FOOTBALL: Should the SEC go to a 9-game league schedule?

There is a steady stream of media members lobbying the SEC for a nine-game conference schedule. On the surface, the request is reasonable. Fans want better games than Alabama vs. Northwest-Southeastern Tech State.

AL.com columnist Tommy Hicks used his column today to argue for this change. According to Hicks, the expanded SEC football schedule would make the conference stronger and richer. Oh and don’t forget the best reason to do it—all the other cool conferences are doing it. (LINK)

Hicks argued, “Going to nine league games a year — a step that is planned by the Pac-12, ACC and perhaps others — not only reinforces the toughness of the league but makes it even more attractive to television… A nine-game SEC schedule makes the SEC stronger than remaining at eight games. And wasn’t that the point of adding A&M and Missouri?”

Actually no. Making the league stronger on the gridiron had nothing to do with conference expansion. The only reason the SEC expanded was money.

Now, one could argue more money makes the league stronger. As Cicero said, the sinews of war are formed with unlimited money. In the arms race that is modern college football, more dollars and more television exposure means stronger football programs.

However, this is an ancillary benefit.

Making more dollars with expanded television markets was the only reason SEC presidents expanded the conference. Growing budgets and greater financial pressures necessitated the move. Governments and other institutions are finding it harder to make ends meet in this new economic world.

With the SEC owning the BCS National Championship, would anyone think that adding Mizzou and Texas A&M would make the league more dominate? The conference is better with Missouri and Texas A&M, but if these schools wanted in but could not deliver a bigger payday for the SEC, then these teams wouldn’t be in the conference. Making it clear that the SEC wanted a bigger payday from expansion was its use of outside consultants with expertise in television contracts.

Hicks argues that new television contracts create a reason to expand to a ninth game. However, the resulting unbalanced schedule with 5 home and 4 road games followed by 5 road games and 4 home games would create some budgeting issues as teams lose a guaranteed home game every other year. In theory, the new television revenue could offset that.

But, there is more at play than just the television revenue. The economic impact of home football games has an enormous political role in each SEC hometown. In many cases the partnership between the city and university has funded important expansions serving academic and athletic goals. Casting aside a home game every other year might not matter to the institution, but it does matter to local governments and small businesses. There will be political costs to changing the schedule.

Hicks discounts the damage a nine-game SEC football schedule would have on teams like Alabama. In his column, he argues that preserving games like Alabama vs. Tennessee is more important than Alabama vs. Michigan.

Hicks has constructed a false dichotomy. The league has already shown with the present schedule it can preserve the important games like Auburn vs. Georgia and Alabama vs. Tennessee.

Moreover, it does so while allowing two of the biggest names in college football to play as Alabama faces Michigan in Dallas.

An eight-game SEC schedule isn’t perfect, but a nine-game schedule would totally eliminate these important matchups between Alabama and foes like Penn State, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Michigan. Is it worth sacrificing these important games to increase the SEC football schedule to a ninth game?

Not yet. Those wanting to expand the schedule haven’t made a convincing enough argument. So, without a reason to change, the SEC would be wise to stay at eight games.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

9 Comments

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  1. 1
    Dean Thomas

    There is no drawback to staying at an eight-game schedule. Cross-divisional rivalries don’t have to be lost. If Alabama-Tennessee isn’t scheduled as a conference game, put it on the non-conference schedule.

  2. 2
    tblakney

    You’re observations make more sense than hicks’ observations make and I am not trying to insult you but compliment you. Hicks don’t know anything about football but always has a bunch of goblie gook to write about. i don’t see how you understood the crap he wrote!!!!!

  3. 3
    john

    Might lose a hone game every other year but would also gain an additional SEC home game every other year. SEC fans travel far better than crap teams.

  4. 4
    G-Phat

    An extra SEC game is bad for continuing to dominate the BCS national championship game. SEC victories are tough to get and a loss could remove you from National title contention. It will also wear you down more for post season Play. 9 SEC games is bad for conference continued dominance where in other conferences it will just help their dominant teams get another easy win, especially if it gets an AL, SC, LSU… Off of their schedule.

  5. 5
    Lionel Simms

    here are many more advantages to an eight team schedule than a nine game schedule—more revenue, more bowl teams, better chance to make the NC game. None of the rivalries threaten is that important that they must be played every year. If you want to push for something in the best interest of the SEC. then push for abolishing the divisions as we have done in basketball and supporting a playoff without restrictions. It should be simple in format with the four highest ranked BCS teams playing for the championship.

    The SEC does not have to beat itself to death to prove it is the dominant conference in college football. Do not be concerned about viewership. The SEC had nearly twice as many viewers as most conferences according to Nielson. Sell below:
    Rank Conference Average TV Viewers
    1 SEC 4.44 million
    2 Big Ten 3.26 million
    3 ACC 2.65 million
    4 Big 12 2.34 million
    5 Pac-12 2.10 million
    6 Big East 1.88 million
    See http://www.slideshare.net/ceobroadband/state-of-the-media-2011-year-in-sports-11339432

  6. 7
    tide1957

    Since ‘money’ is what is drove the expansion, why not add another regular season game and play 10 conference games!

    The schedule could be 6-4-3 Six division games, Four cross division games and three non-conference games for 2 years.
    Then 6-3-4 schedule for two years for 2 years. If Alabama-Tennessee wants to keep up the rivalry, they can use one of the non-conference games in the 6-3-4 (2)years of
    home-and- home.

  7. 8
    Scott

    The idea is not to lose the Alabama-Michigan game as mentioned above, but rather to lose the Alabama-La Tech game. Under a nine game conference schedule, teams can set up the remaining three games to rotate two home games when they only have four home conference games, thereby ensuring six home games a year. And maybe we see a little less LSU-Wofford.

  8. 9
    Crayton

    No reason to move to 9 games. And if you want non-rivalry SEC teams to play each other more often, then move to quads (you don’t even need 16 teams to do this)

    4-team quads:
    WEST: Texas A&M, LSU, Ole Miss, Miss St
    NORTH: Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina
    3-team quads:
    CENTRAL: Alabama, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
    SOUTH: Auburn, Florida, Georgia

    Every team has 3 permanent rivals and plays 5 of the other 10 teams in a given year, playing them twice in 4 years instead of the projected twice in 12 years under the current format.

    Teams in the smaller quads also get 1 cross-over rival if they’d like (Alabama-Auburn). Switching Vanderbilt and South Carolina was considered, but I didn’t want to break the Tenn-Vandy rivalry. The teams in the 3-team quads can be shifted slightly if you think one is too strong.

    A 4-team quad is paired with a 3-team quad for two years at a time for 6 divisional games. Teams’ 2 remaining cross-division games are played against the opposing quad of equal size (North vs. West).

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