Wednesday, May 30, 2012
SEC scheduling talks getting complicated
By Edward Aschoff
DESTIN, Fla. -- My how quickly things can change when you get a lot of people with different ideas together in one room.
Hours after the consensus was that the SEC was set on moving to a 6-1-1 scheduling model beyond the 2012 season, some SEC coaches stepped in and gave their thoughts.
Now, it appears as though the model that SEC commissioner Mike Slive described as the "frontrunner" before the 2012 SEC spring meetings now has come competition.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive said he aims to have a format for future league scheduling on Friday.
A 6-2 model, which has two rotating cross-division opponents, was brought up and so was the idea of having some schools rotate crossovers, while others could preserve their permanent crossover rivalry. Even a nine-game conference schedule was discussed, though the current feeling is that it has little traction.
"We had a vigorous discussion," Slive said Wednesday. "It was good. Coaches, I thought were really impressive. They came in and they were very thoughtful. It was a sharing session with our athletic directors and looking, thinking about the various different formats and the pros and cons."
There are people on both sides, but the feeling coming out of meetings in Phoenix was that the preference was to go with a 6-1-1, Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork said. That gave teams six divisional opponents, a permanent crossover and a rotating crossover, which would change each year.
Bjork said he's for the 6-1-1, but only if it preserves Ole Miss' permanent crossover game with Vanderbilt. However, Bjork said there was discussion of trying to change the way permanent crossovers are determined, which Bjork doesn’t like.
"If they end up changing that, then 6-2 might be more advantageous for us," he said. "But right now, going into it, 6-1-1 is [Ole Miss’] preference."
One AD not in favor of keeping the 6-1-1 model is LSU's Joe Alleva, who is also looking to take Florida off as LSU's permanent East opponent -- a game that's been played every year since 1971. Alleva prefers the 6-2 model, which creates two rotating crossovers. He believes it’s the "fairest and most equitable way to do it."
"Anybody who doesn’t vote that way is simply voting in the best interests of their institution," Alleva said, "not the best interests of the conference."
A 6-1-1 keeps traditional rivalries like Alabama-Tennessee, Georgia-Auburn and Florida-LSU, and Alleva still believes that model will prevail.
“As of right now I think that’s probably what’s going to happen," he said. "I think there’s going to be some more discussion to go to a 6-2 model, but I don’t think there’s enough votes in the room for a 6-2 model.
“Even though it’s unfair and inequitable, I think it will still pass."
Alleva said he believed there was a vote of 11-3 for keeping permanent opponents and that South Carolina and Texas A&M sided with LSU on the 6-2 idea.
For some it's coming down to competitive equality and for some it comes down to preserving rivalries.
"When you play a team a hundred years in a row or something like that, that's a rival game," said Georgia coach Mark Richt, who said he'd like to keep Auburn as a permanent crossover opponent. "That's been happening forever and that's something you want to protect. But there's some schools that cross over and it's considered a rival game, but is it really a rival for them?"
Slive made it clear that his hope is to have a concrete format down Friday. Right now, the 6-1-1 still appears to lead, though other ideas are now on the table. You very well could see a delay in this if the 6-1-1 loses support, and it might be better for the league to hold off on making a definitive decision for the moment.
Maybe waiting to see how the 2012 season plays out is an option. Besides, the 2012 model wasn't set until late December of 2011.
With two new teams coming in, so much is changing so fast for the league. Those schools have to be accommodated for and it affects things like scheduling and TV contacts. These things take some time and cause some headaches along the way.
There are obviously people on both sides who feel very strong one way or the other, but if what seemed like a no-brainer before has turned into a more complicated issue after just a few hours of talks with coaches, then maybe the league should slow down.
The good news is that league officials will have Thursday off to clear their heads and think. Thursday's down time will be the most important time for people to sit and collect their thoughts after two days of meetings.
The 2013 schedule -- and beyond -- will be completed. One way or the other, the SEC will figure things out. It could come as soon as Friday or it could come later in the month of June. People clearly aren't on the same page and it's stalling compromise.
But Slive, who seems to hold so much college football power in just his pinky, made a very good point Tuesday. He knows there are strong opinions in the league, but he also knows that more voices can be more powerful.
“One thing in this league you can trust -- and you know if you follow the league -- is that the First Amendment is alive and well and the majority rules,” he said.