Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Could the SEC take the plunge with a nine-game schedule in 2012? The league says no. But South Carolina president Harris Pastides says yes.
Pastides told the Carolina student newspaper the Daily Gamecock that the SEC had agreed to play a nine-game conference schedule as soon as next season, with each team playing the full six-team divisional round robin (as mandated by NCAA bylaws) and three cross-divisional games.
Since that would require each SEC team to drop a nonconference opponent from their schedule, Pastides said a plan had been put into place for the conference to reimburse schools for the costs of buying out that nonconference game. That same plan was also indepently reported by the Sporting News' Matt Hayes.
But if SEC public relations official, Charles Bloom is to be believed, a nine-game schedule would be news to the conference itself. Not long after the Pastidies interview went public, Bloom tweeted the following:
Not a lot of interpretative wiggle room in that statement, is there?
So: who's telling the truth? Speaking as fans of interesting, traditional cross-divisional games like Auburn-Tennessee or LSU-Georgia -- is anyone not? -- it would be nice if Pastides was; on an eight-game schedule, six divisional games and one protected crossover game means just one slot available for rotating through the other six cross-divisional opponents. Like the past two years' worth of meetings between Alabama and Florida? Sure hope so, because under the eight-game plan you won't see the Tide and Gators play again for 10 years.
But we're expecting that's the plan the SEC is adopting anyway. Nine games means one fewer nonconference game and one fewer revenue-generating home game every other year, and that's assuming you're talking about a team with four home games to start with; with Florida's annual home-and-home rivalry with Florida State and the neutral site game vs. Georgia, it's conceivable the Gators would play just five home games in a year. They won't go for that, and it's doubtful other SEC teams with important nonconference rivalries (Carolina vs. Clemson, Georgia vs. Georgia Tech) would either. Reports were rampant Monday morning that SEC A.D.'s and coaches were unilaterally opposed to a nine-game slate, and that's 100 percent what we would expect.
So until Mike Slive himself confirms that Pastides and the other presidents have strong-armed their schools into the nine-game plan, don't get your hopes up for it. The money says eight is better, and the money usually gets what it wants.