On Wednesday in Destin, Florida, the Southeastern Conference football coaches voted 13-1 to retain the current eight-game conference schedule format. That slate includes six games against teams from the same division, one permanent opponent from the other division and one rotating opponent from the other division.
The only coach to vote in favor of moving to a nine-game conference schedule was Nick Saban, head coach of the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide. Saban prefers more conference games because it benefits the fans and it would allow players that stayed in school for four years to play at least one game against every SEC team.
While Saban may favor the nine-game conference slate, the majority of coaches did not want to make the move. The change would hurt lower-level SEC programs, such as the Kentucky Wildcats, the Missouri Tigers and the Vanderbilt Commodores. These are teams that need to win their four “guarantee” games, and then come up with two conference wins to become bowl eligible. If these teams had to play another SEC foe, they would have only three “guarantee” games, and the likelihood of them consistently getting three wins in the conference would be low.
As an example, Missouri is trying to bounce back after a 5-7 season last year. The Tigers open their 2013 slate with games against Murray State, Toledo, at the Indiana Hoosiers and against Arkansas State. While Indiana is a BCS-conference opponent, they are not to the level of perhaps any team in the SEC. Therefore, Missouri’s schedule would become that much tougher.
New Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops, along with athletic director Mitch Barnhart, have made it known that they have no interest in a ninth conference game. A team like Kentucky would have very little shot of consistently becoming bowl-eligible if the ninth SEC game was added.
The problem for the SEC’s “little guys” is that the new SEC Network is likely going to call the shots, and the ninth game will probably be added over the next five years or so. While that’s good news for the bank accounts of SEC athletic programs, it’s not great news for programs struggling to get to six wins.