This week’s SEC spring meetings in Destin, Fla., haven’t brought about much in the way of exciting announcements or shocking revelations. But that’s not to say that these meetings haven’t had their newsworthy moments, or that watching these coaches in an all-out bureaucratic brawl over their own interests all in one spot hasn’t been totally entertaining.
They’re also setting the stage on which sports in this conference will be played for years to come.
FOOTBALL: The most talked-about debate in Destin revolves around setting up a new football scheduling format for the conference’s new 14-team field. The front-running candidate, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, is a 6-1-1 format which would have each team playing every team inside its own division, one locked inter-divisional game, and one rotating interdivisional game. Under the suggestion, that one rotating interdivisional game would rotate each year, instead of the familiar home-and-home, so each team would play each other once every six years, with the return game coming six years later.
That model obviously has the full support from officials from Auburn, Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee, in their best attempts to preserve the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry and the Third Saturday in October. But the model has run into opposition from other coaches in the league, most notably Les Miles, who finds it unfair that his Tigers would continue to play Florida each year while someone like Mississippi State would play Kentucky.
Other options on the table, according to this AP story, include a model that would lock Auburn-Georgia and Alabama-Tennessee and rotate the other eight teams—that proposal opens up another big can of scheduling worms—and the suggestion that the SEC expand to a nine-game schedule, which would be vehemently opposed by schools like Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina that have big out-of-conference rivalry games.
Only five of the conference’s 14 schools are completely on-board with the 6-1-1 model, but it still appears to be the front-runner at this moment. The good news for Auburn is that, unlike when the divisions were aligned in the early ’90s and when the second locked interdivisional game, i.e. the Florida game, was dropped in the early 2000′s, Alabama is actually on their side. For once, Auburn folks are actually hoping that Tide representatives, along with folks from Auburn, Georgia, and Tennessee, will be able to throw their weight around in the SEC front office.
BASKETBALL: The changes made to fit Missouri and Texas A&M into the basketball schedule came about much more smoothly, explained by the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Both the regular-season schedule rotation and the SEC Tournament format underwent some major changes. Ready?
In the regular season, each school will have a permanent rival that it will play twice a year, every year, in a home-and-home. Each school will then play each of the remaining teams in the conference at least once, and will play four of those remaining twelve teams a second time, as each team will also have rotating home-and-homes with four other teams each year. What all of that means is that Auburn will have a home game against Alabama every year, and they’ll host other schools, like Kentucky for example, two out of every three years, as one year they’ll play at home, the next away, and a third will be the rotating home-and-home year.
The basketball conference standings have also gone division-less, so each team will be seeded 1st through 14th before each year’s SEC Tournament. The first round of the tournament will consist of a de facto play-in round with the 11th through 14th seeds. Then in the second round, those winners will move on to play the 5th and 6th seeds, while the 7th through 10th seeds also get in on the action after having byes in that first play-in round. Finally, the top four seeds of the tournament will enter the third round, after having byes all the way through the first two rounds.
Essentially, two teams, representing the new Texas A&M and Missouri spots, will have to be eliminated in that first round, and from there the tournament will be played as it always was between the 12-team field.
Got it? Good.
SEC NETWORK: Athletic directors from Ole Miss and Missouri also off-handedly confirmed that the conference is developing its own television network, according to NBC Sports. Their quotes essentially confirm the report from last week by the Sports Business Journal that the SEC Network was on the horizon, and could launch as soon as 2014.
It’s certainly an interesting prospect, and (WARNING: Shameless self-promotion ahead) I wrote a column about it over at The Corner if you’re so inclined to read more. But one thing I didn’t touch on there that I wanted to mention here is the many different shapes the network could take.
There have been reports than the SEC was maneuvering to have ESPN to back the network, and seeing as how the Longhorn Network has come out of the gates to a colossal thud, you might not be too thrilled about the thought of the four-letter network’s involvement. It will be interesting to see if the SEC looks for ESPN’s backing the way the Big Ten Network is backed by Fox Sports.
Of course, the SEC could take the other route entirely, and try to build their network from the ground up by themselves like the Pac-12 did with the Pac-12 Network, set to launch in August. What’s interesting about the Pac-12 Network is that they’ll have a total of seven channels under their umbrella; One mainstream network to sell to providers across the country, and six regional channels featuring two nearby schools to be sold in those local areas.
The Pac-12′s effort sure seems impressive, and they’ve seemingly managed to put all of this together from scratch, without the backing of one of the big television entities, and are set to launch within a year of announcing it. With the SEC Network reported targeted at 2014, it almost seems as if SEC officials will be in wait-and-see mode to find out how things go for the Pac-12 before getting serious about the SEC Network’s launch.
But the best thing about the Pac-12 Network? Along with national broadcast deals with ESPN and Fox, and after that the backing of their own Network, the Pac-12 is set to have television broadcast for every football and men’s basketball game of the year.
If the SEC Network could manage to duplicate that, then imagine a world where every football and basketball game is on TV, where you’ll never have to listen on the radio.
Of course, you can always turn up Rod and put the TV on mute.
* The Eagles’ Joe Walsh in an Auburn shirt
* Auburn’s banned 1979 student recruitment poster
* Only undefeated Triple Crown winner owned by Auburn grads
* Elvis says “War Eagle”
* Alabama in Auburn gear
* Diagram of a 1983 Auburn student
* That OTHER time they burned the Glom