Richt ‘comfortable’ with preserving rivalries, playing power conferences

The decision by the Southeastern Conference to stick with an eight-game league schedule means programs can now ramp up lining up opponents for 2016 and beyond.

Georgia football coach Mark Richt and athletic director Greg McGarity signaled Wednesday they will move forward cautiously with adding other power conference teams to the nonconference schedule besides the annual game with Georgia Tech.

“I’m sure there’ll be some others down the road that will be those types of games,” Richt said on the SEC’s spring coaches’ teleconference. “I think we have to be a little bit careful how we do it. You don’t want to have too many seasons when you don’t have six home games. I haven’t even looked at it. If you get too many of those types of games, you could conceivably only have five home games. I think we should have six, seven, even eight home games at times. I know a lot of times that’s not going to happen because we play Florida in Jacksonville but I just think we’ve got to be careful about it, but I think there will be some of those coming down the road.”

The SEC is mandating its teams play one game against teams from the ACC, Pac-12, Big 12 or Big Ten each season. Georgia Tech fulfills that requirement for Georgia.

Georgia also plays Clemson this season.

“I’ve always said that we would hope to schedule another game of that nature periodically,” McGarity said, “but periodically has no time frame.”

The 2015 nonconference schedule has Southern Louisiana-Monroe, Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech.

SEC presidents and chancellors voted Sunday to keep the 6-1-1 format of playing six games against division foes, one permanent crossover opponent and one rotating crossover.

Alabama coach Nick Saban wanted nine games, which the Pac-12, Big 12 and Big Ten will play, but he was in the minority.

“If you play nine in our league with how strong it is, maybe you’re knocking one or two teams out of bowl games,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “If you’re playing nine, I think it also reduces the possibility of knocking somebody out of the top four.”

Pinkel was referencing the new four-team college football playoff.

The SEC won seven consecutive national titles in the BCS era before Auburn lost to Florida State in the championship game in January.

“At the end of the day, you must win,” McGarity said. “I think that’s why the SEC formula has been so popular. The eight (SEC games) plus one (power conference team), which we’ve been doing anyway without it being mandated, it’s already practiced.”

LSU, which plays Florida annually, has been the most outspoken about the permanent crossover opponent remaining.

“To say this is the fairest and right way to pick a champion, I think is flawed,” said Tigers coach Les Miles, who mentioned LSU having to play Florida and Georgia in the same season five times since 2000.

“They’re getting a bad deal out of this,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said of LSU.

Miles wanted an eight-game schedule with two rotating cross-division opponents, not the 6-1-1.

Georgia is pleased with the format, which allows the Georgia-Auburn and Alabama-Tennessee rivalries to continue annually.

“I’m very comfortable with it,” Richt said. “I think the game with Auburn is important to our people. I think it’s important to the South as far as rivalries go. I think that’s a big part of college football. I’m fine with that knowing that we already had a power conference game outside of the league. It really wasn’t going to change much of what we’re doing. I guess when things don’t change sometimes people have a comfort level with that, but I think everybody’s going to have a strong enough schedule. I think everybody’s going to play enough tough opponents to not hurt anybody’s chance of playing in the final four.”

McGarity said he wants at least seven home games each season, which the eight-game SEC schedule makes easier.

“In today’s financial model, you cannot leave $2.5 million off the table by only having six home games,” McGarity said. “You would not really be able to run your program properly.”

Florida coach Will Muschamp wanted eight league games, whether there was one or two rotating crossovers.

“There’s no perfect answer to please everybody,” he said. “We did what was best for our league. We all have a hidden agenda, whatever university we represent and passed what’s best for the SEC.”

 

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