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Jeff SchultzJeff Schultz

SEC blew it by not expanding to 9 games

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Alabama's Nick Saban was the only coach who favored a nine-game schedule. (AP)

Alabama’s Nick Saban was the only coach who favored a nine-game schedule. (AP)

The “C” in SEC now stands for cowards.

The SEC’s presidents, taking a cue from coaches worried about their jobs and athletic directors worried about bowl games, effectively voted to change nothing in its football scheduling format Sunday night. Rather than requiring schools to play nine of its 12 games against conference opponents, the direction most major conferences are going in, the SEC will stick with the eight-game mandate.

In other words, keep the Coastal Carolinas, Appalachian State and Austin Peays of the world on speed dial. Because aren’t those are the games everybody really wants to see? Or not.

There was one scheduling change approved in a special SEC meeting of presidents Sunday night. Beginning in 2016, all schools must play one game against one of the other five “power” conferences: Big Ten, Pac-12 Big 12 and ACC. But amid all of the spin coming out of SEC headquarters in Birmingham, this effectively changes nothing for many schools. Georgia already plays Georgia Tech, Florida plays Florida State, etc.

I wrote about the scheduling issue last month. You can find subscription column linked here.

The SEC believes that mandating one out-of-conference schedule against a power conference will satisfy a need to increase the conference’s overall strength-of-schedule going into college football’s new playoff format. But there are only four SEC schools that don’t play another “Big 5″ conference in 2014 (Mississippi, Mississippi State, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt),and there were only three last year (Arkansas, Texas A&M and Kentucky).

As I wrote last month, the Pac-12 and Big 12 already play nine-game schedules and the Big Ten approved going to nine games beginning in 2016. The ACC was close to expanding to a nine-game format but then balked, primarily because of its strange arrangement with Notre Dame (which remains a football independent, but plays up to five ACC opponents per season).

Alabama coach Nick Saban is the only conference coach who supports going to nine games. The others seem to lack much courage. Their general concern is an expanded schedule could potentially shrink their projected win total, and therefore affect their job security.

Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity told me in March he was concerned that going to nine games would require the Bulldogs to play 10 games against major conferences (including the Tech game), and he was concerned about the potential loss of a home game every other year.

He lost me with those arguments, as well as this one: “What does it say if [the players] have to be at their very best for nine conference games a year, plus a 10th (rivalry) game. I think some kids would love to say, ‘Let’s start out with a softy.’”

One would think that with the new SEC Network needing something to drive subscriptions and attendance at home games on some campuses declining, another conference opponent would’ve been a good thing. But coaches and athletic directors apparently don’t want to take that chance.

I also get the feeling that Purdue and Iowa State are going to become very popular scheduling targets for SEC athletic directors.

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