- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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With all 14 SEC coaches meeting in Atlanta for the announcement of the new SEC Network, the subject of having a nine-game conference schedule was once again broached.
Not much has changed in the minds of SEC coaches, but Alabama coach Nick Saban made it clear once again that he's in favor of the conference moving from eight to nine league games.
“I’m for playing nine conference games; I was the only person that spoke out in favor of it last year,” Saban said. “If you increase the size of the league and the number of teams you have in the league then you’ve got to play more games."
Saban also said this during the Crimson Caravan's stop in Mobile, Ala., Thursday:
"I personally feel like strength of schedule is going to be a real important thing in the future. I know there are people out there who say we have fixed opponents that are very, very good teams. Well, let's make a deal and let's all play 10 good games. We'll still play Virginia Tech or Wisconsin or West Virginia or Michigan or one of these teams in the first game of the year and go play nine conference games too.
"I think all those things make your team better and it's really better for the fans. I think we should spend a lot more time thinking about the people that support and make college football what it is."
Honestly, it is a much better product for the fans. Teams can only play so many directional schools or FCS opponents before viewers get bored -- very, very bored. Replacing one of those cupcakes with a conference opponent would certainly put more people in front of TV sets and more people in stadium seats.
It also helps players see every school in the league during their career, which is something Saban has brought up in the past. And that's a good point. With only eight games and the current 6-1-1 format (six division games, one permanent crossover opponent and a rotating cross-over opponent) players can't do that in a four-year career.
With nine conference games, or the elimination of the permanent crossover game -- like the annual Florida-LSU game -- players would have that luxury.
Still, some coaches won't budge on the idea of playing nine conference games because of their annual nonconference rivalry games.
“I’m not for a nine-game schedule. I don’t think it’s best for our league,” said Florida's Will Muschamp, whose Gators play Florida State every year. “It’s too challenging with the in-state rivalry we already play. You add a ninth game (in the SEC), it’s too difficult.”
And like we've said in the past, you don't need to fix something that clearly isn't broken.
The topic will be discussed later this month in Destin, Fla., at the annual SEC spring meetings. Nine games are on the table, along with altering the cross-division opponent format. How the new network affects all that -- or doesn't -- will also be considered when the league's coaches and athletic directors get together on the beach in late May.
16hSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information