The SEC has been looking at 13-game schedules for at least a week, and what they're coming up with does not sound promising.
Larry Templeton, the former Mississippi State athletics director, is leading the league's transition committee. It is the one tasked with coming up with a schedule. Templeton told the Birmingham News that the committee is considering three alternatives:
- Having Texas A&M play an equal number of teams from both divisions.
- Putting Texas A&M in the West and having it play a round robin divisional schedule with the six-team East also playing a round robin schedule.
- Having Texas A&M play any eight teams regardless of division.
The first option can work. I sketched it out on a legal pad and was able to make a feasible schedule in about five minutes.
Templeton said he's interested in the second option, though he admitted "mathematically, I don't think it can be done." He's correct on that part. I've tried to make that work in the past and it simply doesn't.
The third option sounds interesting, but like the second option, it doesn't work. Or, at least, it can't work without being identical to the first option. A&M would have to play an equal number from each division to make it possible. Let's say A&M played five teams from the West and three from the East. Two East teams would have to play each other twice in order for everyone to keep an eight-game schedule.
An eight-game schedule is what Templeton says the committee is going with, by the way, because everyone already has four non-conference games lined up for 2012. You couldn't fix the problems with a nine-game schedule anyway, as that doesn't work mathematically with 13 teams. Templeton also says the league intends on making Texas A&M eligible for the SEC Championship Game right away as it was voted in as a full member. Oh, and by the way, disrupting the cross-division designated rivalries is on the table, even if it's not preferred.
So while Templeton says the committee has three ideas, it really only has one: having Texas A&M play four schools from each division. However if A&M is to be eligible for the SEC Championship Game, which division will it potentially represent? Based on Templeton's line "[i]f they have the best record, they're the division champion", it sounds like A&M would replace one of the division champs if it has a better record. That's an awful solution.
Templeton said that "everything we're doing is for one year." If that's the case, the best solution is going with a MAC-style 13-game schedule where A&M goes in the West and that division doesn't play a round robin schedule. You'd have to set up a potentially convoluted tiebreaker, but it's only for one year, remember? Besides, they could take the likely three best teams in the division (Alabama, LSU, and either Arkansas or Texas A&M) and make them be the three that play a full West slate to try to mitigate potential headaches.
I've already sketched out what a MAC-style 13-game schedule would look like. Everyone plays eight games, Texas A&M goes in a division, and the designated rivalries are not disturbed. In it LSU, A&M and Mississippi State play six West games, but you could easily modify it to sub in Bama for MSU.
I think it's the best of a set of imperfect alternatives, but what do you think? Would you rather see TAMU play four from each side and have the ability to be champion of either division?