There really is no right and wrong here, but there is certainly going to be plenty to discuss no matter which way the Gator administration goes with this one. Last week I sat down with the Gator AD to try and get some insight into what he's thinking on this and other subjects.
LV: Jeremy where are you in terms of determining the best way to make use of the 12th game beginning next season?
JF: Well obviously it was just decided in the last week or so and we've been putting our feelers out and putting our plans together. At some point we'll sit down with Urban --- he's been out of town a lot with Gator clubs and recruiting --- but I want to make sure that his and my philosophies jive and I think they will. The bottom line is we want to do what's best for our football program. We want to position our program to compete for Southeastern Conference championships and national championships and where that all fits, time will tell. Ultimately I think everybody wants us to load up our schedules with the USCs and Oklahomas and Miamis of the world and, again we're going to do what's best for the program and where that shakes out, Larry it's too early to tell.
LV: There are so many angles I'd like you react to, one of them is the fact the Gators never leave the Southeast. Only two games in the last 15 years have been played outside this part of the country… you can play intersectional games without loading up with top ten teams, is that an opportunity that appeals to you to take the Gators some place new?
JF: If you can do it, yeah, I think it would be nice. I don't think it's something we've thought a lot about because at the end of the day I'm not sure playing in the northeast or playing in the midwest or playing out west impacts on what I said earlier, the ability to win Southeastern Conference and national championships. Certainly if you can do those things it's a nice trip for your players and your fans so I think that has to be in the mix as we look through all the different variables out there.
LV: Are you concerned about the opportunity to have just one off week a season and should there have been an effort to add that last Saturday in August to the schedule to give these guys some rest?
JF: I think that's the next thing that will be discussed. There are some cost factors there, but a 12th football game generates some additional dollars. Candidly, that's one of my biggest concerns about the 12th game . . . I've always been a 12th game proponent, I think you know that. But for some reason I always thought they'd extend the season as well. Twelve games in 13 weeks is difficult for everybody and that, for me, is the biggest drawback the way it's set up now. Certainly we'll move forward as it is but hopefully at some point in time we can look at adding that week back by starting the football season earlier.
LV: How soon can that conversation take place?
JF: Oh I would think some time in the next year . . . it's something I plan on addressing at the league meetings coming up. I don't know how the rest of my counterparts in the league feel, but that's how you find out, by putting it on the table.
LV: While some fans are eager to play the great names in college football, many others have told me they want seven home games every year because Saturdays at The Swamp are so important to them. Are those some of the divergent interests you have to balance in moving forward?
JF: I think those are interests you consider. I'm not sure there's ever going to be a balance. No matter what you want to do with the scheduling situation there are always people who wish you'd do it differently. A seventh home game is important, huge dollars not only for this program but this community in terms of economic impact. So all those things have to be part of the mix and you put it in a matrix and what you want to end up with is what's best for your football program.
Obviously Mr. Foley is keeping things close to the vest, at least for now. That may be because he and Coach Meyer and President Machen have yet to have a chance to talk through the various scenarios. My guess is UF decides to go with a mixture that includes (over a ten-year period) two games with Miami, six others of an inter-sectional nature (3 home-and-home series) emphasizing potential recruiting benefits, and two other bonus home games.
One wild card in this could be a Georgia decision to take the Florida/Georgia football game out of Jacksonville. If Georgia were to insist its "home" games in the rivalry were played in Athens, Florida would gain even more scheduling flexibility.
To me the most significant comments were those regarding the decision of scheduling the 12th game having to support the goal of competing for SEC and National Championships. Of course, that can mean different things, too. To some, it means not making the schedule any more difficult. To others, it could mean exposing Florida football to other parts of the nation to impress voters and post meaningful inter-sectional wins. And still others may think it means making sure there are appearances in parts of the country, especially South Florida where great prospects exist in order to attract the best student-athletes in the country. To me, it's all of the above. That's why I think there will be a balancing act to address each of those potential priorities.
Coming up… Foley discusses the never-ending "tweaking" of the BCS selection system, the buzz around Urban Meyer and the process by which Florida will soon add another women's team.