With 14 Teams, There's Little Room for Scheduling Equity in SEC

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With 14 Teams, There's Little Room for Scheduling Equity in SEC
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The SEC's "new" scheduling format—which is to say isn't new at all—isn't popular among every conference coach and administrator. 

That's to be expected. It's tough to please everyone, especially when it comes to scheduling and competitive equity. The larger the conference, the more convoluted scheduling becomes. Trying to find fairness in scheduling is difficult, if not impossible, in a 14-team SEC. 

Still, that didn't stop LSU athletic director Joe Alleva and head coach Les Miles from voicing their opposition to the format. Alleva said, via Jim Kleinpeter of The Times-Picayune:

I’m disappointed in the fact that the leadership of our conference doesn’t understand the competitive advantage permanent partners give to certain institutions. I tried to bring that up very strongly at the meeting [Sunday]. In our league we share the money and expenses equally but we don’t share our opponents equally.

Gerald Herbert

“We play the toughest schedule in America in our conference, and then we have the bias of the permanent partner,” Miles added via Ross Dellenger of The Advocate.

Alleva has a point that the vote, which went 10-4 in favor of staying at eight games with permanent cross-divisional opponents, was made in "self interest." Then again, every vote ever casted—including LSU's—falls under that category. 

As Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated tweets, coaches perennially in the national championship conversation are more likely to embrace a nine-game format in conference play; coaches fighting for bowl eligibility, and/or their jobs, are more likely to embrace eight. 

It's no surprise, then, Alabama coach Nick Saban has stumped for a nine-game conference slate

Tradition be damned, doing away with the permanent cross-divisional opponent wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. 

Yes, success is cyclical. There was a time when Tennessee was a national power under head coach Phillip Fulmer. There was also a time when Florida, LSU's crossover opponent, never won more than eight games per season with head coach Ron Zook.

Gerald Herbert

Yes, tradition is refreshing in a realignment world. However, there's also a historical difference between Kentucky and Florida that cannot be ignored. 

Or, if the SEC had gone to a nine-game schedule, it could've kept the permanent opponent and added two more cross-divisional teams. If a player at LSU takes a redshirt and stays all five years, he would theoretically have faced every opponent in the SEC at least once. 

But, as Dan Wolken of USA Today tweets, there will always be scheduling inequity in college football. 

The moment the SEC added Missouri and Texas A&M to the membership, scheduling got more difficult. That has to be taken into account. Though it's easy to crucify the Big 12 for its conference championship-less format, its nine-game, round-robin schedule is a breeze. 

If the SEC was still a 12-team conference, it would have a lot more flexibility in scheduling. With eight conference games, it could do a "pod system" of three teams that rotate for non-divisional games. 

The possibilities could go on and on. With 14 teams and eight conference games, though, someone is going to get stuck with a harder schedule. LSU happens to believe it drew that short straw.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. 

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