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Dr. Saturday

SEC coaches vote for an eight-game conference schedule — for now

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(USA Today Sports Images)

The SEC coaches voted Wednesday in favor of keeping an eight-game conference schedule, but that might mean very little down the road.

The vote was 13-1 with Alabama coach Nick Saban being the only holdout.

Saban has been outspoken about the conference’s need for a ninth game and doesn’t seem to be budging on the subject, which might give SEC commissioner Mike Slive the leverage he needs to go ahead with the change anyway.

Hey, if the league’s top coach wants it, what can he say?

While the 13 coaches who oppose the change see potential pitfalls of playing a nine-game schedule with the competitiveness of the league, Saban (and perhaps Slive) is looking at the long-term advantages.

The criteria for determining the new College Football Playoff has yet to be determined and it might end up rewarding conferences that play tougher (nine-game) conference schedules. Most SEC nonconference schedules are not usually among the nation’s toughest, so adding another conference game in what is perceived to be the nation’s strongest conference would be an easy solution.

The SEC probably isn’t going to be able to get away with playing a marginal schedule while other conferences are actively looking for tougher games to bolster their standing in the new College Football Playoff rankings (yes, looking at you 2011 Alabama).

Financially, the addition of a ninth game could be a boon especially with the introduction of the SEC Network in 2014.

Slive has already said the SEC will use the eight-game model in 2013 and 2014, but has been noncommittal beyond that. Does anyone think Slive wants his conference to be left behind regardless of what the coaches and perhaps the athletic directors think?

This is a man who was at the forefront of creating a four-team college football playoff way back in 2007. He and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany have been outspoken about providing stipends to student-athletes. If there’s been change in college football, Slive has been involved some way, some how. So, to think he’s going to sit idly on the sidelines while other conferences get a boost because of their conference schedules is naïve.

With the criteria and even the committee of the new College Football Playoff still up in the air, no one quite knows what college football will look like in a couple years. In the end, this will be a business decision and it probably won’t be a popular one.

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