Analysis: What to look for on SEC football scheduling

semerson@macon.comMay 27, 2013 

SEC ESPN Football

Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive, right, speaks as ESPN President John Skipper listens during a news conference announcing the launching of the SEC Network in partnership with ESPN, Thursday, May 2, 2013, in Atlanta. The network will produce 1,000 live events each year, including 450 televised on the network and 550 distributed digitally.

JOHN AMIS — AP

ATHENS - The SEC decision-makers are congregating this week, and when it comes to football schedules, it remains to be seen whether the decision-makers will ... well, make any decisions.

How much has changed in a year? Not really that much. Last year, the annual meetings in Destin, Fla., were dominated by debate over how to schedule in a 14-team SEC, and the result was a continuance of the 6-1-1 format. (Six games within the division, one permanent cross-division opponent, and one rotating cross-division opponent.)

A year later, the football schedule is once again the dominant topic. And once again, it seems likely the SEC will only release one or two or three years' worth of schedules, while debate continues on a long-term solution.

Here's what needs to be said: The media and some coaches seem to be talking about grand changes (a nine-game schedule, eliminating cross-division opponents) more than the people who will actually make those decisions. There have been a lot of columns written lately urging the conference to seriously consider nine games, and getting rid of cross-division games. But they're talking about it way more than athletics directors and presidents, from what I've gleaned in my own reporting, and reading the reporting of others.

That doesn't mean it won't happen eventually. It just means that it won't happen this week, barring a big surprise.

At a minimum, look for the SEC to officially announce a 2014 schedule. It's possible the conference could also announce schedules for a few years beyond that. But not many years.

And any schedule announced this week will be eight games, and under the 6-1-1 format. That's been known for a long time.

There will be debate on going to nine games, and eliminating cross-division opponents. Where that debate will lead will be fascinating to watch over the next few years. But it seems doubtful that in four days of meetings the conference will come to enough consensus on that.

As far as Georgia is concerned, keeping the annual rivalry with Auburn will be of paramount importance. At this point, the rivalry is safe. Yes, there is sentiment to junk it, along with Tennessee-Alabama and LSU-Florida. But is there enough sentiment?

SEC commissioner Mike Slive tends to get what he wants by gently pointing his school's administrators in his direction. But what does Slive want on scheduling? He's been cagey on that. When it comes to scheduling, you can sense that Slive wants the SEC to at least consider going to nine games. So it will consider it. But it doesn't seem Slive is as eager to get rid of more good rivalries.

It also seems that if push came to shove, schools like Georgia and Auburn would accept nine games more than they would getting rid of their rivalry. So if that's what it takes to preserve the deep South's oldest rivalry, then they'll do it.

The question this week is how much the discussion will be furthered. Perhaps we just get the 2014 schedule and nothing else. Perhaps we get more.

I'm still on baby duty, as I can prove thanks to the local paper. But the Ledger-Enquirer's David Mitchell will be in Destin providing news and updates. So look for news on the L-E and Telegraph's sites, and follow him on Twitter at @leprepsports.

Follow Seth Emerson at @sethemerson.

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