Excuse us while we bury the lead, so to speak…
Readers of this site know that we’re in favor of a nine-game conference football schedule for SEC teams. (Short of that, we’re for eliminating divisional play altogether). There are basically four reasons why we believe the SEC should consider adding a conference contest for each football program each season:
1. We’re tired of having to waste time writing about the Presbyterians, Jacksonville States and Furmans of the world. Those games are meaningless — unless the SEC team loses — and fewer and fewer fans are turning out for them. Apparently many of you are tired of wasting time (and money) and those cupcake games, too.
2. The SEC takes a lot of hits nationally for what’s seen as a sub-par non-conference slate. That might not matter under the current BCS system, but when a selection committee takes over and starts handing out playoff invitations it could. If there are any biased members on that committee who want to see the national championship get spread around a bit more often, those people could use schedule slights as a way to keep multiple SEC teams out of the four-team playoff.
3. We understand the business side of conference expansion, but tradition should still count for something. In growing to 14 schools and keeping an eight-game schedule, the SEC has chosen to put in place a system that will prevent cross-divisional foes from seeing other very often. How many SEC fans in the East Division will miss out on a chance to see a star like Johnny Manziel play against their favorite teams? How many times will fans from Auburn get to visit a traditional rival like Florida? Eight is not enough if you believe every conference team should see all its rivals over the course of a decade.
4. Finally, there’s more money to be made from playing more conference games. Hey, we said we understood the business involved. That’s why we’ve consistently said that a nine-game league schedule will someday be adopted. Whether it’s ESPN paying for better games or the conference making sure it has more content for its new SEC Network, it makes dollars and sense to expand the in-conference football schedule.
Now pleasee don’t give us the “It’ll make it too tough to win a national title” argument. Nick Saban’s winning titles left and right and he’s the most outspoken proponent for a nine-game schedule. When the league added an eighth game and a conference title game in 1992, coaches and fans pulled their hair out with fear. Alabama immediately went undefeated, grabbed the national title, and the SEC has been on a roll ever since.
Why bring this back up today? Back to the headline — CBSSports.com is reporting that the Big Ten is discussing schedule growth. Nine games remains the more likely stopping point, but a 10-game plan is in the mix. There had been talk of the ACC considering a 10-game schedule as well before it decided to stop at nine.
But the Big Ten has more motivation than the ACC to add league games. That motivation is green and it comes by way of the Big Ten Network. When a Big Ten team plays a football game in the home stadium of another conference’s team, that game’s television rights are owned the by home team and its conference. But add another Big Ten versus Big Ten game to the schedule for 14 teams and you have seven more football games for Jim Delany to sell or put on his own network (to drive up subscriptions and subscriber fees)… regardless of where those seven games are played.
Prepping to launch its own league-owned network in 2014, you can be sure Mike Slive and the SEC’s presidents are paying attention.