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Monday, March 15, 2010

Slive Talks Scheduling, Expansion

Had readers bring up a few SEC-related issues last week, and being as I was close enough to go to the man himself for some answers, I figured I'd get Mike Slive's take on them.

First off, Chris Low at ESPN reported last week that the league was holding off on finalizing the 2010 schedule because of a quirk that has Alabama playing six games against SEC foes coming off a bye week.

That prompted this email from a reader named Bob: "The SEC tried to distance itself from the “Conspiracy Theories” last year or the specter of favoritism shown to the so called Elite programs in the conference. When this happens it only throws fuel on the fire. BTW- This happened to UT (who I could care less about) and I don’t recall the SEC stepping in to help them."

To answer Bob's last point, yes, Tennessee has had more problems like this than most. Since 2007 the Vols have faced four SEC opponents coming off bye weeks -- tying Florida for the second-most among SEC teams.

But that's nowhere close to as bad as Alabama has had it. The Tide have played 11 total SEC games against opponents coming off their bye since 2007 -- nearly three times as many as UT or Florida. (Georgia, by the way, has only had two, while South Carolina and Arkansas have none). And that's not including this coming season in which that number will jump to a whopping 17.

Essentially, here's the bottom line on it: "In a league of 12 teams, just short of half of the bye weeks are absorbed by one program."

That's a problem, and rather than calling it a conspiracy, it's really fixing something that needed to be fixed.

"It's one of these things that developed over the last decade because of different things that happened," Slive said. "We're looking at it, and we're going to try to make an adjustment if we can in the coming year, but the ADs have already passed a new principle so something like that can't happen in the future."

Of course, the question is whether or not the SEC has waited a bit too long to make adjustments for this coming season. That's debatable, but all things considered I think most fans would prefer that the league err on the side of improving competition rather than allowing it to be shortchanged because of scheduling quirks.

The other big issue of the day surrounds conference expansion -- and it's an issue that seems to be gaining traction all the time. The latest game-changing comments -- which follow talk of interest in teams like Texas, Rutgers, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame by the Big Ten and Pac-10 -- comes from West Virginia coach Bill Stewart, who not only predicts an eventual end to the Big East, but makes an assumption that both the ACC and SEC will be a part of the eventual expansion.

"We talked about it today [in] a recruiting meeting," Stewart said. "Let's say the SEC invites us in. Well, that gives us a certain prestige. Then you say, where are we geographically compared to them? Now would the ACC be better? Well, geographically it might be, but clout-wise would it be? If the Big Ten would says, hey, come on in, that's an East-West travel. Probably the ACC would be the best travel league. But, really, football-wise, the ACC, SEC, Big Ten ... any will be good. I just hate to see the Big East disband."

What the what?!?

Seems pretty drastic, right? That's because it is -- and certainly Stewart is not in the rooms with presidents and ADs discussing these issues enough that his take can be considered much more than an educated guess right now.

But as drastic as this prediction might be, that doesn't mean it's not a possibility, and even Slive appears to consider it an option down the line.

"Any national issue we follow on a regular basis. We pay attention, we read what you read, we hear what you hear, and we listen to it," he said. "But expansion for us -- it's always been a topic of conversation, but never a front-burner issue."

Not a front-burner issue now, but if major shake-ups begin in both the Big 12 and Big East, the ball may get rolling quickly. The SEC has been the dominant football conference of the past decade, but the only way to maintain that dominance is to be proactive when change comes to the college football landscape.

Of course, right now, there's no real change to speak of -- just guesswork. And that's how Slive is treating it.

"First off all, something may happen, something may not happen," Slive said. "So hypothetically, we'll just watch. We'll continue to watch."

5 comments:

papadawg said...

Expansion seems messy.

Why not just kick Vandy to the curb and replace them with West Virginia? Vandy just brings down the conference anyway. They should've been gone years ago.

Maybe even show Miss State the door, too, to add a team like Louisville (better football than MSU and much better basketball). Also, that would get the poser-bulldogs out of the SEC.

Problem. Solved.

rbubp said...

Your first mistake was expecting Bill Stewart to make sense.

The man's a bit of an idiot.

Mike said...

papadawg,

Vandy needs the SEC for the financial boost.

The SEC needs Vandy for the academic boost.

It's a mutually beneficial arrangement that is going to go away, or so a little birdie in the athletic dept told me.

Mike said...

whoops.

That should've read that is NOT going to go away

Anonymous said...

Just go to 14 and add WVU and ECU or VT giving us dominance through out the entire south with North Carolina and the Virginias.