Commentary by David Climer, The Tennessean
When the SEC was in expansionist mode, one of the selling points for
Texas A&M was the thought of playing a football game at Kyle Field,
a.k.a. The Home of the 12th Man.
But because of the conference's
stubbornness, almost half of the SEC teams will see Kyle Field only once
every 12 seasons. While future conference schedules have not been
announced, it is possible that Tennessee or Vanderbilt will not go to College Station until 2023.
Even Charlie Sheen has better visitation rights than that.
one of the biggest downsides of the SEC's decision to stick with an
eight-game conference schedule instead of upping it to nine. Six of the
seven teams in the opposite division will be distant strangers. You'll
see each of them once every six years.
A nine-game SEC schedule would have hastened the frequency of those cross-division matchups. And a ninth conference game would give the nation additional exposure to SEC football.
least the SEC didn't turn its back on history. Some cross-division
matchups simply had to be saved. Except for 1943 when neither school
fielded a team because of World War II, UT and Alabama have played every
season since 1928. Even with the current disparity of the two programs,
the series has to continue.
Likewise, there is too much history
between Georgia and Auburn to sacrifice that rivalry. And SEC newcomers
Texas A&M and Missouri are made for each other.
On the other
hand, I'm not so sure the college football world would slide off its
axis if the Mississippi State-Kentucky series or Vanderbilt-Ole Miss
game were discontinued. But with the current schedule format, everybody
needs a permanent dance partner.
While most coaches oppose adding
another conference game so they can keep scheduling games against
Cupcake U. and Walkover State, Alabama's Nick Saban went on record last week in support of a nine-game conference schedule.
you increase the size of the league by 15 percent, you've almost got to
play more games to get a true indication of who's the best team in the
league," Saban said. "We should come up with some format in the future
where every player in the league gets an opportunity to play every team
in the league."
It makes perfect sense. And in time, that's what will happen. But it won't be because of the logic Saban espoused.
the SEC will add a ninth conference game when its TV partners demand
it. CBS and ESPN already are complaining about the shortage of appealing
SEC games in the first two weeks of the upcoming season. Apparently,
the Ole Miss-Central Arkansas and Alabama-Western Kentucky showdowns
aren't deemed must-see TV by the guys writing the checks.
a nine-game conference schedule would create a home-away imbalance.
Playing five SEC road games every other season is a nightmare. But the
quality of the so-called "rivalry" opponents (Tennessee plays Alabama
annually while Vanderbilt gets Ole Miss, for example) already creates a
scheduling imbalance across the league. Deal with it.
The SEC is the unquestioned leader in college football. Why not tee it up one more time with a ninth conference game?