John Adams: SEC's short-term schedule matters, too

John Adams
University of Tennessee athletics director Dave Hart introduces new head football coach Butch Jones during a press conference in the Peyton Manning Locker Room Complex at Neyland Stadium Friday, Dec. 7, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer, Knoxville News Sentinel

University of Tennessee athletics director Dave Hart introduces new head football coach Butch Jones during a press conference in the Peyton Manning Locker Room Complex at Neyland Stadium Friday, Dec. 7, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

DESTIN, Fla. — Long-term football scheduling was the biggest conversation piece of the SEC spring meetings last week.

But Tennessee should be more concerned about the next schedule.

The SEC is expected to announce its 2014 schedule in the next few weeks. And no one will be paying closer attention than the league coaches.

They know how much impact a one-game shift in a conference schedule can have.

The change of one non-divisional opponent can change almost everything: which teams play for the SEC championship, which teams go to bowls and which teams fire their coaches.

No wonder, SEC coaches are so opposed to adding a ninth conference game (only Alabama coach Nick Saban favors it). An extra conference game means an extra loss for half the teams.

But the coaches’ 13-1 vote meant nothing.

Their only consolation: They will have to wait awhile for the bad news. The SEC will take its time developing a long-term scheduling format, beginning in 2016.

The schedule will be in “the long-term best interest of the conference,” according to SEC commissioner Mike Slive.

It won’t be in the best interest of the coaches.

The conference wants to increase attendance and raise revenue. That’s why the nine-game schedule is a virtual certainty.

“We’ve got to consider what’s coming,” Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart said. “Twelve-year-olds when they’re 22 can go fishing and watch the games.

“If you’re going to have fans responding to your tailgating efforts and coming to your stadium, they want to see competitive games.”

Athletic directors and SEC officials aren’t thinking solely about next year. They’re thinking about the next 10 years.

“This is a different generation,” Hart said. “The day of the grandfather passing down the baton to his son, who passes down the let’s-go-to-the-game baton to his son (is over). We have to be cognizant of that.”

Coaches are more cognizant of what’s next.

Like the current format, the 2014 schedule will be comprised of six games within the division, a permanent non-divisional rival and a rotating non-divisional opponent. The 2015 schedule will be set up the same way.

Those schedules supposedly will have nothing to do with the 2013 schedule, which was another independent production, designed to bridge the gap from one format to another.

For example, just because Tennessee has a home game with Auburn this season doesn’t mean it’s assured of playing Auburn on the road as its rotating opponent from the West in 2014.

What if it has to play Texas A&M in College

Station instead? Or LSU in Tiger Stadium, just three years after it played the Tigers in back-to-back seasons?

“We do have a chance to sit down with conference officials and make those points,” Hart said.

But each athletic director will have a different point to make. Not all of them can be accommodated.

In the fairest scheduling scenario for Tennessee, the Vols would play Auburn on the road in 2014. But a fair schedule for UT isn’t necessarily fair for everyone else.

Imagine the outcry if Alabama gets to play Kentucky again next season.

The 2013 schedule has the Tide playing Kentucky as its non-divisional road opponent. Conversely, LSU will play at Georgia; Texas A&M will pick up Vanderbilt.

Think that won’t be a factor in the West race?

It’s just one game. But in the SEC, one game matters.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

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Comments » 7

volbike writes:

with a nine gam sec schedule it might almost be worthwhile to get seasn tickets again!
It is amazing what seasonn ticket holders have had to put up with. Our family had three pairs of season tickets for almost forty years and finally gave all of them up in the face of NC/Buffalo swaps and worse in favor of big screen home tv. UT has a lot of chickens coming home to roost.

dvhill100 writes:

Agreed - bad games, prices for everything to unsustainable levels, technology improvements all make it difficult to justify a week's pay for a weekend game for out of towers like me.

AlphaVol01 writes:

We need to drop the Bama rivalry. If it wasn't for "tradition", we would scream to high heaven at the unfairness of playing them every single year.

All of our SEC East rivals (Fl, GA, SC especially) absolutely love it. With a six game winning streak and a 21 point average victory margin during that time, Bama loves it too.

Even if CBJ brings us someday to Bama's current level, it still means that we still loose half those games! The 3rd Saturday in October needs to go. Instead, our goal should be to play them as often as possible in Atlanta.

jmaples54 writes:

tiny seats....parking miles away...outrageous ticket prices...
but if butch can start beating some good teams, it just might be worth it.

CoverOrange writes:

The East-West divisions were arbitrary, not based on tradition or anything but geography. Geography was thrown out the door when aTm and Mizzou were brought in. Go the way of basketball and play everybody equally. First year play teams 1-8, second year teams 9-13 and 1-3, third year teams 4-11, etc., just keep rotating through. Think out side the box.

RashaadSalabeb writes:

I'm all for picking up another SEC game but it's time to let the Alabama game go. It's not a rivalry any more. We'll get back in the mix soon regardless of what happens. I just talked to a friend of mine in Knoxville and he told me two interesting rumors. I was wondering if anyone else had heard them. The first is that South Carolina is going after the Notre Dame Quarterback. The other is that a big time recruit is getting ready to commit to us in the next couple of days. I have no idea who that might be. I'm definitely getting ready for football and hope Lane gets back with the team soon, as long as his head is on right of course.

Go Vols! Shock and Awl is what we need this year!

orangeman1 writes:

Playing 9SEC games a year would add more excitement. With the new playoff format, it will be almost assured that a one loss SEC team will be included so I dont think it will hurt the SEC's NC chances. I dont see a negative except it might cause schools to quit scheduling good Out of Conference matchups that fans enjoy.

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