Saban Would Like SEC Schedule Fix

Before expansion of the Southeastern Conference from 12 to 14 teams prior to last season, the SEC was able to rotate teams in a manner in which through a four-year cycle every conference team would play against every other league team. The addition of two teams has complicated that scenario.



Alabama Coach Nick Saban said that he has respect for what the SEC is trying to do with its football schedule, but he also indicates that he thinks it could be done better. Although Bama's coach couched his comments in an SEC teleconference media event Wednesday, he made a good case that the league office is not doing what "makes for a better league."

Although the league has said that it is still working on a schedule rotation, the first two years – last year and this year – have had league teams playing six games against divisional opponents, one traditional opponent from the other division, and one rotating opponent from the other division.

The quick "for instance":

Every year, Alabama plays the other six teams in the SEC Western Division -- Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Texas A&M.

Alabama's traditional opponent from the Eastern Division is Tennessee.

Last year Alabama played at Missouri from the East. This year the Tide plays at Kentucky. Those are rotating opponents.

Saban points out that a player at one school is not likely to have the opportunity to play against every other team in the league in his four-year career in the current system. That's because with just one rotating opponent from the other division it will take six years to rotate through the other division. (There are opportunities to play opponents from the other division by playing in the SEC Championship Game, such as the Tide playing against Florida in 2008 and 2009 and against Georgia last year.)

Saban said, "I think we have a lot of people in the SEC who are trying to find out what is best for the league." He also said, "I have respect for what the league is doing."

There was a "but."

Saban believes that a player at Alabama should have the opportunity to be part of a team that plays every other SEC team during his career. That won't work in the scenario advanced by the league office to date.

It could be done bilaterally, SEC teams from opposite divisions meeting in what would be a non-conference regular season game. There is precedent. Former Alabama Coach Paul Bryant scheduled games against SEC teams that were not mandated by the conference. When Alabama won an SEC championship because it had an extra game, the league determined such games would no longer count in conference standings. Nevertheless, that would not prevent the games from being played.

The chances of all 14 SEC teams coming to such agreements is unrealistic beyond measure.

Saban, though, has proposed reasonable solutions.

One involves nine SEC games, which would suit Alabama but not a lot of other teams that want to schedule four wins – non-conference games against weak opposition -- rather than a mere three wins. That would be a matter of just adding one rotating game from the opposite division. (Another objection is that every year half the SEC teams would have five conference games, the other half only four.)

Another solution keeps the league teams playing just eight games. That would mean ending the "traditional opponent" from the opposite division and playing two rotating opponents from that division.

"I think it makes for a better league when we have more cross-division games," Saban said.

He added, "I think we've got a lot of good people trying to figure it out."

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