Five days removed from the discussion of scheduling during the SEC meetings and the most talked about story to come out of those conversations was what didn't happen — the SEC did not decide to move to a nine-game schedule.
Why, oh why must we continue to do this dance, SEC?
Trying to fit 14 teams into an eight-game league schedule while keeping cross-divisional rivalries, the round-robin scheduling format and chewing gum while walking is pretty much impossible. Each SEC team is trying to push its own agenda and trying to please each school isn't going to work. While everyone loves watching the SEC beat up on the Sun Belt every year, I'd rather see the SEC hold firm to its reputation as the nation's best conference and play a schedule that has some meat to it with an extra conference game.
And it would solve a lot of the concerns many schools have about keeping rivalries and playing cross-division games.
Now doesn't that sound like a great idea?
We see it? Why don't they?
Only two SEC athletic directors - Tennessee's Dave Hart and Georgia's Greg McGarity — have given a thumbs up to a nine-game schedule despite getting the stink eye from their peers. As far as I'm concerned, these are the smartest guys in the room right now.
Here are a couple advantages to the nine-game schedule:
• More money: Who doesn't love more money? Instead of spending money on a body bag game against one of the non-AQ conferences, the SEC could make money by expanding its television contract to include that ninth game. Not to mention fans are more likely to buy tickets to a game against an SEC opponent than Louisiana-Lafayette (no disrespect to the Ragin' Cajuns, just fact).
• Do it for the rivalries: A nine-game schedule is the best way to preserve the storied rivalries that make the SEC great. Even though there's talk of changing some of the rivalries, including South Carolina's 19-year bout with Arkansas to give Texas A&M and Missouri new rivals, the preservation of these games needs to be at the forefront and every effort to save the league's oldest rivalries - Auburn-Georgia, Alabama-Tennessee, Ole Miss-Vanderbilt — needs to be on every ADs mind for the fans if nothing else.
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• Peer pressure: I know the SEC likes to march to the beat of its own drum, but at some point that might cost the conference a competitive advantage. The Pac-12 plays a nine-game schedule, the Big 12 is moving to a nine-game schedule and so is the ACC when Pittsburgh and Syracuse join that league. If it's a choice between a Big 12 school that played 10 games against automatic qualifying teams and an SEC team that played eight games against AQ teams and four against some patsies, which is going to earn more voter favor?
But we all know the real problem with the nine-game schedule, the thing that keeps ADs from signing off — it will make it much more difficult to stay undefeated and play in the national championship.
Yep, this is probably true. Going to a nine-game slate would put the SEC's illustrious national title record — whether it's six in the last seven years or seven straight — in jeopardy. But, again, I go back to the SEC being the best conference in the country. And if it truly is the best conference, playing the best competition should be rewarded (and might be in a conference with a nine-game schedule). Besides, who knows what the path to the national championship will really look like when the SEC finally decides to move to nine conference games? If it is a plus-one playoff system that rewards conference champions, like Big 12 Conference interim commissioner Chuck Neinas suggested to the Oklahoman, then that ninth game might have little impact if it's a loss and a great impact if it's a win.
Maybe it's going to take watching the 2012 and 2013 seasons play out — and hearing the outcry of fans who miss their favorite rivalries and refuse to pay for a game against Middle Tennessee (again, no disrespect) — before the SEC ADs come to their senses and realize that changing with the times of college football really is the best solution.
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