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.
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.
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.
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