DESTIN, Fla. — With the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M, the Southeastern Conference is tweaking its football and basketball schedules.
Football coaches are having a tougher time deciding on what changes to make than their basketball counterparts.
“The consensus is that there’s not the right answer right now that suits everyone,” Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said.
Mullen and the 13 other league coaches are debating whether to play an eight- or nine-game conference schedule and whether to maintain cross-division rivals like Alabama-Tennessee, Auburn-Georgia and Louisiana State University-Florida. It’s not an easy decision considering each school has different allegiances.
Alabama, Tennessee, Auburn and Georgia all want to continue their longtime rivalries. LSU, meanwhile, would prefer to dump its annual game against Florida in favor of playing other Eastern Division teams like Vanderbilt and Kentucky more often.
“It’s not because I’m opposed to playing Florida,” LSU athletic director Joe Alleva said. “I just think it creates a competitive inequity in the whole league. In my opinion, people are voting for their own self-interests, not what’s best for the whole league.”
Coaches presented their thoughts and concerns to athletic directors Wednesday. The ADs will make a recommendation to school presidents and chancellors Friday before the conference settles on a format.
The most likely scenario appears to be keeping things status quo, with an eight-game conference slate that includes one designated rival from the opposite division and a rotating game against the other six teams.
“There are a lot of issues going on here, but some people think the rivals games are really important and some people think their rival games really aren’t that important,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “Some of the rival games are because we played over a hundred years and some of the rivals are because somebody arbitrarily said, ‘That’s your rival team.’ Some have a hard-felt emotion to it and some don’t.”
Basketball coaches had fewer problems. They proposed an 18-game league schedule that would keep all 14 teams together instead of moving back to divisions. Teams would play everyone at least once (13 games) and have one annual home-and-home series with a designated rival.