For the SEC, Eight is Enough

One of the items on the agenda at ACC meetings this week is whether the conference should expand its football scheduling to include nine regular season conference games. Currently, the league uses the same eight game requirement that all the other BCS conferences except the Pac-10 and the eight member Big East have.

College football fans have seen many ideas from one conference later incorporated by others - the Big 12 and ACC duplicating the SEC's championship game and all the other conferences joining in after the Big Ten implemented instant replay being two recent examples. While it might make sense for the ACC, this is one concept the SEC should take a pass on copying.

The ACC's thinking appears to be similar to the Pac-10's when the 12 game season became a permanent rule. Rather than have to compete with other schools for available opponents, the conference mandated all its members would play a full conference slate. It's steadily become more expensive for programs to land Division 1-A home games which don't require a road game in return. Some athletic directors think nothing of using buyout clauses to drop a game the same year it's supposed to be played, since they can line up even bigger bucks from another school that's in a schedule squeeze. By playing another conference game, the ACC can avoid those kinds of issues.

That scheduling security for the ACC will come at a cost. Mandating nine opponents in conference means there will be an extra road game on the schedule every other year where currently a school could play a home game against a "one way" opponent. For the Pac-10, adding the ninth game meant they would have a true conference champion. Because the ACC has 12 members and a championship game, that's not a selling point for them. Since a number of ACC schools' football attendance is average at best, playing more games against rivals may bolster their box office enough for the change to still be worth making.

That's why this idea makes little sense for the SEC. Attendance in the conference annually leads the nation, and even the runts of the litter crowd-wise draw better than several schools in the ACC. The average crowd for a Tennessee home game in 2007 was larger than Duke's total attendance for all their home games combined. There's no doubt that TV executives would be ecstatic if the SEC would go to a nine game schedule. Even second tier SEC games are in demand as programming, which will only increase if the conference creates its own network as many are anticipating. Despite that, there's no way extra TV money could make up for the five home games every SEC team would have to give up each decade.

Beyond the financial implications, adding a ninth conference game doesn't work from a strategic perspective for the SEC either. The last two national champions couldn't make it through an eight game SEC slate unbeaten, with this year's BCS winning LSU team actually losing twice. If you're the SEC, why make it even more difficult for yourself to compete on a national level? The possibility of more SEC football sounds great initially, but this is one idea to leave on the drawing board.

The Heath Cline Show airs daily from 11-1 on Gainesville's Star 99.5 FM

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