Greg Sankey can silence SEC's schedule critics for good with just one tweak


ATLANTA — SEC commissioner Greg Sankey isn’t wrong about one of the most popular — and most criticized — topics at SEC Media Days, if not the entire FBS.  

If the SEC scheduling isn’t broke, there’s no need to fix it. After all, the conference has put two teams in the championship game twice in the last seven seasons — Alabama vs. LSU in 2011 and Alabama vs. Georgia in 2017 — and has competed in 11 of the last 12 championship games, winning nine in that stretch.

“Stated succinctly,” Sankey said, “what we do works at both the national championship level and at a level that provides our team’s meaningful access to post-season bowl opportunities.”

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The proof? Sankey said the conference consulted the College Football Playoff committee.  

“What they said is they look at the entire schedule,” Sankey said. “That’s the issue our schools have. Teams have to be mindful. The entirety of the schedule has to be robust. We know from the figures I quoted that the level of our play is uniquely robust.”

Done and done. Case closed, right? Sankey isn’t wrong, but the conference could implement one or two tweaks that would eliminate any debate for a topic, he admitted, “fills plenty of air time and column space.”  

The SEC should either go to a nine-game conference schedule or eliminate FCS opponents from the schedule — including the oft-criticized cupcake convention on the penultimate weekend of the regular season.  

Eliminate FCS opponents, and there’s no need for a nine-game conference schedule. There’d be no more jokes about Alabama taking on The Citadel and Auburn facing Liberty the weekend before the Iron Bowl. If the SEC played all FBS opponents, there’d be less of a need for that proposed nine-game schedule.

Not that Sankey sees it that way.

“Following a year-long review back in 2014 of quite literally every possible scheduling option available, the 6-1-1 model was the clear preference of the SEC’s member institutions,” Sankey said. “As the SEC’s approach worked, let’s just take a look at what’s happened around our football.”

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Sankey isn’t ignoring the fans — with the biggest complaint being Georgia visits Alabama once every 12 years in that format. That’s a fair point, especially knowing the Pac-12, Big 12 and Big Ten all play nine conference games.

The argument against it? Look at the Big Ten. The conference moved to a nine conference game format in 2016, and the conference champion hasn’t made the Playoff each of the last two years. Ohio State lost a crossover game at Iowa last season.

That said, if the SEC ever did adopt a nine-game format, the FCS scheduling would be brushed aside.

Sankey is a savvy commissioner and should be mindful of those two options, because that air time and column space reaches the Playoff committee too. As it stands, the SEC and ACC are the only two Power 5 conferences that haven’t missed the College Football Playoff — they’re also the only two conferences to stick to an eight-game conference schedule.  

Georgia-Alabama II could totally happen this year, by the way, whether in Atlanta for the SEC championship or once more in the College Football Playoff. After all, both schools have Auburn at home and their schedules look pretty good.  

But that’s not why both teams are a good bet to get back there. The scheduling isn’t broke at all.

“Our success as a league should not be attributed simply to our scheduling philosophy, but year after year, our best teams have produced the best team in the country,” Sankey said. “The facts candidly speak for themselves.”  

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