DESTIN, Fla. — Strong differences of opinion surfaced among SEC coaches Wednesday about how the soon-to-be-14-team league should format its football schedule.
Entering the league’s spring meetings, “the leader in the clubhouse” — as SEC commissioner Mike Slive put it — was a 6-1-1 format in which each team would play six games against intra-division opponents, one game against a permanent cross-division opponent and one game against a rotating cross-division opponent. That formula would preserve annual rivalries such as Georgia-Auburn and Alabama-Tennessee.
But some coaches found fault with the 6-1-1 approach Wednesday.
“It was kind of all over the place,” Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said. “Everybody had sort of a different agenda.”
The SEC’s athletic directors will vote Friday on a format to recommend to the league’s presidents, who will make the final call. The pending decision is for the 2013 season and beyond; the SEC previously adopted the 6-1-1 format for 2012.
Slive said the coaches engaged in a “vigorous” discussion about the matter.
The Georgia, Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee and Florida coaches favored 6-1-1. Others, including LSU’s Les Miles, argued for scrapping permanent cross-division opponents and adopting a 6-2 format: six games against division opponents, two against rotating cross-division opponents.
Miles said he is opposed to 6-1-1 because it creates “disproportionate” advantages or disadvantages for particular teams. He said it’s disproportionate for Mississippi State to play Kentucky every year while Auburn plays Georgia.
There was even renewed discussion among the coaches of playing nine conference games, although that seems an extreme longshot.
And there was talk of a compromise under which the Georgia-Auburn and Alabama-Tennessee games would continue on an annual basis while the 10 other teams would rotate two cross-division opponents.
“We couldn’t come to a consensus as coaches because everybody had their own dynamic that would make one thing make sense for one but not for others,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said.
Richt’s own view is unequivocal: “I’m not going to be the one to say we shouldn’t play Auburn every year. I think that’s a great, traditional-rival game, and we should continue to play Auburn every year. So I vote for 6-1-1.”
Spurrier’s proposal fails
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier’s proposal to count only intra-division games in determining the SEC East and West champions went nowhere.
“The more that was discussed, the more everybody understood that’s probably not going to happen,” Richt said. “Your crossover games are going to have to count. It’s true in just about every other sport in America,” including, he pointed out, the NFL and MLB.
“I think everybody — most everybody — backed off of that,” Richt said of Spurrier’s proposal. Spurrier indicated the idea could be discussed again next year.
Sorting out hoops schedule
The SEC men’s basketball coaches discussed proposals for the conference schedule and tournament in a 14-team league.
“It might be … easier to just add two teams,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said.
The conference-schedule proposal calls for 18 games — home-and-home games against each of five opponents and one game against each of the other eight. Every team would have one designated opponent to play on a home-and-home basis annually; the other four home-and-home opponents would rotate.
Fox wants Florida to be Georgia’s designated twice-per-season opponent, but Florida coach Billy Donovan said Kentucky would be that opponent for the Gators.
The proposed format for the conference tournament would have the No. 11 seed play the No. 14 seed and the No. 12 seed play the No. 13 seed in the first round. The top 10 seeds would have first-round byes, and the top four seeds would have second-round byes as well.