Slive sees some good non-conference games

By JAY REEVES

The Associated Press

HOOVER, Ala. – Go ahead and circle the Arkansas-Southern Cal game on the football schedule for this fall: It should be a good non-league game amid the steamy heat of the Southeastern Conference race. Same goes for Georgia-Colorado.

But what about Alabama vs. Florida International or South Carolina-Wofford? Anybody itching to watch Auburn play Buffalo?

SEC commissioner Mike Slive says more league schools are signing deals to play good non-conference opponents as the NCAA expands its regular-season schedule to 12 games.

“I see touches of playing quality games,” Slive said Wednesday at the opening of the SEC's media preview. “I think that there are some games that I am really pleased about.”

But Slive acknowledged some cupcakes are still hanging around. Are Gator fans really excited about that Western Carolina game the week before Florida-Florida State?

“There are other games that don't have the kind of attraction that we'd like to see,” Slive said diplomatically. He didn't name any names, or games. Fans are familiar with the ones that coaches in a tough league like the SEC line up to help the record look better, give reserves some playing time and starters some rest.

Slive's bad list probably doesn't include SEC also-ran Vanderbilt opening the season at Michigan on Sept. 2 on ESPN. Commodores coach Bobby Johnson said his players are already excited about the trip north.

“It gives us an opportunity to do something. If we can go up there and play well and beat Michigan it would be a big, big step for our program,” said Johnson.

Slive is in his first year as coordinator of the Bowl Championship Series, and he thinks outside the big brick box that is the SEC headquarters. Scheduling good games is about more than selling tickets at the gate.

“Down the road I think you have to think about maintaining the interest of the fans, the opportunity for television exposure and impacting the BCS standings in a positive way for us,” he said.

That's why Slive didn't leave anyone to guess about his position when it came time for his 12 member schools to schedule that 12th game, even though some coaches wanted a breather.

“The commissioner of the SEC was highly in favor of our teams playing great intersectional rivalries home and home, both for our fans and the quality of television that it would bring to our package,” he said. “But everybody touches this issue from a different perspective.”