Power Five coaches polled on games

Updated: August 7, 2014, 1:31 PM ET
By Brett McMurphy | ESPN.com

Many of the Power Five conference coaches in college football told ESPN that they favor a schedule consisting of only Power Five opponents.

Of the 65 Power Five coaches from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC and Notre Dame, 46 percent (30 coaches) favored playing exclusively Power Five opponents while 35 percent (23 coaches) were opposed. About 18.5 percent (12 coaches) were undecided.

The Pac-12, Big 12 and SEC coaches favored playing all Power Five opponents, while the ACC coaches were against it by a 6-4 margin with four coaches undecided. Big Ten coaches were divided: Six each were for and against it, with two undecided.

The coaches, who were in Bristol, Connecticut, last month, were asked whether they would favor all Power Five conferences playing their respective conference schedules and then scheduling all nonconference games against other Power Five teams. Because of the tougher schedules under this hypothetical scenario, teams would not be required to reach six wins to play in a bowl.

The Pac-12, Big 12 and SEC coaches favored playing all Power Five opponents, while the ACC coaches were against it by a 6-4 margin with four coaches undecided. Big Ten coaches were divided: Six each were for and against it, with two undecided.

Alabama coach Nick Saban said "fans want" Power Five teams playing exclusively Power Five opponents.

"We need to be more concerned about the people who support the programs and the university and come and see the games," Saban said. "Those are the most important. But we never think about that."

Coaches from the Pac-12, whose schools already play nine league games, were the biggest proponents of a Power Five-exclusive schedule: seven in favor, one against and four undecided.

The Pac-12 coaches, such as Stanford's David Shaw, prefer the Power Five-only schedule model because they want each conference to play the same type of schedule. The Pac-12 is the only league that plays nine conference games and has a league title game.

Arizona's Rich Rodriguez, the lone dissenting Pac-12 coach, said "some of those [Group of Five teams] are better than the so-called 'haves' [Power Five teams]."

The Group of Five FBS conferences are the American, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt.

A couple of coaches in favor of Power Five-only opponents suggested having future nonconference opponents determined by how each team finished in its conference the previous season, similar to the NFL's scheduling model.

Arizona State's Todd Graham, who was in favor, echoed Saban's comments that fans prefer the Power Five teams playing one another.

"Fans want to see those games," Graham said. "Players want to play in them, and coaches want to coach in them."

Big 12 coaches favored it by a 6-4 margin, but Kansas State's Bill Snyder was against it. Snyder's reasoning was that the Wildcats annually need seven home games because of the amount of money brought into the Manhattan, Kansas, community. By playing only Power Five opponents, Snyder said K-State would not be able to schedule seven home games each season.

Texas' Charlie Strong also was against it because he said the Longhorns are committed to playing an annual home game against a Group of Five school from Texas. The Longhorns have played a smaller in-state school in three of the past five seasons and open this year against North Texas.

Big Ten coaches were split on the matter.

"The Power Five conferences is a different world," said Maryland's Randy Edsall, who was in favor of it. "The scheduling would be more well-rounded and would show who deserves to be in the [four-team] playoff."

Nebraska's Bo Pelini, who was in favor, was one of several coaches that said Power Five schools playing exclusively Power Five schools would make the job of ranking the teams by the College Football Playoff's selection committee simpler.

"Everyone would be on the same playing field," Pelini said. "It would be easier for the selection committee to rank the teams with the schools having more common opponents."

Pelini was among several coaches who think the four-team playoff will quickly expand to eight teams.

"There's five power leagues and only four of those will make it, so someone is going to get pissed off," Pelini said. "That's why we'll eventually have an eight-team playoff."

Michigan State's Mark Dantonio said playing only Power Five opponents would make it easier "to find a true champion. If teams don't play similar opponents, it gets skewed."

Miami's Al Golden and Saban also said that playing exclusively Power Five opponents would help the selection committee pick the best four teams.

In the current setup, when all conferences play different opponents (Power Five, Group of Five and FCS opponents), Saban said a team can be eliminated from the four-team playoff with one regular-season loss. By playing exclusively Power Five opponents, it would be harder for teams to go undefeated and teams wouldn't be penalized for one loss, Saban said.

"I don't like the pressure if you might lose one game and you're out [of the playoff]," Saban said. "It's difficult to play 12 good games, but if not everyone is in that situation, it might be easier for them to go undefeated.

"I think some fundamental changes have to be made before anybody would be interested in [a Power Five-only schedule]."

Indiana's Kevin Wilson was against it. He said he wasn't sure fans could adjust to the bigger schools' no longer scheduling nonconference games against smaller schools. And he wondered whether fans would accept an NFL-like setup where half of the Power Five teams would win and lose.

"Can everyone handle .500 football every week?" Wilson said

Wisconsin's Gary Andersen, Missouri's Gary Pinkel and Iowa's Kirk Ferentz also were against it.

Andersen, the former Utah State coach, and Pinkel, formerly at Toledo, wondered how the smaller schools could survive without playing the Power Five schools. Some smaller schools receive more than $1 million to play at a Power Five opponent.

"Where do teams like Utah State go to get a big game?" Andersen said.

Ferentz even predicted the Big Ten would play 10 conference games "in the near future." The league currently has eight league games but is moving to nine in 2016 and will eventually eliminate games against FCS teams.

LSU's Les Miles, one of seven SEC coaches who were in favor, believes that "we're headed that way" to Power Five-only schedules.

Mississippi State's Dan Mullen, who also favored it, said that if the schools played only Power Five opponents, they would need more scholarship players and expanded eligibility.

Even though Notre Dame has never played an FCS team and plays almost exclusively Power Five opponents already, Irish coach Brian Kelly said he would be against it if it meant no longer playing Navy.

Kelly said removing Navy from Notre Dame's schedule would be "a deal-breaker." Even with teams playing tougher schedules, Kelly said he doesn't favor teams with losing records playing in bowls.

North Carolina's Larry Fedora was against the idea because he said the Group of Five league teams "can't survive without us. It would not be good for college football."

Brett McMurphy | email

College football reporter

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