The SEC caught its basketball coaches off guard recently when it emailed them changes to the conference schedule that was supposedly set at June's spring meetings. Imagine if it did the same thing in football.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive would have to spend the rest of the day on the phone with football coaches, some of whom would have to be talked down from ledges.
The conference schedule matters in basketball. It matters so much more in football.
It's not just whom you play outside your division. It's when you play them.
Even open dates can be a source of anguish in football. Just a couple of years ago, Alabama officials spent the offseason whining about a conference schedule that gave so many of its opponents the week off before Alabama.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has spent this offseason throwing darts at both the last conference schedule and the one to come. His point: Georgia won the East through scheduling and could win it again the same way.
Tennessee has no such complaints. The scheduling advantage gained from last season to this one is significant.
The Vols didn't finish 5-7 last season solely through inept play. They played three of the top five teams in the country — all from the SEC West. And the open date, just three games into the season, provided no cushion.
Never mind how much UT might have improved from last season to this one through experience and recruiting. Its acquired advantage in scheduling could be just as much of a factor in what should be a much-improved record.
The only disadvantage might come against its one non-conference BCS opponent. Playing N.C. State in the season opener in the Georgia Dome is more challenging than playing
Cincinnati in the second game last season at Neyland Stadium. The rest of the non-conference fare is comparable to last season's threesome, which Tennessee outscored 107-26.
But look how much the Vols will benefit elsewhere.
Thanks to SEC expansion, the Vols won't have to play Arkansas, which won 49-7 last season in Fayetteville and still has plenty of talent. Replacing the Razorbacks with Missouri is another plus for UT.
The natural rotation of the conference schedule will offer another advantage. National championship contender LSU is off; middle-of-the road Mississippi State is on.
The open date also will work in UT's favor. Last season, the Vols had to play four consecutive games against nationally ranked opponents — Georgia, LSU, Alabama and South Carolina — without a break. The 2012 schedule includes well-timed breaks.
The Vols will play Georgia State before Florida, and Akron afterward. The Georgia game is sandwiched between Akron and an open date. Troy will break up games against South Carolina and Missouri.
That leaves the last three weeks of October as the toughest stretch of the season. But at least the Vols will have an open date the Saturday before they play Mississippi State, Alabama and South Carolina in succession.
One more advantage: Tennessee won't have to play Kentucky at Commonwealth Stadium this season.