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Monday, March 15, 2010

Slive Talks Scheduling, Expansion

Had readers bring up a few SEC-related issues last week, and being as I was close enough to go to the man himself for some answers, I figured I'd get Mike Slive's take on them.

First off, Chris Low at ESPN reported last week that the league was holding off on finalizing the 2010 schedule because of a quirk that has Alabama playing six games against SEC foes coming off a bye week.

That prompted this email from a reader named Bob: "The SEC tried to distance itself from the “Conspiracy Theories” last year or the specter of favoritism shown to the so called Elite programs in the conference. When this happens it only throws fuel on the fire. BTW- This happened to UT (who I could care less about) and I don’t recall the SEC stepping in to help them."

To answer Bob's last point, yes, Tennessee has had more problems like this than most. Since 2007 the Vols have faced four SEC opponents coming off bye weeks -- tying Florida for the second-most among SEC teams.

But that's nowhere close to as bad as Alabama has had it. The Tide have played 11 total SEC games against opponents coming off their bye since 2007 -- nearly three times as many as UT or Florida. (Georgia, by the way, has only had two, while South Carolina and Arkansas have none). And that's not including this coming season in which that number will jump to a whopping 17.

Essentially, here's the bottom line on it: "In a league of 12 teams, just short of half of the bye weeks are absorbed by one program."

That's a problem, and rather than calling it a conspiracy, it's really fixing something that needed to be fixed.

"It's one of these things that developed over the last decade because of different things that happened," Slive said. "We're looking at it, and we're going to try to make an adjustment if we can in the coming year, but the ADs have already passed a new principle so something like that can't happen in the future."

Of course, the question is whether or not the SEC has waited a bit too long to make adjustments for this coming season. That's debatable, but all things considered I think most fans would prefer that the league err on the side of improving competition rather than allowing it to be shortchanged because of scheduling quirks.

The other big issue of the day surrounds conference expansion -- and it's an issue that seems to be gaining traction all the time. The latest game-changing comments -- which follow talk of interest in teams like Texas, Rutgers, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame by the Big Ten and Pac-10 -- comes from West Virginia coach Bill Stewart, who not only predicts an eventual end to the Big East, but makes an assumption that both the ACC and SEC will be a part of the eventual expansion.

"We talked about it today [in] a recruiting meeting," Stewart said. "Let's say the SEC invites us in. Well, that gives us a certain prestige. Then you say, where are we geographically compared to them? Now would the ACC be better? Well, geographically it might be, but clout-wise would it be? If the Big Ten would says, hey, come on in, that's an East-West travel. Probably the ACC would be the best travel league. But, really, football-wise, the ACC, SEC, Big Ten ... any will be good. I just hate to see the Big East disband."

What the what?!?

Seems pretty drastic, right? That's because it is -- and certainly Stewart is not in the rooms with presidents and ADs discussing these issues enough that his take can be considered much more than an educated guess right now.

But as drastic as this prediction might be, that doesn't mean it's not a possibility, and even Slive appears to consider it an option down the line.

"Any national issue we follow on a regular basis. We pay attention, we read what you read, we hear what you hear, and we listen to it," he said. "But expansion for us -- it's always been a topic of conversation, but never a front-burner issue."

Not a front-burner issue now, but if major shake-ups begin in both the Big 12 and Big East, the ball may get rolling quickly. The SEC has been the dominant football conference of the past decade, but the only way to maintain that dominance is to be proactive when change comes to the college football landscape.

Of course, right now, there's no real change to speak of -- just guesswork. And that's how Slive is treating it.

"First off all, something may happen, something may not happen," Slive said. "So hypothetically, we'll just watch. We'll continue to watch."


Paul said...

Wouldn't WVU have to tighten up its admission standards for athletes if it joined the SEC? (How funny does that sound?)

Anonymous said...

I think the fact that most West Virginia women look like wildebeasts should exclude them from the SEC. Even the skanks at UF look hotter than WVU girls.

Kevin said...

The Alabama situation could be easily remedied. the total number of games is NOT 17, rather it is 16, with half of those games being the annual bye for both Auburn and Ms. State.

Bama CHOOSES to play a non-conference patsy before Auburn in some years. The desire of both Bama and Auburn to close their year with an SEC game results in the two week gap.

The larger problem is Ms. State. Bama nearly always plays LSU the week before Ms. State, The league needs to end Ms. State's annual bye.

Finally, this ought to be looked at in perspective and note when Bama takes their bye and the quality of competition they play the week before. This year is ridiculous with the number of teams coming off of a bye. Past years are not as problemativc and could be fixed relatively easily.

Anonymous said...

Tired of Alabama fans whining. Their state is hot as hell even when it snows and they are the only people in history to have both an inferiortiy and superiority complex at the same time.

Joeski said...

Wow- are you guys for real? You don't think giving half the opponents on your schedule two weeks to prepare for your team isn't a ridiculously unfair competitive disadvantage?

How about if UGA had to suffer the same fate? Would you be blowing it off as whining then? If nothing else, it should be fixed so Tide fans can't make excuses when their team doesn't win. (And of course, so it doesn't happen to other schools, like UGA.)

In re: expansion; I think it's pretty clear that the key factor in this equation is television revenue. More teams = more games = more coverage = more cash for the conference schools to split. It's only a matter of time before the SEC moves to a 14 or even a 16 team league: you play everyone in your division, and 2 from the other division- one of those likely being a geographic rivalry (like AU/UGA) and 3 OOC games.

We are fortunate that we are in the SEC: the elite CFB conference. It is most likely that any school would jump at the chance to join the SEC, as long as travel costs wouldn't be too high (so it would have to be a regional team). Now as to what school would be wooed? Obviously it would have to be a traditionally competitive team, and I don't know that WVU fits that description.

I would almost see the SEC raiding the ACC for a few teams, and then the ACC repeating its raid of the Big (l)East...

Perkna said...

Yea... it is not fair that teams get an open week before playing you... One would think that the team with the open date has an advantage when the teams are comparable.

Only one solution -- which may come across as a BCS fix more than a scheduling fix, but it will fix this issue too! David, is this solution possible?

Keep the BCS system, just add some clarity to the regular season so that the "rankings" can be more accurate at the end of the year. It is not the BCS system that we hate -- it is the rankings. We debate who's #1 instead of proving it.

The problem is that there is not enough out of conference comparable match-ups in college football. What would have happened if a Hawaii would have played a Georgia (or Auburn or Florida) earlier in 2008? The BSC would have been much clearer at the end of the year.

We need the following:
You have 2 weekends per year (+ bowls) that the NCAA automatically schedules matchups. You could put the top 10 BCS ranking teams 1-10 against each other 1 vs 10, 2 vs 9, 11-20 etc. From the #1 team to the 119th team, every team plays another team in their "tier" (yes ~ 12 tiers). This will add a lot of clarity to the end of year BCS. Let's say weeks 5&6 and 11&12 we have these "Tiered Saturdays", one weekend half teams play, while the other half have an off week, the next weekend the other half play.

*You will still keep your big bowl money at the end of the year
*Every game still matters
*You get more good games - think of the revenue these big games would bring in (the tiers could even share revenue if losing a home game question comes up)
*It keeps every team on an even playing field with regards to open dates
*It evens the playing field for these powder puff conferences

I am not claiming that there won't be questions or tweaking, but this seems like the best solution that would actually work. I don't like a playoff scenario because the college games aren't as important anymore. This keeps everything great about college football there, but should add some clarity to the end of year rankings.

Kevin said...

Joeski, I am not saying the situation this year is fair, but Bama fans typically do not care to look at when their bye weeks are or who is the opponent they play the week before they play the team with the bye. That being said - 6 teams having a bye this year is inexcusable.

I think they can fix most of the problems if they merely deal with the Ms. State and Auburn games. Those games account for 50% of the bye teams over the past 4 years.

I think the league will address before finalizing the league schedule for the 2011 season.

Just look at all the facts before concluding that it is as one sided as it appears. LSU is a team that has a bye on occasion before the Bama game - and Bama also has a bye (like this year), or they play a non-conference patsy before LSU. Some years Bama will take a bye before Auburn and play the OOC patsy before LSU. Those choices on OOC games are up to the school.