Texas A&M Aggies: Joe Alleva
April, 28, 2014
By Chris Low | ESPN.com
The SEC traditionalists can take solace.
The eight-game league schedule will remain in place, as well as the permanent cross-divisional foes. That means Alabama and Tennessee will continue to play every year along with Auburn and Georgia, two of the SEC’s most tradition-rich rivalries.
For those of us who've been entrenched in this league for decades or more, saving those rivalries certainly makes sense.
But not at the cost of creating competitive disadvantages and denying players and fans the opportunity to face (or see) every team in the league at least once in a four-year span.
In that regard, the presidents and chancellors got it wrong.
John David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsThe Alabama-Tennessee cross-divisional rivalry will remain a yearly fixture in the SEC.
It’s a fact that whatever scheduling format the SEC settled on wasn’t going to please everyone. A few wanted a nine-game league schedule, others weren't crazy about permanent foes, and there were some who liked it exactly the way it is.
Ultimately, a nine-game league schedule would allow for the most flexibility, the most balance and still give teams a chance to go out and play a marquee nonconference game.
Alabama athletic director Bill Battle said it best at the SEC spring meetings in May 2013.
“I think we need to play 10 quality games because our fans are going to get tired [of going to games with lesser opponents],” Battle said.
When’s the last time the fans really mattered?
As SEC commissioner Mike Slive noted Sunday, tradition matters in this league. And he’s right. It does.
But the landscape has also changed dramatically in this league over the last 20 years.
Since the days of Herschel Walker, Bo Jackson and Archie Manning, the SEC has added four new teams. South Carolina-Missouri is now a conference game. So is Arkansas-Texas A&M.
The league has been split into two divisions with a title game between the two divisional winners determining the champion. Teams wear gray jerseys, black jerseys ... even specially themed jerseys.
And occasionally, a team that doesn't even win its division has been known to win the national championship.
College football has changed, and if Alabama and Tennessee don't play every year, it’s not going to ruin everything that is sacred about the SEC.
Alabama and Florida, two of the heavyweights in this league, have played all of six times in the regular season since the league split and expanded in 1992. What about Auburn and Tennessee? That game was once a fixture. It would be nice to see Georgia and Alabama play more often in the regular season than once every blue moon. The same goes for Auburn and Florida.
Beat up on Les Miles all you want. But given the way Tennessee has struggled much of the last decade, Alabama playing Tennessee every year isn't quite the same as LSU playing Florida every year.
Chris Graythen/Getty ImagesLes Miles and LSU will continue to play Florida every year, a fact that could create scheduling imbalance within the SEC.
This league has always been cyclical, and at some point, it’s reasonable to think that cycle will turn back. But LSU athletic director Joe Alleva has a point, no matter who he might have ticked off with his comments Sunday night.
“I’m disappointed that the leadership of our conference doesn’t understand the competitive advantage permanent partners give to certain institutions,” Alleva told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “I tried to bring that up very strongly at the meeting. In our league, we share the money and expenses equally, but we don’t share our opponents equally.”
It’s worth noting that LSU’s opposition to playing Florida every year has been much more boisterous than Florida’s in having to face LSU every year. In fact, Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley likes having a big-gate opponent such as LSU coming to the Swamp every other year.
So, again, different strokes for different folks.
Alleva’s assertion that schools voted for their own “self-interest” over “competitive balance” can’t be argued. Sure, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt are content with playing each other every year. The same goes for Kentucky and Mississippi State. Why trade one of those schools for an Alabama, Georgia or LSU every couple of years if you don’t have to?
Something says there’s also a tinge of self-interest in Alleva’s concerns. Just a smidge, maybe.
At the end of the day, if the league was determined to stick with eight conference games, the fairest way to have structured it would have been to adopt a 6-0-2 format -- six divisional opponents and two rotating cross-divisional opponents.
But as that wise (young) sage, Steve Spurrier, said, “There’s nothing fair about college football.”
Spring football has come to a close in the SEC with two teams -- Arkansas and Kentucky -- hosting their spring games over the weekend. Today's lunch links include recaps of each, as well as plenty of talk about the SEC's scheduling announcement.
- The SEC announced on Sunday evening that it is sticking to eight conference games and the 6-1-1 format, with a new requirement for playing a nonconference game against a power five conference team mixed in. The announcement means many key rivalries involving cross-division teams will survive.
- Quarterback play has been a point of emphasis in spring football for Arkansas. Unfortunately for the Razorbacks, quarterback Brandon Allen and the offense struggled when throwing the ball during the Red-White spring game on Saturday in Fayetteville, Ark.
- One of the touchdowns in the Razorbacks' spring game was scored by a special guest: Canaan Sandy. The 31-year-old lifelong Arkansas football fan who has Down Syndrome got the memory of a lifetime on a touchdown run.
- Kentucky's "Air Raid" offense may bring passing to mind first, but it was the running backs who had the big day in the Blue-White spring game on Saturday in Lexington, Ky., as Josh Clemons (93 yards) and Jojo Kemp (90 yards) led a quartet of backs who combined for 308 yards and four touchdowns.
- Back to the scheduling front, LSU athletic director Joe Alleva voiced his displeasure in the league's decision to keep a permanent cross-division rival because of the competitive imbalance that results, including the Tigers playing Florida each year. "We share all the revenue and expenses yet we cannot have a balanced, fair, equitable schedule," Alleva said.
- Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams said he's welcoming the SEC's scheduling format, particularly when it comes to nonconference opponents.
- Ole Miss and Mississippi State both have work to do for future schedules when it comes to adding nonconference opponents that fill the power-five requirement. Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin said, "It's not like shopping at the grocery store. You have to go and find someone who thinks you're a good match, too."
- A Q&A with Georgia signee Lorenzo Carter, who said he almost signed with LSU before choosing the Bulldogs on national signing day.
- There's a little bit of mystery surrounding the assault charges involving Texas A&M defensive end Gavin Stansbury, who was arrested and later released on those charges earlier this month.
April, 28, 2014
By Edward Aschoff | ESPN.com
Once again, the SEC knows what it's doing when it comes to protecting its product.
Sunday's announcement from the league that teams will continue to play eight conference games while adding an annual nonconference game against a power conference is another good idea, as the SEC gets ready to enter the college football playoff era.
With the new playoff committee taking strength of schedule into consideration when deciding on the four teams that will make up the playoff, SEC commissioner Mike Slive wanted to take appropriate measures to make sure his league has every opportunity to fill one, or even two, of the spots. It doesn't matter that the SEC has won seven of the past eight BCS national titles, the committee's job will be to be as thorough as possible when selecting teams. Slive -- and the rest of his SEC partners -- made sure strength of schedule wasn't an issue.
“The concept of strength of schedule is based on an entire 12-game schedule, a combination of both conference games together with nonconference games," Slive said in a release Sunday. "Given the strength of our conference schedule supplemented by at least one major nonconference game, our teams will boast of a strong résumé of opponents each and every year.”
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsSEC teams such as Florida (FSU) and South Carolina (Clemson) already have huge games annually with a team in another power conference.
Translation: We aren't going to be left out.
I think it's pretty safe to say that way more often than not, the SEC is going to get its conference champion in the four-team playoff. Its past speaks for itself, making it very hard to keep the champ from earning a shot at winning the national title. But we also know that nothing is a given in this world, so the league acted.
This will now (thankfully) take away one of those cupcake games used to pad stats and force all 14 teams to step out of their comfort zone each season to face a tougher out-of-conference opponent. It not only makes teams' résumés stronger, it makes for a much better product for fans and players.
The addition of a stronger nonconference foe means the SEC didn't have to worry about a nine-game conference schedule. Another good move.
While playing nine makes the league that much tougher and allows players to see every school in the league during a four-year career, it makes winning the SEC, well, that much tougher. And this is a product that isn't broken. The SEC went to the final eight BCS title games, all with only eight conference games during the regular season.
Why change that? Why beat up your title contender even more?
A nine-game conference slate would mean that the SEC champion would play 10 conference games before the playoff. That's a lot of wear and tear on your prized fighter.
What will have to be looked at on a more consistent basis is the rotation of the one non-division opponent for teams. It's clear that in the past few years there hasn't been much balance in that department, and LSU athletic director Joe Alleva, who sees Florida every year as the Tigers' permanent crossover opponent, isn't happy:
"I'm disappointed in the fact that the leadership of our conference doesn't understand the competitive advantage permanent partners give to certain institutions," Alleva told the New Orleans Times-Picayune on Sunday. "I tried to bring that up very strongly at the meeting today. In our league we share the money and expenses equally, but we don't share our opponents equally.
"Since 2000 LSU has played Florida and Georgia 19 times and Alabama has played them eight times. That is a competitive disadvantage. There are a lot of other examples."
We have to remember that this is a cyclical sport, but I think you'll start seeing the league pay attention to this more when assigning the rotating team.
Overall, the SEC got it right with its new scheduling format, as it prepares for life outside of the BCS.
SEC: Most To Gain, Lose
12:00 PM ET Florida Tennessee 12:00 PM ET 6 Texas A&M 12 Mississippi State 3:30 PM ET 3 Alabama 11 Ole Miss 4:00 PM ET Vanderbilt 13 Georgia 7:00 PM ET 15 LSU 5 Auburn 7:30 PM ET South Carolina Kentucky