Back Nine: No surprise SEC didn't go to nine league games
Published: Tuesday, April 29, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, April 28, 2014 at 9:11 p.m.
The Back Nine comes at you after a long weekend of baseball at the Mac and binge-watching “House of Cards” at home. One episode to go in season two.
10. It was kind of strange timing that the SEC announced Sunday night that it would do almost nothing with its football schedules. It's hardly a surprise to anyone with any working knowledge of the conference that the SEC did not go to nine games. The votes simply weren't there. There was this misconception that ESPN would lean on Mike Slive to improve its content for the SEC Network but in the end the presidents and chancellors voted for what served them best. For Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and even Kentucky, it makes no sense to add a ninth game when you already have a rivalry game in the non-conference. And there are enough coaches out there who know that a ninth game might be the difference between making a bowl game or not. The edict that every team has to play a Power Five non-conference opponent is window dressing for the most part unless you are a Texas A&M fan. Only four SEC teams will not play Power Five teams this season and three of them are not even longshots to make the College Football Playoff — Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. But A&M has a chance to be in the mix every year with Kevin Sumlin and the league basically ordered the Aggies to improve their schedule (expect a call if you're the AD at Kansas, Wake Forest or Purdue). In three years of SEC play, including this upcoming season, here are A&M's non-conference games — SMU three times, Sam Houston State twice, Rice twice, Louisiana Tech, South Carolina State, UTEP, Lamar and Louisiana-Monroe. LSU athletic director Joe Alleva was upset that schools voted for their own self-interests because, well, because he didn't get his way and eliminate the permanent opponent from the other division. He's stuck playing Florida every year. "I'm disappointed in the fact that the leadership of our conference doesn't understand the competitive advantage permanent partners give to certain institutions," Alleva told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "I tried to bring that up very strongly at the meeting. In our league we share the money and expenses equally but we don't share our opponents equally." True that, but there is no way to balance the schedule. If you had Auburn in 2012 you were happy. If you had the Tigers last year, not so much. Reverse that with Florida.
11. If the league really wanted to do something it would have eliminated games against FCS schools. I do know that if I was the ACC, which will meet next month in Amelia Island, I'd be pushing my members to go to nine games as a show of force. “Hey, look at us. We're not afraid to play nine conference games. And that makes four of the Big Five conferences that are doing that now. And we have the national champ. Look at us.” Then again, the SEC can say this — we were a few seconds away from winning an eighth straight national title, so why change? But there is certainly going to be the perception that the SEC chickened out. I wonder how this will affect two things: 1. Will the league still get the benefit of a doubt when it comes down to the committee picking the final four for football and 2. How is this going to impact the negotiations with cable companies to pick up the SEC Network. Stay tuned.
12. Anyone who takes over as a commissioner of a major sports league has an agenda and things he or she wants to accomplish. But it's how they handle the messes that are dropped into their laps that define them. I'm sure Adam Silver's biggest concern a week ago was raising the age limit for entry into the NBA. Then, the tape showed up. And fewer people are talking about basketball than about racism. The bottom line is that Donald Sterling is a problem David Stern passed off to Silver with no owner's manual. There are some well-done stories online about Sterling's history of misogyny and racism and how he was not reprimanded but rewarded with Chris Paul by Stern. They are written by people who know the situation much better. I always saw Sterling from the outside as perhaps the worst owner in the history of sports. Little did I know that was the least of his character flaws.
13. Florida's baseball team isn't that hard to figure out. The Gators can beat anybody and lose to anybody. There, I solved it for you. It's a team with a small margin for error and a lot of that is between the ears. If they are focused, they have a chance. On Sunday, they won despite three wild pitches, three errors and hitting into four double plays. “It was frustrating to watch at times,” said Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan. But they won ugly and have already surpassed last year's win total. Some of the success can be attributed to a 6-2 record in extra-inning games. “We have a lot of pitching depth, and when you get to a game like (Sunday) we run some pretty good arms out there,” O'Sullivan said. “I think that if we could just keep it close on the pitching side of things, offensively we will end up getting a run. I think that we have a little bit more depth than most people.” Florida dropped out of the top spot in RPI because of the losses to Jacksonville (RPI 150) and Florida A&M (216).
14. Softball almost had its own “Heidi” game (go ask your dad what that was about) when Sun Sports cut away from the Sunday game against Missouri with two out in the bottom of the seventh and the tying run on second base to go to a Rays game. Taylore Fuller reached on an infield single before Aubree Munro flew out to left to end the game. Tim Walton's team is now tied for fifth in the SEC and has a series at Arkansas and the SEC tournament in Columbia to add to a resume that is borderline for a top eight seed and hosting privileges throughout regionals.
15. Runs? We don't need no stinking runs. The Atlanta Braves may not be the most entertaining team to watch because they hardly score (26th in the bigs in runs scored), but what they are doing on the mound is incredible. Especially when you consider all of the injuries that were supposed to cripple this staff. There's something about putting on that jersey that makes you a better pitcher. I can only hope that it continues, but we all know the ERA isn't going to stay where it is (2.04). There are 11 teams with ERAs that are at least twice as high as Atlanta's. The Braves have scored only 89 runs in 24 games, but have hit 29 homers. Unreal.
16. We opened up the registration for the 20th Bob Dooley Invitational last week and we're already three foursomes away from being filled up. And the tournament isn't until July 12. What amazes me the most is that no matter how many times I go to people asking them to help, it's rare when anybody says, “Not this year.” It's another reason I love living in Gainesville.
17. The Tweet of the Week comes from the talented musician Jason Isbell (who is from Alabama) — “Donald Sterling: not from the south. Just wanted to point that out, you guys.” No, he isn't.
18. So why not some Jason Isbell? Try him out with this download — “Brand New Kind of Actress.” Also, I fell in love with this song on The Spectrum (Sirius radio) but my 12-year-old thinks it's awful which tells me it's really good — “Bohemian Like You” by the Dandy Warhols. And for an oldie try anything written by Jimmy Webb, a Hall of Famer, but especially his version of “Wichita Lineman.”
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at email@example.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.