Gators’ Future Football/Basketball Schedules

Lots of people don’t want a 9 game SEC football schedule.

They all provide different reasons why.

They’re all wrong.

The SEC has said that it hopes to have future football schedules out within 8-10 weeks a few weeks ago. Now, it’s 6-8 weeks. They’ve also said that they want to keep an 8 game schedule. If in fact they do this, it’s a major mistake.

I don’t believe they can keep an 8 game schedule for very long, though. In the end, it’s TV that will get its way. CBS has already agreed in principle to air the Florida-Georgia, LSU-Alabama and LSU-Arkansas games for the next five years. That’s unheard of. Any of you ever hear of ESPN agreeing to televise the Heat-Magic game for five years? How about NBC, you ever hear of them agreeing to broadcast the Giants-Cowboys for five years in a row? I haven’t.

The point is, TV is king in scheduling. And if there’s big money being thrown around for games to be broadcast, it’s going to be very hard for the SEC to resist adding an extra game- even if it’s a bad one. Which do you think people want to see- Florida vs. Mississippi (forgetting for a minute what happened in 2008, that’s not the point) or Florida vs. Jacksonville State? Me too. And that’s exactly what TV wants, too.

The current leading candidate of a future schedule is H&H-6-1-1, which means 6 games against your divisional opponents, 1 permanent cross-division rival, and one rotating rival. The H&H means home and home, meaning you play the rotating opponent twice in a row- once at home, once away. If this happens, great rivalries are guaranteed to die.

Once upon a time, the Auburn Tigers were the Gators’ rival of choice, way ahead of LSU, Tennessee, and even FSU. Conference expansion completely killed that rivalry, and now the teams meet twice every 5 years. Not bad, at least every player on the roster will get to play in the rivalry at least once in their four years. Under the H&H-6-1-1, the Gators and Auburn- and every West opponent not named LSU- will play each other twice in a row with a ten year hiatus separating the matchups. Twice in ten years? That’s a big no-no for older generations of fans, who are used to a great Florida-Auburn game every year, and they count for TV audience too.

Or how about the other team from that state (no shot intended at Alabama, I dislike the Tigers and Tide equally, so I don’t take sides in the Iron Bowl rivalry), the one that has provided many memorable SEC Championship Game matchups with Florida? Surely that would be appealing to anybody, especially with the Muschamp vs. Saban storyline.

That’s all gone with the H&H-6-1-1.

A nine game schedule has so many benefits. Coaches just don’t see them. They see it as another plane ride, one less home game. Maybe they could take another look, this time with their brains attached and realize that another SEC game is another chance to improve your ranking with the pollsters, another chance to impress bowl selectors. And hey, maybe if we ever get playoffs (but that’s an article for another day, another time), it could boost their chances of a bid. True, it’s also another chance to lose, but now with the ridiculous rule allowing certain 5-7 teams entry to bowl games, who cares? For the best teams, even if you lose, you still have one more conference game to impress people.

I just see too much logic against making the switch to a 9 game schedule. Maybe not next year, maybe not in the next 5 years- but at some point, it is coming.

The Gator basketball team, on the other hand, will play 3 more conference games, to nobody’s surprise. It’s the nonconference schedule that’s really grueling.

Return trips to Arizona, Florida State, Yale and Kansas State (in Kansas City, but come on, that’s a K-State home game) loom, and any one of them could be a loss because you never know how the Gators play on the road. If they can lose at Rutgers, or UCF, they can lose at any of those teams’ home floors.

The home games aren’t much easier. Wisconsin will invade the O’Dome, fresh off their Sweet 16 appearance and near Elite 8 trip. The Gators also are scheduled to play a Big East team at home, as part of the Big East-SEC challenge. It appears Syracuse will be that team, since Florida played in the Carrier Dome last year (and nearly won). Other home games include UCF and Richmond.