May 23, 2013

Does SEC go nine?

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STATESBORO - When the SEC spring meetings get underway next week in Destin, scheduling figures to the topic of discussion for head coaches and athletic directors attending the annual event.

Specifically - will the SEC move to a nine-game conference slate?

"I know the scheduling, whether it's going to be eight or nine games, is going to come up, although I don't know how it's going to go," Georgia coach Mark Richt said Wednesday. "I don't know if anybody has their mind made up or if they just want to have a dialogue and talk about it. I know there are people who feel pretty passionately on both sides of the fence but I think it's going to come down to the Commissioner make a call which will be in the best interest of the league."

Although Richt would be OK with whatever Commissioner Mike Slive prefers, other SEC coaches have been more candid about their preferences.

Recently in Atlanta for the unveiling of the new SEC Network, Alabama coach Nick Saban said he's all for the conference going to nine league games.

"I'm for playing nine conference games; I was the only person that spoke out in favor of it last year," Saban said. "If you increase the size of the league and the number of teams you have in the league then you've got to play more games. There are those out there that say well we have fixed, tough conference rivalries outside of our conference that makes our schedule too difficult to play that many games, but my answer to that is if you take the fans into consideration, we should take the five best leagues, put them all together and everybody's got to play everybody because strength of schedule is going to be a big part of what happens in the future. So let's make everybody play everybody. The fans really want to see good games."

Others, however, had a different point of view.

Florida coach Will Muschamp said there's "No way" he'd go for a nine-game slate, stating that with the Gators playing Florida State at season's end, his schedule is difficult enough.

Officials from both South Carolina and Georgia have voiced similar concerns.

With mandated season-enders against Clemson and Georgia Tech, respectively, there are aspects of a nine-game SEC schedule that would worry both schools.

"That's the one dynamic that I'm still wrapping my mind around," Richt said. "If Texas A&M was still playing Texas every year, I'm sure they would be in our group. But if they were mandated to play Texas every year because it was traditional I image they'd be in the boat as well."

Moving to a nine-game schedule won't be the only scheduling topic to be discussed.

It is expected coaches will also bat around the current 6-1-1 format adopted by the league last year will also be discussed as it pertains to permanent cross-division opponents.

LSU head coach Les Miles has been adamant about doing away with the formula, while others are intent on keeping long-standing yearly rivalries like Alabama-Tennessee and Georgia-Auburn in place.

Stay tuned.

Richt remembers Russell fondly

During Wednesday night's Georgia Day event in Statesboro, Richt took time to remember legendary assistant and former Georgia Southern head coach Erk Russell.

"I always knew about him coming to Georgia. You knew Erk Russell, even when I was playing in Miami, that was his day, and of course I knew about him at Georgia Southern," Richt recalled. "When we first got to Georgia one of the first things we wanted to do was connect the past and Brian VanGorder was very much excited about bringing in Coach Russell to speak to our defense."

Richt said one particular visit is still helping the Bulldogs to this day.

"We videotaped that, which was smart. We don't do a lot of things like that which are that smart, and it's just golden," Richt said. "He said some things to our guys which were very motivating and we'll pull out every year or two and show it to our guys, just to tell them about the Junkyard Dawgs, and what it means to be a Georgia Bulldog and some of the history. He covered a lot of stuff. It was pretty neat."