SEC meetings may finally resolve whether UF fans will have to learn to hate burnt orange
In case you haven’t been following the news, our nation is approaching a historic crossroad. An ominous deadline looms in a few days. Negotiations are tense.
I’m speaking, of course, of the SEC spring meetings in Destin, which should not be confused for the debt ceiling meetings in Washington D.C.
The impasse between the White House and Congress merely risks a default that might trigger a global depression. The SEC meetings deal with more pressing concerns, like will Florida fans have to develop a weird distaste for the color orange?
Burnt orange, that is. As in the Texas Longhorns.
That’s an offshoot of this week’s main agenda item. The SEC must decide whether schools will play eight or nine conference games a year, beginning with the 2024 season.
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Eight or nine? It sounds so simple, but it’s held SEC Nation in suspense for years.
“We still have fundamental disagreements we have to resolve,” Patrick McHenry said. “And it’s complicated.”
Oops, he’s actually a congressman from North Carolina talking about debt ceiling haggling. He just sounds so much like an SEC athletic director talking about scheduling that I got confused.
“There’s so many factors that I can’t explain at this point in time,” Auburn AD John Cohen told boosters last week.
I can’t either, but there is one thing everybody agrees on:
It’s time to agree on something.
Big hitches worked out and now it's time for schedule decision
The SEC’s been kicking this around since Feleipe Frank was Florida’s starting quarterback. There’s been a lot of upheaval in the past five years, but the big hitches to an agreement have worked themselves out.
A 12-team playoff will start next year. Texas and Oklahoma will join the SEC next year. The league will get rid of divisional play next year. The broadcasting megadeal with ESPN begins next year.
The planets have finally aligned, but the fissures in the Destin conference rooms pretty much remain the same.
Smaller-budget schools like Ole Miss, Kentucky, Arkansas and Vanderbilt want an eight-game conference schedule. That would allow them to schedule a more winnable contest, get to a lower-tiered bowl and keep everybody employed.
Bigger-budget schools like Georgia, UF, LSU and Texas A&M want nine games. That would make for more compelling games. And with playoff expansion, a close loss to a power team is better than a blowout over Arizona State.
Alabama was firmly in the nine-game camp, but the “rivalry” component has Nick Saban rethinking that. Nine games would mean teams have three permanent rivals and rotate through the other 12 schools every two years.
Alabama might have to play Auburn, LSU and Tennessee every year. Georgia might get Florida, Auburn and South Carolina. Tennessee might get Alabama, Kentucky and Vanderbilt.
That doesn’t strike Saban as fair. It’s not, but scheduling is like trying to solve a multi-dimensional Rubik’s Cube. Inequities and goofiness are inevitable.
Since when did the Texas Longhorns become a UF rival?
Florida’s three permanent rivals would likely be Georgia, South Carolina and Texas. The Gators and Longhorns last played in 1940.
A few UF fans might be itching for revenge for the 26-0 loss. But the vast majority would rank Tennessee, LSU and Auburn way ahead of Texas on the rivalry scale.
Then there’s the financial component, which supersedes all. A nine-game schedule makes the SEC product more valuable, and the league wants ESPN to respond accordingly.
They’ve been negotiating, but it’s unlikely a deal will be struck in the next few days. Add that to the list of variables to be debated.
“New information can change people’s perspective,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said last month. “We’ll continue to do that as we advance, with the idea that Destin is the decision point.”
That’s the idea. Will it finally happen?
The big issues like playoff format and expansion have been resolved. There will always be new information to chew on, but eventually you have to stop chewing.
A nine-game intra-conference schedule means more compelling games. If I were a university president, which sadly I’m not, I’d go with that. But going with an eight-game schedule wouldn’t trigger a worldwide depression.
Just go with something and end the frustration. We get enough of that from Washington D.C.
David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DavidEWhitley