Despite the fact that he’s overseen the greatest, richest run in SEC history and negotiated two television contracts that changed the way all conferences do business… there are still some folks Down South who don’t like commissioner Mike Slive. Maybe they should try on the Big Ten’s Jim Delany for size.
I used the word “like” above for a reason. Slive seems likeable. Even if he’s steaming mad, you wouldn’t know it. There are rarely — if any — barbs or potshots thrown at other leagues or schools/teams from other leagues. Whether he means it or not, he presents himself as being pro-college athletics, not just pro-SEC.
With Delany, he makes no bones about the fact that he views all other conferences — athletically and academically — as being inferior to the Big Ten. He has in the past made it quite clear that he holds the SEC specifically in great disdain. He did so again yesterday during a conference call with AP writers. His grumpy attitude is sure to leave people in the Yellowhammer State ticked.
Talking about his desire to reward conference champions and not just the four best teams in the polls, Delany was asked about a team that didn’t win its own division:
“I don’t have a lot of regard for that team. I certainly wouldn’t have as much regard for that team as I would for someone who played nine conference games in a tough conference and played a couple out-of-conference games ont eh road against really good opponents. If a poll doesn’t honor those teams and they’re conference champions, I do.”
Hmmm. Now what school didn’t win its division but did win the BCS title last year? Oh, yes, Alabama. Of the dreaded SEC. It won’t be long before this comment is put before Nick Saban who will say something to the effect of: “I don’t believe a school should be punished because it happens to play in a tougher division and tougher, deeper conference than another.” Here’s guessing we’ll get that comment today if someone can get to Saban.
To Delany’s point, one must wonder if he realizes that he’s just said that he doesn’t hold Nebraska’s 2001 team in very high regard, either. That’s Nebraska of the Big Ten now, mind you. The Cornhuskers were co-North division champs of the Big 12 in ’01, but they lost the tie-breaker to their championship game thanks to a late-season loss to division rival Colorado. The Buffaloes went to the Big 12 title game in their place. So technically, Nebraska didn’t win its division, just like Alabama. Also like Bama, the Huskers were tabbed to play in the BCS title game anyway (though they lost to Miami).
In a Delany-driven world — where most people would no doubt frown a lot — teams like Alabama 2011 and Nebraska 2001 not only wouldn’t get a shot at the title, but they wouldn’t even make a four-team playoff.
But back to Delany’s comments:
“Some people think it should just be the top four teams; some people think it should just be the four highest-rated champions. I was just floating some ideas of how you might have a hybrid where champions were respected and there was still room for at-large.
The polls don’t always measure strength of schedule. Some conferences are playing nine games, some are playing eight. The Pac-12 is playing nine and then go out and play a round-robin game against us, that’s 10 and some of them are going to play Notre Dame — that’s 11 difficult games. If they’re ranked fifth in the country and they won a conference championship, I think that’s quite an accomplishment. Some teams don’t even win their own division. They started off highly in the rankings, lose early, don’t play a championship game and they might end up at four.”
Or at #2, as was the case with Alabama.
The bigger issue here is something that we warned you about back on February 28th when we wrote that by deciding to stick with an eight-game conference schedule:
“…the (SEC) would hurt itself rather than help itself by softening its schedule. Other leagues are making their schedules tougher. The Big 12 is playing a nine-game slate. The ACC will move to a nine-game plan when Syracuse and Pittsburgh enter that league. Big Ten and Pac-12 teams will begin playing on a yearly basis on top of their current in-conference schedules in 2017. The other major conferences are all guaranteeing themselves more BCS-level opponents per season. If the SEC sticks with an eight-game plan, all the anti-SEC’ers out there will finally have a reason to vote down the league in future polls. No longer will the SEC be a mini-NFL. Oh, coaches will tell you that eight SEC games are harder than nine BCS games in other leagues, but folks outside the South won’t buy it. You can be sure of that.”
So it took what? About 70 days for other leagues to start pointing out that they play more BCS-level games than the SEC, which appears dead-set on standing pat with an eight-game plan? Well, told ya so.
And now we’ll tell Commissioner Slive and his 14 league presidents something else — fix this. If you go to a nine-game schedule, your teams will face each other more often, you’ll make more money from the networks (thanks to better games), fans will be paying to see more conference games and fewer patsies, and you’ll fend off any strength-of-schedule questions that might come your way by rival league commissioners, rival coaches, or — egads — poll voters and computer formulas.
The SEC’s athletic directors want more home games for gate purposes (though they already play more games and make more TV money than they did 10 years ago) and they want more cupcakes on the docket for bowl-eligibility purposes. While I would love to think that Slive would step up and lead this bunch back to a nine-game schedule at the SEC Meetings in Destin, it appears too much water has passed under that bridge. By all accounts, Slive and his presidents have let the league’s ADs come up with the new schedule options. So it’s late in the game to chuck all the eight-game options and break out a new nine-game format at this point.
That’s a shame.
Because you’re already seeing what an eight-game schedule will do for the SEC. It will give ammunition to all the anti-SEC people in America. And they are legion at the moment. With the Big Ten’s Delany right out in front.