SEC gets set to tackle 13-team football schedule

SEC gets set to tackle 13-team football schedule

September 30th, 2011 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Knowshon Moreno helped lead Georgia to an overtime victory at Alabama in 2007, but next year's meeting between the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa is no longer a certainty with Texas A&M's arrival into the SEC.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

With Texas A&M now in the Southeastern Conference family, league commissioner Mike Slive soon will belly up to the table and renegotiate television contracts with CBS and ESPN.

Those discussions should result in additional revenue for the SEC's 13 members, but what remains unknown is how future football schedules will shake out. Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said that issue will start getting addressed within the next two weeks, and he is confident the SEC will not opt for nine league games any time soon.

"We are locked into nonconference games with very high liquidated damages for both parties in some games through 2016, so I don't foresee a nine-game schedule happening," McGarity said. "If the conversation goes to nine games, then you're going to have a number of institutions that already have signed agreements on nonconference opponents on set dates.

"I fully expect to play every one of our nonconference opponents on the Saturdays we have fully executed contracts with."

Georgia has all four of its nonconference opponents set through 2014, which includes a home-and-home series with Clemson in 2013-14 and the annual season-ending game with Georgia Tech.

Within the league, the Bulldogs are scheduled to play at Alabama on Oct. 6, 2012, yet that and several other matchups of SEC teams are being placed on tentative status. The Aggies are expected to join the West Division and play all six members on that side, so some existing pairings for next season will get scrapped.

The Mid-American Conference has been the only Bowl Subdivision league with 13 teams, with seven in the East and six in the West, and employs an eight-game league schedule. The six teams in the MAC's West play the five teams on their side and three from the East, and four of the seven teams in the East play five on their side and three from the West.

That leaves three of the seven teams in the East playing all six teams on their side and only two from the West.

Should the SEC implement a similar model and LSU be among the three West teams that would play six on its side and two on the other, the Tigers could cry foul since one of their two opponents from the East might always be Florida. The Tigers and Gators have been permanent opponents since the last SEC expansion in 1992 and have played annually since 1971.

"That's not right," LSU coach Les Miles said. "If you're going to name a Western Division champion, certainly you want to play all the guys in your division. What it does is make precarious the crossover game.

"If you're adding a great opponent to our guys here in the West, then frankly, you look at that crossover opponent, whether it's Kentucky or whoever it is, and there is the issue."

Miles isn't alone in his apprehension over league lineups in the years ahead.

"When you add a team like this, it kind of upsets the way of how you've scheduled in the future," Alabama's Nick Saban said. "We play Michigan next year in Dallas and certainly did that for a reason. We were not really looking for another opportunity to go back in Texas and play."

Only one SEC campus -- LSU -- is within 500 miles of College Station. Georgia's campus is 933 miles away, but McGarity said the Bulldogs fan base will have a sizable traveling advantage to the league's new locale because of proximity to Atlanta.

The quickest way for most SEC schools to Texas A&M will be flying into Houston and driving 95 miles to College Station.

"We can fly nonstop to Austin, Houston and San Antonio," McGarity said. "There are so many cities we can fly direct to, so the bottom line is that there is really not much difference in going to College Station by flying into Houston and going to Ole Miss by flying into Memphis. For us logistically, I don't think it's going to be that big of a deal, because there are so many flights out of Atlanta that are nonstop.

"If I'm in Gainesville, there is only a direct flight to Charlotte or Atlanta, so I've got to make connections. The dynamics would be a lot different there, as they probably would for the Mississippi schools."