Rabalais: Schedule format still hot topic among SEC coaches

The new Southeastern Conference football schedule format is now the law of the land after being released Sunday by the conference office.

Love it or hate it, the SEC will stick with its 6-1-1 scheduling format for the foreseeable future.

Each team will continue to play the six teams in its division, one permanent opponent from the opposite division, and one rotating opponent from the opposite division.

There is also the proviso that each school schedule at least one nonconference opponent from a major conference.

That means someone with a pulse that they actually have a chance of losing to — someday.

Though the schedule format is set, that didn’t keep it from being the main topic of discussion during Wednesday’s SEC post-spring coaches teleconference.

Every coach was asked about it. Actually, some didn’t have to be prompted.

Take it away, Les Miles …

“Scheduling didn’t go like I think it should,” said Miles, who led off Wednesday’s 2 hour, 17 minute marathon call.

“We look forward to playing everyone on our schedule. But to say this is the fairest and rightest way to pick a champion, I think that’s flawed.”

Miles and LSU wanted a 6-2 format with two rotating opponents and to ditch Florida as the Tigers’ permanent opponent. It was a view shared rather vocally by none other than the Ol’ Gator Ball Coach himself, Steve Spurrier of South Carolina.

“The way we decided to do it not the fairest way to do it,” Spurrier said. “I sort of understand (Athletic Director) Joe Alleva and LSU. They’re getting a bad deal out of all of this.”

Though Ole Miss is believed to have voted to keep the 6-1-1 format, its coach Hugh Freeze said 6-2 would be better.

“I thought the fairest thing to do was rotate the two,” he said. “But the priority was to stay at eight games.”

For the most part the coachspeak broke along party lines. Alabama’s Nick Saban and Tennessee’s Butch Jones spoke of the importance of preserving their schools’ rivalry, as did Georgia’s Mark Richt and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn.

Saban lobbied almost as hard over the past year for a nine-game SEC schedule as LSU did for 6-2. The nine-game schedule likely would have allowed for a permanent and two rotating opponents (6-2-1). But mostly he was pleased to preserve the Alabama-Tennessee series.

“I just wish every player had a chance to play more teams” in the opposite division, Saban said. “The only way to do it (with a permanent opponent) is to play nine games. But I’m happy with what we’re doing now, and we can all move forward.”

“I’m very excited to maintain the Alabama-Tennessee rivalry,” Jones said. “That’s in our DNA. It’s great for our fans, the SEC and the country.”

The country? Your school has lost seven straight to Alabama, Butch. Step away from the Rocky Top and we’ll talk.

Florida’s administration was never an LSU ally when it came to trying to do away with permanent opponents, with school President Bernie Machen and Athletic Director Jeremy Foley happy to continue playing the Tigers home-and-home as the Gators have since 1971.

Florida coach and former LSU defensive coordinator Will Muschamp walked a careful line on the subject, but basically let it known he isn’t happy with the 6-1-1 format.

“I’ll not try to tell you it’s fair, but it’s what the league has decided,” Muschamp said. “I’ve been in this league a long time, and I can see a lot of resistance to change. I’ve said my piece and moved on.

“We’ve got a great rivalry with LSU, and I’ve been on both sides of it. It’s a great game, a national game, and I enjoy it. There’s no perfect answer to please everybody. We all have a hidden agenda of what’s best for our schools. They had to do what best for the league.”

However the conference does it, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said his Razorbacks are playing the nation’s toughest schedule, starting with an Aug. 30 opener at Auburn.

“We’re gonna hug it up, kiss it and make it as good as we can,” Bielema said of the Hogs’ schedule.

Okaaaaay. Thanks, Bret. Maybe there is such a thing as too much information, even when it comes to SEC football.

Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter @RabalaisAdv.