested in seeing SEC program face 4 quality non-conference games. This includes games with the top-third of the Big 12, ACC, Big 10, Pac 12 and maybe the top quarter of many other conferences !!!!!

    • One more thing, in years when the rivalry doesn’t get scheduled by the league, let the rivals schedule it anyway if they want and the results shouldn’t count in league standings.

      • This is for Jayhawks in Kansas. One of the reasons your program is in the toilet is that you are dodging a huge money making game with Missouri at Arrowhead Stadium. I hope that Bill Snyder or even Wichita State beat you to the punch of renewing a Missouri v state of Kansas institution.

        • but then again, since your fans have no manners and sportsmanship, I hope you keep dodging it.

  • What a complete JOKE the brass of the SEC is making keeping the 8 team schedule. Bama gets smoked by OU and OU will probably smoke Tenn. They try to protect the league and money while all of us fans want to see better games. Bama had the worst schedule in the SEC and got exploited by OU. Come to Athens Bama, Come to Columbia Bama once every two years of 3…

  • Now the national media is beginning to scrutinize the Bowl seeding that is heavily favored the SEC for the past 8-10 years. All our bowls place us as higher seeds except one or two. Blame ourselves for having the rest of the country call us out. The beating ourselves up arguement isn’t true either. Arkansas, Kentucky, Miss St. and a few others were a complete joke. THEN a BIG 12 team wins the West. Sorry but I’m not drinking the Kool Aid anymore

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