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June 6, 2012

Saban favors 9-game SEC slate

BIRMINGHAM | The University of Alabama's incoming freshman football class might never get to play a game against a couple of schools in the Southeastern Conference's East Division.

Perhaps lost in the league's recent approval of the 6-1-1 schedule format - under which each team will face all six divisional foes each year, along with one fixed and one rotating opponent from the opposite division - was that one cross-divisional rotating game won't allow for a player's career to include a game against every team in the league.

It wasn't lost on Nick Saban, and that's one reason the UA coach was among the minority in favor of playing a nine-game SEC schedule.

"I'm satisfied with what everybody determined, but in all honesty, I was kind of for playing more games. When 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 is the best team in the league," Saban said at the Regions Tradition golf tournament at Shoal Creek on Wednesday. "I think 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. We've kind of had that in the past. This format won't necessarily give every player an opportunity to do that."

Alabama's fixed opponent in the SEC East will be Tennessee, preserving one of the league's most storied annual rivalries. The fixed cross-divisional opponent component to the scheduling format will preserve some of the league's best rivalries. Before expansion brought Texas A&M and Missouri into the league, each team had two cross-divisional rotators on its schedule.

Going forward, however, there will be only one. As such, a four-year SEC player would face no more than four teams from the opposite division in a career, notwithstanding the SEC title game.

Saban said each SEC school has its own set of circumstances that color its scheduling opinions. Opposition to the nine-game SEC schedule included teams that have an annual rivalry outside the league.

"In some cases, whether it's Florida having to play Florida State, South Carolina-Clemson, Georgia-Georgia Tech, they already have another game that's a tough game for them," Saban said. "So when you play more conference games, now their schedule gets a little overloaded the other way."

Saban watching WCWS

Saban said he has kept an eye on Alabama's run through the Women's College World Series, including an 8-6 win over Oklahoma in Game 2 of the championship series Tuesday. Alabama held off a late five-run rally by OU.

"(Tuesday) night made me nervous in the bottom of the seventh," Saban said. "When you're an old baseball player, you've been through a few of those where you have to hang on a little bit. I'm just happy for them and wish them good luck."

Reach Chase Goodbread at chase@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0196.


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