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April 22, 2014
HURT: Saban hints at future SEC scheduling format
In the next few weeks, according to SEC Commissioner Mike Slive, the momentous decision -- precisely how the Southeastern Conference football schedule will look in the future -- is coming soon.
On Tuesday, Nick Saban at least hinted at that possible format.
Saban, speaking before a Crimson Caravan event on Huntsville, said he "did not think there was any support" among the coaches for a move to a 9-game league schedule, particularly in the form Saban wants, with 9 SEC games and another non-league game against a team from one of the so-called "Big Five" conferences.
"I think there is more support (among the coaches) for eight games and one big non-conference games. I have been for nine and one."
Saban's logic is simple.
"You play 10 good games because of fan interest," he said. "It's better for the fans. People coming to games look forward to more good games."
A couple of things to note:
First, the league's coaches (other than Saban) have never been in favor of nine games. For many, one additional tough game -- and especially two -- can be the difference in making a bowl game or not, and sometimes a coach employment status is riding on that outcome.
But, another attendee in Birmingham, Mark Richt said, "we don't get to decide."
Ultimately, it is a decision that will be made by the 14 league presidents. It is merely a supposition but one assumes ESPN, a partner in the SEC Network, would almost certainly like more product (SEC football games) for the same money it is currently paying. ESPN strokes very large checks and could be influential in the high-stakes discussions.
There is also a group of schools that feels like they are already playing an 8-plus-1 schedule. For want of a better name, and without intending any Cold War connotations, call them the Eastern Bloc. Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Kentucky all have an annual in-state home-and-home rivalry with an ACC opponent (or about to be ACC, in the case of Kentucky-Louisville) and feel like a 9-game schedule would effectively burden them with 10 tough games, which no one but Saban (and many fans) seem to want.
While he expects some version of an eight-game schedule to stay in place, he said he has "no idea" about whether the format would be 6-1-1, preserving traditional East-West rivalries, or whether it,would go to 6-0-2, meaning games like Alabama-Tennessee and Auburn-Georgia would go from annual events to occasional ones.
"They'll get it,worked out in the next few weeks, before Destin," Saban said. "There were no solutions today."
On more immediate matters, Saban said he had reviewed A-Day film and was generally pleased despite "too many dropped balls, too many missed assignments.
"It's fixable," Saban said. "You can't be a good competitor if you don't go through adversity."
He also noted that sophomore linebacker Reuben Foster, who left the A-Day game, had suffered a "slight concussion," but "should be fine."
Whether the same can be said for Alabama-Tennessee remains to be seen.
-Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.