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Post Georgia perspective on 8 vs. 9 conference games

Friday February 10, 2012

Greg McGarity’s ridiculous defense of the 8-game conference schedule was unfortunate. We know that money is driving expansion and realignment, and those changes will have implications in the schedule. McGarity could have just put it out there: we like home games. Home games mean additional revenue and often mean wins. A ninth conference game comes at the expense of a home game, will spread additional losses around the league, and will require some tough scheduling choices that could impact revenue.

It needn’t be more complicated than what Auburn’s Jay Jacobs says. The current schedule is working, and there will have to be a significant financial incentive to deal with the risks and costs. Those incentives will determine whether the conference slate can be expanded to accomodate expansion or whether the new teams will be shoehorned into the current 8-game format.

But more conference games are better, right?

As fans, we’d much rather see another conference game instead of a cupcake game. Of course we’d also schedule like a video game and make our custom conference that goes from playing LSU to Ohio State to Oregon and back for the WLOCP. I’d like a ninth game if only because I believe that membership in a conference should have some meaning beyond revenue-sharing (silly me!), and that means playing the other members as often as possible. But the additional game comes with some big considerations.

  • You lose a home game every other year. That means five conference road games in some years. Georgia is currently committed to a neutral site game every year and a road nonconference game every other year. Georgia would have to do some creative scheduling gymnastics to get more than six home games in a year. Once you’re used to seven home games, taking one away can be painful.
  • Seven SEC teams will have an additional loss. Actual math! We can assume that most of those losses will be shared among the lower half of the league, but that extra loss could mean the difference in bowl eligibility for a team or two. At a higher level, it could cause the league to lose that second BCS bid now and then. The amount of money at stake is not a hard, quantifiable number and would vary from year to year, but it does introduce an element of risk in the SEC’s finances.

The pressure for a ninth game is more likely to come from the conference than any individual school. Schools like the extra cash from more home games, and they like the scheduling flexibility to chase a bowl bid or remain in the national picture. The conference has to pursue more money from the broadcasting rights in order to make the finances of expansion work. In exchange for those additional dollars, the networks will demand a larger inventory of games, and there’s your push for a ninth game. The conference will have to sell the schools that the additional money they’d receive from the networks would more than cover the expenses of fewer home games and the risk of diminished revenue from lost bowl or BCS bids.

What are Georgia’s options with an 8-game SEC schedule

  • Play the six division opponents, play a permanent West opponent, and rotate the remainder of the rest. This schedule maintains the current permanent opponent, but it will take over a decade to rotate through the rest of the West.
  • Drop the permanent opponent and rotate two West opponents each year. This schedule maintains the current rotation, but it eliminates the permanent opponent (Auburn).

Personally, I’m fine with the first option. Playing Auburn is an important part of Georgia’s identity as a program. I can live with fewer trips to Starkville and most of the other destinations in the West. We’ll pour one out for Baton Rouge, but no one said this process would be without sacrifice. If the conference can accept some flexibility, I like Clay Travis’s idea giving teams the right to opt out of the permanent opponent. Not a bad idea if you can get past the certain cries of unbalanced schedules.

What are Georgia’s options with a 9-game SEC schedule

Here the focus changes to the out-of-conference schedule. The 9-game schedule allows for the current permanent opponent plus two-team interdivisional rotation to continue. The loss of a home game every other year has to be accounted for (not to mention the possibility of an additional loss). You’ll see the counterbalance come in the quality of the nonconference schedule. At the least, those two games must be home games. Georgia can just about kiss goodbye the idea of a home-and-home nonconference series.

Would moving the Florida game to campus help?

In terms of the raw scheduling logistics, yes. But since our focus is on money, Georgia and Florida will likely fight to keep this a neutral-site game as long as possible. When we covered last May the coming increases to GA-FL ticket prices, we noted that the two-year haul for Georgia could be as high as $7 million by 2017. No way can either school make $7 million from the game over two years in a home-and-home arrangement.

Touching the third rail here, but what about Tech?

Yes – Georgia already has a permanent home-and-home nonconference deal. We’ve seen conference realignment wreck other longstanding series – Texas-Texas A&M, Kansas-Missouri, and even South Carolina and Clemson have looked at legislative options for protecting their annual meeting. Could it happen to Georgia and Georgia Tech? It would certainly free up wiggle room in Georgia’s nonconference schedule and allow for the occasional home-and-home.

Is it a good idea? Not to me. Even moreso than Auburn, playing Georgia Tech is what Georgia does. Control of the state is fought for and renewed annually. It would not be a good thing for Tech to exist and maybe even build its brand in some shadow parallel universe next to Georgia. The annual meeting is essential to Georgia’s standing in the state.

2 Responses to 'Georgia perspective on 8 vs. 9 conference games'

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  • Since I live out of state I do not have the same perspective on tech. Don’t get me wrong, I dislike them at the same rate as any Georgia grad living in state. I think this is were our future scheduling flexibility lies. Playing a home & home with tech on a six or eight year rotation would easy the sting (no pun intended)out of a complete departure.
    From a financial aspect, I beleive tech gets more out of the series than Georiga. I would be interested to see the money splits for the visiting team.
    Also I believe Georgia as an educational institution has outgrown the series. Any comparison to tech I beleive lowers the bar nationally for Georiga.
    When we speak of athletic accomplishment, they talk about academic superiority (except for their athletic exclusive industrial management program). I grant them some status,in specific programs, but its not at Vandy or Stanford’s level overall.
    In the 1950 & 60’s Georiga may have benefited from hitching it wagon to tech, but over the past 25+ years I see no gains financially or in public image in maintaining the relationship. Most comments posted on Georiga boards before this years game and on tech boards after this years game said the same.

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