SEC seeks fairness in 13-team schedules

By Brad Locke and Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal

The awkward nature of a 13-team SEC can’t be escaped, and Pete Boone understands that.
The league is likely to end up with a 14th team before long – reports indicate Missouri to be the leading candidate – but for now it must concoct sensible schedules for all its sports, including football, for the 2012-13 athletic year.
“You can do anything for a short period of time, (and) anything we do we’re looking at doing for one year,” said Boone, the Ole Miss athletics director. “The key is we have to look five years down the road and see where the SEC is going to be, where we want to be, and how to get there.”
Larry Templeton, the former Mississippi State AD, is among those trying to help both the league and Texas A&M work up a plan that’s as fair as possible to everyone. As far as football is concerned – and that’s what is ultimately driving conference expansion – the SEC is sticking with an eight-game league schedule.
The league’s athletics directors affirmed that desire during a meeting in Birmingham last Wednesday.
“I don’t think the fans will notice a huge change,” MSU athletics director Scott Stricklin said. “We’ll still play eight conference games and four non-conference games, have a league championship game. That’s what I anticipate based on the conversation.”
Missouri’s curators met last week and voted to explore leaving the Big 12, and the SEC seems the most likely landing spot. If that happens, then the SEC will reassess its plans for next year.
“We just talked briefly about that,” Boone said of adding a 14th team. “There are no names out there, no discussions or communication that we’ve had with anybody. … I think commissioner (Mike) Slive will be vigilant but not trying to force anything.”
As Templeton noted, “The conference office is moving under the assumption that in 2012 we will have 13 teams.”
So, how exactly does the SEC plan to make the schedules work? Well, the ADs studied several schedule models last week, the main goal being a structure that’s as fair as possible to everybody.
“They’re going to make sure that everyone is being treated fairly and equitably,” Stricklin said, “and as long as that’s the case and doesn’t put Mississippi State at a disadvantage, I’m going to be fine with anything. I don’t anticipate us being put at a disadvantage.”
Whatever model is settled on, it’s highly unlikely that every school will be completely happy with it. They’ll just have to grin and bear it.
“It could be something that could affect one team more harshly than another, but that could be said right now in that some may have more difficult schedules than other,” Boone said. “The thing I like about it is all the ADs were in harmony about this.”
brad.locke@journalinc.com
parrish.alford@journalinc.com