As football coaches, athletic directors and university presidents prepare for next week’s SEC meetings, they understand that one of the key issues will be future conference schedules. While Georgia’s representatives certainly have preferences when it comes to who the Bulldogs play against in the future, they understand they’re just one piece of the SEC’s puzzle.
Georgia athletic director Josh Brooks and university president Jere Morehead spoke to reporters Thursday about the upcoming meetings in Destin, Fla., and their expectations regarding the planned talks. Morehead told reporters he thinks everything is being discussed and that the presidents could use next week as an opportunity to assess ongoing talks with sporting directors.
When asked how many different opinions there are on scheduling among athletic directors, Brooks quipped, “16” — the number of ADs in the conference once Texas and Oklahoma join.
More seriously, Brooks explained that the SEC has a great group of athletic directors who he expects will make what’s right for the conference the top priority.
“I think the strength of the SEC is that we put the conference first when making decisions like this. There will never be a planning scenario where everyone is happy, but everyone understands that we must do what is best for the conference. That’s the decision-making process as we work through different options,” Brooks said. “I think one of the components that’s been discussed – and people know it here – is the variability of schedules and getting teams to play each other that haven’t played each other a lot. I know it’s well documented that our fans haven’t been to College Stadium.
“Such elements come up in the discussion. And ADs want to do what’s best for the conference, which is what’s best for providing our student athletes, our fans, with a great experience, which in turn is what’s best for the conference.”
Eventually joining the conference, Texas and Oklahoma have fueled much speculation about how the SEC will schedule conference games once it expands to 16 teams.
Two popular options for advancing the conference are to create four, four-team pods—which would essentially act as mini-divisions and would guarantee that teams from a single pod would play each other and face at least five other conference opponents each year—or use them a nine-game conference schedule with each team locking in three of their opponents for annual matchups.
One of the main concerns of some fans is the possibility that historic annual rivalries will not continue when the new scheduling system is implemented. When asked how important it was for Georgia to maintain its annual meetings with Auburn and Florida, Brooks acknowledged that it was important but recognized that Georgia wasn’t the only school the conference needed to think about.
“Again, we’re 1/16, right?” Brooks said. “We can stand up for what’s important to us, but we’re one of 16 teams voting and we have great respect for the conference and our direction.”
Up to this point, Morehead shared his confidence in SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey bypassing potential deadlocks on future planning.
“I think we have by far the greatest commissioner in all of collegiate athletics and I think he’s going to deal with all of these issues because every school has issues like Auburn and Florida and has what’s on their list.” said Morehead. “I think in the end we will come to a good result, but I don’t know if it will be solved next week or if it will take longer. But ultimately the Commissioner will bring us to a 16-0 vote, I’m confident.”