No consensus on football slate


SEC Commissioner Mike Slive says that the league's football coaches talked about scheduling scenarios on Wednesday. (The Associated Press)

Published: Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 12:11 a.m.

DESTIN — Adding two new schools has added some excitement to the SEC. It's also created some confusion in terms of scheduling in football and basketball.

The league's basketball coaches seem to have figured it out. They have reached a consensus. The football coaches apparently have not two days into the SEC's Spring Meetings.

While the basketball coaches have proposed a new 18-game schedule that will include one permanent opponent and four rotating opponents, the football coaches have yet to reach a consensus on what schedule format is best now that the league has expanded to 14 teams.

“There are a lot of issues going on there (with proposed scheduling),” Georgia coach Mark Richt said after Wednesday's league meetings. “There was no consensus. There was no, ‘Everybody thought this or everybody thought that.'

“We're not saying anybody is right or wrong. Everybody's got their own opinion on what's best for their school.”

The football coaches have been debating three formats: 6-1-1 (six division games, one permanent opponent and one rotating opponent from the opposite division); 6-2 (six division games and two rotating opponents); and a nine-game SEC schedule.

At day's end, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said there is a leader in the clubhouse — the 6-1-1 format — after the coaches met with the athletic directors Wednesday afternoon.

“Our coaches were really impressive and they came in and had a very thoughtful sharing session with our athletic directors, talking about the various formats,” Slive said. “They shared the complexities of developing a format, the same complexities our athletic directors have been sharing over the past several months.

“Our athletic directors will have to think it through. If they're ready on Friday, they'll decide on a format. If not, they'll look some more. I think there is a leader in the clubhouse. At some point, a decision will be made.”

Opinions were all over the place after the coaches met with the ADs on Wednesday.

While Richt said there was no consensus among the 14 coaches, LSU's Les Miles said there was, that most of the coaches like the proposed 6-2 format, where there are six division games and two rotating opponents with the opposite division.

The 6-2 format would eliminate permanent opponents from the opposite division — and eliminate (on an annual basis) some of the SEC's most traditional rivalries, like Alabama-Tennessee and Auburn-Georgia.

“I'm trying to represent the room that's not here,” Miles said. “I would say the majority would be for that (the 6-2 format).”

Richt and Tennessee coach Derek Dooley quickly contradicted Miles, saying they both support the 6-1-1 format that would keep the league's long-standing rivalries intact.

“I prefer 6-1-1,” Richt said. “What happened was everybody has got their opinion because everybody is different. Georgia, Florida and South Carolina, their in-state rivals (Georgia Tech, FSU and Clemson, respectively) are out of conference. That's a big game.

“Some schools, they don't have an in-state rival, some have one within league play. For me, 6-1-1 makes the most sense. Some people think the rivalry games are really important. With 6-2, you lose Georgia-Auburn. My sentiment, to be real clear, is we should play Auburn.”

Miles' athletic director, Joe Alleva, said the 6-1-1 format is favored by the athletic directors and predicted it would be approved Friday.

“As of right now I think that's probably what's going to happen,” Alleva 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 (6-1-1) will still pass. If you're going to do that then you should just count the games within the division for the division winner. But that doesn't have any traction, either.”

The argument (on all sides) will be passed onto the league presidents and chancellors today.

The coaches did seem to agree on one thing Wednesday: a nine-game SEC schedule probably is not the way to go.

“I'm not interested in nine,” Richt said.

Other coaches echoed that sentiment.

While the football coaches were having a hard time agreeing on a new schedule format Wednesday, the basketball coaches came up with their proposal that will be voted on Friday.

The new 18-game SEC basketball schedule will feature one permanent opponent and four rotating opponents (that will change annually). Each team will play eight league opponents only once.

“The athletic directors still have to finalize it, but I think we're pretty much there,” Slive said. “It will be finalized Friday. I don't think there is any question about that.”

Florida's permanent opponent will be Kentucky. The other permanent opponents will be Alabama-Auburn, Missouri-Arkansas, Mississippi-Mississippi State, Vanderbilt-Tennessee, South Carolina-Georgia and LSU-Texas A&M.

UF coach Billy Donovan said he isn't sure how the decision was reached to make UF and Kentucky permanent opponents (meaning they will play a home-and-home series every year).

“I don't know how that all worked out,” Donovan said.

As part of the new schedule format, the top four teams in the league at the end of the season will receive double byes in the SEC Tournament, which will begin a day earlier (Wednesday) now.

Georgia coach Mark Fox said the new format likely will be reviewed again after the season.

“We're going to do a lot of things for the first time with a 14-team league that we may look back a year from now and say, ‘That was a great idea.' “ Fox said. “We may do some things where we didn't see that coming and we may want to change our thought.”

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