Wednesday’s release of the 2014 football schedule, months later than expected, started me thinking about what lies ahead in 2016 and beyond.
That’s when the SEC will switch, or not, to the scheduling format of the future. It could be the current 6-1-1 format, with six games against division opponents, one permanent rival from the opposite division and one rotating crossover game. It could be a 6-2, with two rotating games and no permanent rival or it could a 6-2-1 if the league decides to add a ninth conference game.
The most powerful coach in the conference, Alabama’s Nick Saban, is in favor of a nine-game schedule, and the most powerful people in college sports, television executives, want a nine-game schedule. So we’re probably headed for a nine-game schedule.
Before we get there, let me get my vote in for the current model.
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South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner will disagree with me on this point, but I don’t see a problem with the permanent crossover opponent. The Gamecocks’ permanent rival will be Texas A&M starting in 2014, and that looks daunting now. But Kevin Sumlin won’t be in College Station, Texas, forever and the Longhorns in Austin can’t keep underachieving forever, so things will get better from a South Carolina perspective.
As for nine games, what’s wrong with letting the schedule breathe some? Why eliminate an opportunity for a small school to collect a big check from a power conference team in exchange for a win. It’s college football’s version of baseball’s luxury tax, and it’s about the only thing that’s keeping any money at all flowing downhill in college athletics.
And, while the prospect of another SEC game sounds better right this second than, say, South Carolina-South Alabama, isn’t it nice to be able to go to your tailgate spot or your couch a couple Saturdays a season without biting your fingernails off?