Wednesday June 29, 2011
Congratulations to the Gamecocks for their back-to-back College World Series titles. It’s tough enough to get their once, but the transient nature of college baseball makes it extremely difficult just to get back to Omaha in consecutive years. They become the first back-to-back champs since Oregon State in 2006-07 and the first SEC team to pull off the back-to-back titles since LSU in 1996-97.
The win gives the SEC three national championships in a row. Had Georgia come through in 2008, we’d be talking about a conference dynasty to rival what’s going on with football.
Watching this week’s championship series I couldn’t help but think back to the SEC Tournament. We knew Georgia had an uphill fight just to inch their overall record above the .500 level. We knew that the three best teams in the SEC stood in the way, and the polls told us that those were three of the top teams in the nation. What we didn’t know was that all three of those teams would be among the last four standing in Omaha.
Looking back, Georgia on consecutive days had to defeat both of the participants in the national championship series. Not bad for a .500 club. There was no question Georgia could compete with the best in the nation. They’re close. The gap between a team like Georgia struggling to get in the tournament and a national champion isn’t huge, but it’s definitely there. It’s a better pitching situation on Sunday. It’s a deeper bullpen and bench. It’s more clutch hitting with runners on base and cleaner fielding. Can Georgia close the gap in some of those areas and be the team to knock South Carolina off its perch next year?
Tuesday June 28, 2011
June 27, 1984 was a great day for the college football fan.
We should have noted this yesterday, but June 27th is the anniversary of a pivotal date in college football history. Thanks to the fine folks who maintain the “This Day in Georgia History” site, we’re reminded that on June 27, 1984 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled…
that individual colleges and conferences are free to negotiate their own TV package deals. This ruling was the culmination of a lawsuit filed jointly by the University of Georgia and the University of Oklahoma on behalf of the new College Football Association (CFA), which was created to promote the interests of the major college football powers in the NCAA.
The decision opened the door for college football as we know it. The CFA is long gone, but it was a stepping stone to the current television landscape. By the mid-1990s, individual conferences realized they no longer needed the collective power of the CFA and began to negotiate their own deals. Now even individual schools are negotiating their own broadcast rights and television networks.
It’s hard to imagine college football had this decision gone the other way. If you think there’s too much money in college sports, this decision is probably bittersweet because it opened the door. There would still be plenty of money; just look at the broadcast rights for the NCAA-controlled basketball tournament. But the freedom recognized in 1984 led to a wide-open market where conferences are able to act in their own interest and out-do each other with each subsequent network deal. It’s also led to national exposure for mid-majors and other small programs who are able to find their own niches between the huge deals of the power conferences.
We’ve gone from being lucky to have three televised Georgia games a year to it making news when a game won’t be televised. We’ve gone from a precious few national broadcasts to countless national and regional options on all days of the week. College football is now a much more national game. Outside of seeing teams on their own schedule, fans would only see a select few national powers, and you can probably guess from which part of the country. Now fans are exposed to teams across the country, and we can all be a little more intelligent about the relative merits of our teams (to a point – SEC! SEC! ESSEECCEEEE!).
This explosion of national exposure is also behind a few other trends in college sports. Conference re-alignment is one. Since you can get the broadcast of almost any football game anywhere in the nation now, having geography for the basis of a conference matters less. Those who follow their teams on the road will disagree, but otherwise why not TCU in the Big East or Colorado to the Pac 10? Fans will still be able to watch. Conference ties can be made on the basis of business sense rather than geographic convenience or regional identity.
There’s also the talk behind a playoff. Winning a major conference was fine when that’s all you saw plus a handful of other games on TV. If you wanted, you could play your bowl and maybe even claim a share of some national title. Now, with broadcasts blurring the regional boundaries of conferences, the discussion is a national one. Fans want to make more sense out of where their team fits in outside of their conference and region with the teams they’re able to see in dozens of other games each week.
There is of course a bit of irony: the game and discussion is more national, but the power and money is still concentrated at the conference level thanks to the 1984 decision. The conferences aren’t going to reverse course just to satisfy the desire for some sort of improved resolution at a national level. But remember that the identities of conferences are changing all the time. We’re seeing fault lines not only at the BCA/non-BCS split but even higher up where the ability to turn a profit from college athletics lies with only about 20 schools. Would a playoff matter at all if all of the biggest and best programs are all in a handful of conferences in a league of their own?
Tuesday June 28, 2011
In the parched football-free months of summer, news about tickets is enough to get us going. UGA has quite a few tidbits for us this morning:
- It might already be too late by the time you read this, but there are a limited number of single season tickets available. No Hartman Fund contriubution is necessary, and the season tickets cost $240. The tickets are scattered and few enough that no pairs are available, and you won’t be on the 50 in the shade. You can order them online or call 877-542-1231.
- Season tickets will be mailed the week of August 8th (little more than a month away!). We’ll learn cutoff amounts for away and single game tickets during July, and they’ll be mailed separately as usual.
- If you’re a Hartman Fund donor, you can go online to check the location of your 2011 seat and parking assignments. Just follow the instructions provided…you have to drill down a little. If you were wondering whether your seat upgrade came through or where your new season tickets will be, this will tell you.
- Faculty and staff with priority levels from 1A through 32F will receive season tickets. Needless to say, all Hartman Fund donors this year regardless of total will also receive season tickets.
Friday June 24, 2011
Greg McGarity took some time with the Red & Black to reflect on the “blur” that was his first year as Georgia’s athletics director. McGarity still has a lot he wants to get done, but he explained that his focus coming in was to emphasize a culture of “accountability, integrity and honesty and transparency in everything we did.”
It’s much too soon for many of McGarity’s actions to have much impact on the field or in the classroom. The academic performance of Georgia’ student-athletes has been strong for some time now, and he’ll do well to sustain or even slightly improve that area. The most recent APR numbers demonstrate that the emphasis on academic success remains as strong as ever. Georgia maintained its strong financial position, but it would have been hard to derail that train. McGarity does seem a little more willing to spend and invest some of the program’s surplus.
A new head coach for volleyball last December was McGarity’s first and only high-profile change directly affecting one of Georgia’s programs. There have been other decisions and changes which might not bear the stamp of the athletic director but with which he was probably involved. The overhaul of conditioning and nutrition for Georgia football is almost certainly one of those changes. Those changes weren’t just limited to football; the department will invest over $700,000 in “student-athlete welfare” programs and personnel.
All in all, it’s a relatively stable time for the athletic department, and that’s a welcome change from last summer. Of course there’s some tension around Mark Richt and the future of the football program, but that’s an issue that won’t come to a head for several months, and we hope it never has to come up at all. With the program financially and academically sound and McGarity’s foundation pretty well established, he can start looking at other areas of his agenda.
One of those areas might be facilities. Georgia announced its most recent facilites master plan in 2008. Some of those projects have already been completed. Football fans enjoyed Reed Alley last season – a major improvement for fans on the north side of the stadium. The transformation of Stegeman Coliseum last year was stunning, and Georgia got a big impact without having to build a new arena. Most recently the expansion of the Butts-Mehre facility allowed the football program some elbow room, provided a high-tech showpiece for the program, and provided some much-needed upgrades in the weight room and film room.
Those projects and the master plan all came on or were begun on Damon Evans’ watch. Throw in the impressive practice facility for basketball and gymnastics, and Georgia had quite a number of major capital facilities projects over the past couple of years which are now just wrapping up under McGarity. Before we pass the torch to McGarity and urge him to move on to the next big facilities project, all of the new buildings and improvements left the program with quite a bit of debt. That was part of the plan, but it’s also something you don’t shrug off even with Georgia’s strong financial standing.
Of course facilities projects don’t always involved big, hairy multi-million dollar construction work. There are always maintenence and small improvements, and the current budget includes a few of those. We saw chairbacks installed at Foley last year. There will be an upgraded video display at Sanford Stadium this year, and the Coliseum is also getting some A/V work. But there is a pause in major projects, and that’s probably for the best. There’s only so much debt the athletic department can take on, and there is no magical raising of that debt ceiling. The Athletic Association’s debt as of a year ago was around $95 million.
Other than those ongoing improvements and tweaks each year, we might have to wait a while to see where McGarity will take Georgia’s facilities. But as the debt begins to be paid off, we can turn our eye to other projects on that 2008 master plan. The expansion of Sanford Stadium jumps out. We’ve been over the pros and cons of expansion, but now doesn’t seem to be the right time. Unfortunately that’s mainly due to a football product that isn’t as in demand as it was three years ago, and the program plays its highest-profile games elsewhere. There just isn’t the motivation or pressure to expand now. The future of Foley Field is also an interesting topic. It’s been 20 years since the last major work on the baseball facility, and it’s not among the SEC’s best.
With Sanford expansion talk cooling down, the project always near the top of the football fan’s wish list is the indoor facility. One thing the Butts-Mehre expansion didn’t include was a full-blown indoor practice facility. Yes, there’s a small covered turf area where the team could feasibly walk through some drills in a pinch. No one is confusing it with a substitute practice field where the day’s work can be done. For fans it’s a no-brainer. [rival] has one, so we must. The debate about whether such a facility is a priority is a whole other topic, but it’s there on the master plan, so we’ll have to talk about it eventually.
One thing we do know is that Richt has been consistent about the building being more than a roof over a practice field:
Richt clearly wants to sell the project as being more than a place for the football team to practice a few times a year. He said there would be a 300-meter track around the field for indoor meets. The dining room would be used by regular students. Tailgating and other game-day activities would be held there, too.
The price tag for such a facility 5-10 years ago was around $30 million. We assume it might be higher now, but how much higher depends on how badly construction and related firms need the work in the current economy. Still, it’s a significant project at any time as the Coliseum facility was. A few recent projects at other schools show the spectrum of what can be done for a certain price point. Tech’s basic roof-over-a-field facility will cost only $6-7 million with at least half of that coming from private funds. Oklahoma State’s more ambitious facility will cost around $16 million and will be paid for with a private donation. Auburn likewise is working on a $16 million facility.
Would Georgia need the extras that would make its facility cost twice as much? The indoor track and related amenities are important features that most of these other football-only facilities won’t have, so yes – there would be a higher cost. But much of the reception space, offices, and other elements of the original design are included in the Butts-Mehre expansion. There just isn’t the need anymore for a grand football palace since we already more or less have one along E. Rutherford St.
Greg McGarity has had plenty to do just getting his team in place and running over the past year. There’s no question he’s willing to put the people and resources behind a worthwhile project, but it would be interesting to hear his thoughts on the future of some of these facilities projects as well as Georgia’s debt outlook. If we look to his experience at Florida as we have on several other topics, it’s worthwhile to note that the Gators are one of the few other major programs around the region that have, so far, avoided participating in the indoor practice facility arms race.
Monday June 13, 2011
There’s a great read this morning – a roundtable with several Bulldog bloggers looking at the 2011 season. We didn’t participate, but I’ll take a crack at the questions anyway. You’re probably thinking about a lot of these same questions, and it’s a good way to start getting the pump primed for the preseason.
1- Which game is more critical for Georgia to win: Boise State or South Carolina?
Clearly South Carolina. There will be the national spotlight and the whole tone-setting angle on the Boise game. Fine, I buy that. But it’s still not a conference game against one of the likely contenders for the divisional title. Put it this way – a loss to Boise still leaves the conference crown and a BCS bowl on the table (just look at Boise’s first victim last season). A loss to South Carolina after beating Boise not only takes away much of the momentum from a big season-opening win; it also puts the Dawgs in a big hole in the SEC East race just two weeks into the season.
2- Other than Isaiah Crowell, which incoming freshman do you think will have the biggest impact in 2011?
While I’m looking forward to the Bulldog Nation getting to know Ray Drew, he’s not my answer. Jenkins isn’t a freshman, so he doesn’t count. When you talk about freshman impact, you have to consider both talent and opportunity. There are a lot of talented guys in this class, take Jay Rome for example, whose impact might not be needed right away thanks to decent depth at certain positions. I’m going to give three answers at two positions where Georgia might have no choice but to play freshmen. Malcolm Mitchell at receiver is one, especially if no one steps up among Georgia’s thin receiver corps. There are also depth and injury issues at safety, meaning one or both of Corey Moore and Nick Marshall could see a lot more than typical reserve duty. With Ogletree moving to linebacker, the Dawgs lack a standout safety, and there is real opportunity for a significant impact from a true freshman.
3- Who are some under-the-radar guys that you think will step up for Georgia this year?
I’d really like to see Abry Jones at defensive end take a step forward. Jones has been a contributor since his freshman year, so it’s not as if he’s been a non-factor. The defensive front could initially be a little crowded, especially if the massive line of Jenkins-Geathers-Tyson takes shape. But Jones is right there and should be able to provide a credible counterpart to Tyson when only one of Geathers or Jenkins is in the game. DE in a 3-4 scheme isn’t much of a high-profile position, but you can’t have effective linebackers without them. Jones won’t have double-digit sacks or anything, but if he improves this year you’ll see it when linebackers start having a lot more room to make plays.
Marlon Brown isn’t exactly under-the-radar among Georgia fans, but Georgia desperately needs at least one guy to increase his production at receiver. Brown, as a junior, is moving squarely into the now-or-never time of his college career.
I’m also interested to see something from the underclassmen offensive linemen. The departure of Boling (and now Sturdivant and Harmon) has started the transition between one wave of linemen and the next. After this year’s senior class, there are plenty of questions about the next group. Guys like Long, Burnette, Lee, and Benedict all have at least a year in the program now; for some it’s their third season. Injuries have been a problem, and fans have to be a little nervous whether some of that group will contribute. When the call came last year, it was Kenarious Gates who stepped up as a true freshman. With the relative lack of depth on the line this year, it’s likely that the Dawgs might need someone else from the underclassmen to step up. Who will it be?
4- What makes you most excited about seeing Georgia play this year?
The individual opportunities. There’s foremost a big opportunity for redemption across the board. It’s a pivotal season for Mark Richt who has a serious downturn to correct. A defense justifiably labeled as soft has an offseason of improved conditioning and another year of familiarity with the scheme. A sophomore quarterback returns from a freshman season in which he did almost everything except win big conference games.
There are plenty of team opportunities too. The conference schedule is as favorable as it gets. That of course doesn’t necessarily mean wins, but Georgia’s record could easily flatter the Bulldogs if they bring an improved team into 2011. The SEC East also appears up for grabs with no clear-cut favorite among as many as four teams. The prospect of getting back to the Dome for the first time in six seasons has to make any Georgia fan excited.
5- What makes you the most nervous about seeing Georgia play this year?
Not only did Georgia go 6-7 a year ago, they lost a good bit of talent to graduation and the NFL Draft. A couple of sub-par recruiting classes are coming home to roost, and so the Dawgs will be thin at several positions.
You can’t look at the Georgia offense and not wonder how they’ll score. The quarterback is fine, but he’ll be protected by a line that’s been thinned out by injury and attrition. The next wave of linemen have also been slowed by injury. The tailbacks will feature a senior still waiting for his signature season and a true freshman on whom so many hopes have been placed. Can Crowell be durable enough to have an impact the entire season? The returning wide receivers – all of them – had a combined 48 catches a year ago. Georgia is strong at tight end, but how many passing games are carried by the tight end position?
There are reasons why Georgia went 6-7 a year ago, and it’s putting a lot on a very good recruiting class to lead the turnaround. If Georgia is much better this year, it will be because several veterans have improved. That means fewer missed tackles and blocks, more catches, and a stronger 4th quarter from players who struggled at times in those areas last year. On top of it all, you have the coaching staff last seen laying up on an early 4th and 1. There have been plenty of signs of their displeasure with last season, but are things too far gone?
6- Athlon Sports has rated the Dawgs at #14 and Phil Steele has them at #9 in their pre-season polls. Both have Georgia winning the SEC East and playing in the Capital One Bowl. What needs to happen for Georgia to live up to these lofty expectations.
It starts at home. Georgia’s home slate features two of the biggest swing games of the year. Beat South Carolina and Auburn, and you figure the Dawgs should be the quality of team that can come away with the division title and a high ranking even if they falter in the Dome or continue to roll over in Jacksonville. But the Dawgs haven’t had an unblemished home record since 2003.
While Georgia’s biggest stars (Murray, Charles, and – yes – even Crowell) are on offense, the key to Georgia recapturing some of its glory will lie with the defense. Big improvements are expected in the second year of Todd Grantham’s 3-4 scheme, especially with the presence of a proper nose tackle. Georgia scored at least 27 points in their final eight regular season games of 2010, yet they lost three of them. With a questionable passing game and the running game in the hands of a true freshman, there’s even more pressure for the defense to have the kind of dramatic improvement that can carry the team to meet those expectations.
Thursday June 9, 2011
We’ve suspected that Title IX would have something to say about even a small stipend for student-athletes. Kristi Dosh over at The Business of College Sports fills in those details and explains why, as she puts it, “Title IX provides an enormous road block to paying college athletes.”
Her explanation of how Title IX applies to this discussion is interesting enough, but she brings up another point that doesn’t get mentioned often enough.
The simplest fault line currently in college sports is the divide between the AQ BCS schools and everyone else. It’s where the money is, where the TV contracts are, where access to football’s biggest payoffs is. But as Dosh explains, that divide isn’t as sharp as being on one side or the other of the AQ velvet rope. “There are plenty of programs in AQ conferences who rely on assistance,” she writes. Often that support comes from student fees or directly from the school. In either case, students or taxpayers are often subsidizing the athletic department.
That’s the case even at Georgia. In 2009-2010, student fees contributed over $3 million of the athletic department’s $86.7 million in revenue. What makes Georgia and a handful of schools unique is that they don’t need that money to break even. While student activity fees might be icing on the cake at Georgia and a few other AQ schools, that’s not the case for schools like Iowa State. The Cyclones budget in FY11 calls for a meager surplus of just over $8,000. That’s on the back of student fees and “university support” totaling more than $2.7 million.
In an earlier post, Dosh looked at the AQ schools who rely most on student activity fees. Six programs from major conferences including the ACC,Big East, and – yes, even the SEC rely on student activity fees for at least 10% of their athletics revenue. The list is dominated by the ACC and Big East, demonstrating that even the monolith that is the AQ conference has its own internal fault lines. As schools like Texas are able to negotiate their own TV and marketing rights, the gulf even within conferences and divisions will grow between a few certain schools and the rest, even if the rest are fellow AQ schools sharing their own bowl and TV money.
The hard number is 14. Only “14 of the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision schools made money from campus athletics in the 2009 fiscal year,” according to an NCAA report. That’s after you exclude student and institutional support. Proposals for stipends and even COA scholarships will work at Ohio State, Texas, Georgia, and a handful of other schools. That’s where the money is in college sports. They can afford it, even if you consider the Title IX requirements. Those proposals won’t just price out the bottom half of Divison I though. The fracture won’t be at the AQ/non-AQ line.
Of course it’s not a requirement that an athletic department make money. Many schools are glad to subsidize the bottom line in order to remain competitive and market the school through its athletics. That institutional support has to come from somewhere. For public schools, would taxpayers mind extra public money going to the state school’s athletes? For public and private schools, would students approve higher activities fees so that the football team can have a little more walking around money? Those answers aren’t necessarily “no,” but they are questions that will have to be asked if schools are asked to increase the money they give student-athletes.
Are there alternatives? The so-called “Olympic model” that would allow student-athletes to trade on their names for endorsements while remaining eligible removes the school from the picture. That model isn’t without its own problems, but it would at least address some of the legal hurdles that arise from Title IX while enabling student-athletes to realize some of the value they create.
Wednesday June 8, 2011
In the 33rd round of this year’s Major League Baseball draft, the Texas Rangers select…
…outfielder Jonathan Taylor of the University of Georgia.
The Rangers had selected Taylor’s Georgia teammate and friend, Zach Cone, during the “Compensation A” portion of the first round. Cone frequently wore Taylor’s #2 following their collision earlier this year which left Taylor paralyzed. It’s a great gesture by Texas to recognize the duo and honor Taylor with a draft pick.
(h/t Marc Weiszer)
Monday June 6, 2011
There’s always a twinge of disappointment when a team gets knocked out of an NCAA Tournament, but the Diamond Dawgs should leave Corvallis knowing that they salvaged the 2011 season. Less than two weeks ago this team was in very serious danger of finishing with a losing record. In Hoover they demonstrated that they deserved consideration for postseason play. Once they reached the postseason they went on to validate their invitation. Georgia ended up as one of the 32 teams reaching a regional final.
Georgia just couldn’t get out in front of a rested and talented Oregon State team. Late-inning heroics that saw them through in the first game couldn’t be repeated in the nightcap. You couldn’t ask for more than Farmer and Cone at bat with a chance to win the game, but OSU’s closer shook off an injury and a delay to clinch the regional for his team.
It’s somewhat fitting that a player wearing the #2 jersey was the subject of the final entry in this season’s scorebook. The story of this season will always be about Taylor, his resilience, and his impact on his teammates. Those teammates made sure over the past two weeks that the story isn’t told as one of coming up just short but one of accomplishment.
Thursday June 2, 2011
There’s a sentiment today that Mark Richt is backtracking on his stance against oversigning. (h/t Blutarsky)
Richt became a champion of the anti-oversigning crowd a few weeks ago when he used the occasion of a meeting of fans in South Carolina to speak out against the “winning at all costs” approach “some coaches” use in managing their rosters. Let’s look at what he said though.
Not that we haven’t grayshirted, or talked to guys about grayshirting…If you tell them on the front end and they know that, everyone understands that, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. And that’s how we go about it if we’re going to talk to a guy about grayshirting.
These other coaches have been over-signing, trying to grayshirt, trying to make sure they never come up short of that 85 (scholarship limit) number. But in doing so have they done it in an ethical way, which is what you’re asking. And I’d say not. That’s why the NCAA is trying to change its rules.
Here’s what he said yesterday:
Well, if five of those guys know that there’s no room at the end that they are willing to grayshirt, they’re willing to come in January. The kid knows, the high school coach knows, everybody involved in recruiting if they know that there’s a chance that there’s no space for you. If everybody knows that on the front end, then I don’t see anything wrong with it ethically.
Richt’s stance has never been much about a specific rule or number. As you might expect, he’s more concerned about the treatment of the student-athlete. In both quotes, he mentioned the ethics involved. He’s consistent that he can live with and operate under the existing rules if they’re followed ethically. Creating a set of rules which would handcuff only the SEC has nothing to do with how Richt would prefer coaches deal with prospects and current players. Unethical coaches can still be so whether the limit is 25 or 28.
That’s hardly “talking out of both sides of his mouth”, but it might just be a case of people putting words into his mouth in order to move their cause forward.
Thursday June 2, 2011
The SEC’s football coaches this week seem pretty content with the status quo. Hoops coaches on the other hand have put their support behind a big change: the SEC Tournament will be seeded based on conference record rather than the divisional standings. It’s the first step on the way to dismantling the divisional format for basketball.
Teams will still maintain the current division-based schedule for now. That will likely result in inflated records for those in the weaker division, but it’s a temporary situation. A committee of athletic directors and coaches will work on revamping future schedules.
There’s already a working model for SEC basketball without divisions: SEC women’s basketball. The women have never used divisions, and the conference tournament is seeded according to overall conference record. It’s a good thing, too: the top five seeds in this year’s SEC women’s tournament were all “East” schools. Had they used the men’s seeding format, #6 seed Auburn and #7 seed LSU – two teams that didn’t make the NCAA Tournament – would have received two of the top four seeds and first-round byes. The women’s tournament instead gave its top four seeds the bye and saw to it that they couldn’t meet until the semifinals.
The women also provide a model for scheduling without divisions. With 16 games against 11 opponents, you’ll play five twice and six once (just as we do now in divisional play). One of those teams you’ll play twice is your “permanent opponent”, and those fall along traditional rivalries. Georgia plays Florida, Auburn plays Alabama, and so on. Instead of the other four home-and-home opponents being predetermined divisional matchups, they’ll rotate among the other ten teams on a two-year basis. That means that in every other year, you’ll rotate to new home-and-home opponents. As an example, for the past two seasons the Georgia women played Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, and South Carolina twice. With the exception of Florida, Georgia will have different home-and-home opponents next season.
The downside of course is the unbalanced schedule. Someone is still going to be playing Kentucky and Florida twice while others get Auburn and South Carolina. But it won’t be their permanent condition, and teams won’t often have schedules as disparate as last season’s East versus West split.
The idea of expanding the conference schedule to 18 games is somewhat related. Two more home-and-home opponents would do a little to smooth out disparities between the toughest and weakest league schedules, and going to a true round-robin of 22 SEC games as some coaches suggested would eliminate them entirely. But I’m against the idea for the same reason that the conference probably wouldn’t like a football schedule with nine conference games. Two additional SEC basketball games don’t seem like a big deal, but by definition they would spread 12 more losses around the conference. The league already struggles to place more than a handful of teams in the NCAA Tournament, and saddling its inevitable bubble teams with another loss or two could make or break their chances.
It’s tough to gauge the impact of a longer conference season on nonconference schedules. Would a longer and ostensibly tougher SEC slate give teams the cover to reduce the quality of the rest of their schedule? After all, if there are going to be 12 more losses distributed among SEC teams, wouldn’t teams hedge against the possibility of more conference losses by picking up another sure win or two in December? The games we’d lose out on might not be the weakest on the schedule; instead they’d be some of the interesting opponents like Colorado or UAB – nonconference opponents that are rough substitutes in quality for other SEC teams.
Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski had some thoughts on this very issue. According to the Charlotte Observer, “he would prefer that the ACC schedule remains at 16 games to allow teams to continue playing high-profile opponents from outside the conference without making the schedule too strong.” The ACC has also considered increasing its 16-game conference schedule after it had a tough time getting more than four teams into this year’s NCAA Tournament. But Krzyzewski argues that the solution lies with the rest of the conference stepping up its nonconference schedule. Adding more conference games would take away the opportunity and motivation for those schools to do their part in improving the stature of the league.
Part of our problem is that as a conference, we have not scheduled nonconference-wise hard enough to promote a good enough RPI which would benefit everyone,” Krzyzewski said. “If we could still keep 16 games and each team takes it upon itself to schedule stronger, I think we need that.