SEC Football: Minor bowl opportunities hold up SEC progress


More news has come out about the SEC Spring Meeting. Apparently “several” schools wanted the 1-7, 8-game option instead of going to nine, SEC football, regular-season games.

Brandon Marcello is the reporter who provided the ‘several’ as a count of teams. Exactly how many several is, is not known. Kentucky was vocal in lobbying against a 9-game league schedule. It is believed Mississippi State and Arkansas agreed with the Wildcats. Vanderbilt would have an understandable objection to playing one more SEC game than it has to. South Carolina and Missouri could be two more programs siding with Kentucky.

Most of the arguments for expanding to a 9-game schedule are dubious. There is a question of how much more, if any, ESPN would be willing to pay for extra SEC games. A claim another SEC opponent each season would make it harder to earn a CFB Playoff bid is more vague than substantive.

SEC Football, Bowls and Job Security

At least for the coaches and the ADs, a more legitimate complaint is the extra game being a threat to job security. Of course, none of them are saying that publicly. But even in the CFB Playoff era, getting to the six-win threshold and earning a bowl game is important.

A bowl is all the more important for teams trying to escape seasons or histories of futility. Vanderbilt is the most consistent example, but not the only one. The Commodores have played in only nine bowl games in their entire history. Bowl games are not common for Kentucky either, though Mark Stopps has now taken the Wildcats to six straight bowl games, of the 20 total in the Cats’ history.

Long before the current debate, Nick Saban has favored making the SEC football schedule at least nine games and has voiced support for it being 10 games. Speaking in advance of the league’s recent meetings, Saban said,

"I’ve always been for playing more conference games, eliminating some of these games that fans, players, supporters are not really interested in."

As usual, Saban is correct. Saban also respects the traditions tied to many decades of bowl history. The question is what is best for most of the SEC. Is bettering regular-season competition and providing more entertainment value for fans worth the risk of some SEC teams in a given season missing out on going to a lesser bowl?

Extra practice time gained by bowl teams is valuable. But many of the actual games are not viewed as rewards for players or fans. Ask that of Auburn and Mississippi State players and fans based on their last season’s bowl experience. Auburn traveled about 110 miles to Birmingham to lose to Houston. Mississippi State had a slightly longer trip to Memphis. The Bulldogs should have skipped the game and saved face, but instead lost to Texas Tech 34-7.

Next. Prediction: Only 6 undefeated SEC teams by end of Sept. dark

The bottom line is that there is much to gain from expanding the SEC football schedule to nine games – and very little to be lost.