The League: Perfectly aligned?

Billy Donovan and the Florida Gators won't be able to defend their SEC East title with the new conference realignment.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, January 13, 2012 at 9:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 13, 2012 at 12:14 a.m.

Mark Fox said he never set a goal for a division title in his first two seasons as Georgia coach.

“We were kind of in a rebuilding situation,” Fox said. “So it was a little different for us.”

Yet for the first time since 1991, there will be no SEC East or SEC West title to shoot for this season. The league opted to change the league standings to 1-12 in an effort to try to get more teams into the NCAA Tournament.

The tipping point came when Alabama failed to earn an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament despite winning the SEC West title last season with 12 league wins.

“I think it was a good move,” Fox said. “I think we should have probably addressed the scheduling component of it as well. But for a year we'll deal with it, and obviously with the addition of the new teams next year come to some common ground as how we are going to schedule the games, list the standings and move forward from there.”

This season, teams will still be playing their traditional East or West division foes twice and the opposite division once in a 16-game schedule. But with Texas A&M and Missouri joining the league next season, that could change in the future. There has even been talk of returning to two seven-team divisions in 2013.

“There is lot of good arguments there and we need to get in the room and hear them all and make a decision,” Fox said. “One of the arguments that has been presented is go to two divisions, play 19 conference games, play everyone on your side twice and everyone on the other side one time.”

Some coaches think the unbalanced schedules devalue the regular-season league champion. Florida won just its third outright regular-season SEC title with a 13-3 conference record last season.

“None of our schedules are exactly the same,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “And I think the only way to have a fair league champion is to play everybody twice — once home, one away. That's certainly not going to happen with the amount of games that need to be played for what teams are trying to do with their non-conference schedules.”

Most coaches agree that playing 16 games would not be enough next season to determine a league champion with 14 teams.

“We've got to preserve some of our non-league matchups and opportunities,” Fox said. “But it's something where I think we've got to get in a room and hammer out what is the best for the league. Maybe that's 19 games, maybe that's 18 games.”

Alabama coach Anthony Grant is confident the league will come up with the best solution with the scheduling dilemma in 2013.

“I believe the plan is to go to 18 games,” Grant said. “How that shakes out in terms of who plays who and what we decide is the best scheduling option remains to be seen. Like I've said all along, I've got a lot of confidence in Commissioner (Mike) Slive and our administration here to give us the best scenario in terms of moving forward with the expanded league.”

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