DESTIN, Fla. - Florida and Georgia are often on the same side of off-field issues, but they are going their separate way on an increasingly volatile one: Whether to play small football schools.
Or at least their head coaches are going separate ways.
Florida will seek to stop playing FCS schools, head coach Will Muschamp said Tuesday. Speaking on the first day of SEC meetings, Muschamp cited schedule strength (as in trying to impress the new college football playoff committee) and attendance at home games.
"I think every institution ought to be making their decision on what they need to do. Moving forward, for us, having four non-conference games, one of those games being Florida State every year and we have talked about upping our non-conference schedule so that is not something We are probably going to move forward without playing FCS opponents," Muschamp said. "I think fan base as much as anything wants to see better opponents. Thats kind of where we are with that."
Georgia, on the other hand, will continue to schedule the small schools.
"I'm for doing it," head coach Mark Richt said.
Richt's reasoning? The smaller schools need the hefty guarantees. Richt, citing his board membership on the American Football Coaches Association, said he has spoken with representatives of FCS schools about it.
"What I'm learning is if we as BCS teams - or whatever you wanna call us these days - if we don't have those games with the FCS schools a lot of them have a very difficult time making their budgets," Richt said. "I think college football is too important at all levels to hurt them by setting criteria that would not allow you to play them."
This year Georgia is scheduled to face Charleston Southern on Nov. 22.
It wasn't entirely clear if Muschamp's position was Florida's, as the athletics director usually handles that. But in Georgia's case, Richt's position is in lockstep with his boss, athletics director Greg McGarity.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban said it would be his preference to have the schools from the five major conference play each other exclusively. No matchups with FCS teams, or teams from outside the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12.
But Saban acknowledged that it would be difficult to do that, and as a result it was necessary to schedule FCS teams in order to fill out a 12-game schedule.
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said his school's plan is to continue to play FCS teams. Freeze has also coached at small schools, and is sympathetic to their position.
"Not saying that can't change, obviously, and I haven't had enough discussion with my guys to go much further, but sitting here today I think that's the way we'll go," Freeze said.
Richt said the strength of schedule component shouldn't affect Georgia very much, pointing to the annual game with Georgia Tech, as well as past evidence the Bulldogs will play big schools, such as Clemson, Boise State, Oklahoma State and Arizona State.
"And I think in the future there will be some goodies to come," Richt said.