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Post Incentives part 1 – SEC scheduling

Tuesday July 17, 2018

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey discussed the conference schedule on Monday, and I expect his honesty won’t sit well.

Schools and coaches still prefer the eight-game, 6-1-1 model for football conference scheduling. He does not expect a move to a nine-game schedule anytime soon. He cited the SEC having 10 teams play in postseason bowls for four straight years and four teams winning nine of the last 12 national championships as evidence the current formula works.

He’s correct, of course. The SEC has the luxury of using the schedule as a tool – a means to ends. Those ends are playoff appearances, bowl bids, and revenue. The top teams SEC aren’t penalized for their nonconference schedules, and they likely won’t be. The other teams jockeying for bowl bids (and the bonuses that come with them) don’t want seven extra losses distributed across the conference. Nick Saban wouldn’t mind an extra conference game, but he’s not particularly worried about a bowl bid or a regular season loss keeping him out of the playoff.

The schools aren’t going to be leading the charge on this. It’s against their interests to do so. Fans could vote with their dollars, but SEC attendance is strong and demand is fairly inelastic (though not completely so.) It was possible that the expansion of television coverage would prompt the conference to increase its inventory of interesting games, but that hasn’t happened either – yet. If SEC revenue lags relative to new Big Ten deals, the networks can always ask the SEC to bring more to the table.

The schools will need better incentives than the ones they have now to get on board adding another conference game. In the meantime, enjoy that trip to College Station in six years.



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