DESTIN, Fla. ‚Äî The Southeastern Conference is the envy of the college football world for its six straight BCS national titles.
South Carolina‚Äôs Steve Spurrier yearns for his old days in the Atlantic Coast Conference when it comes to scheduling.
‚ÄúI was thinking about the most fair conference I was ever in, the ACC, ‚Äô87, ‚Äô88, ‚Äô89,‚Äù Spurrier, a former head coach at Duke, said Tuesday. ‚ÄúI think we only had eight teams and everybody played each other, so it was very simple. Whoever had the best record was the league champion and so forth. Now with the mega conferences, everybody can‚Äôt play everybody and sometimes scheduling might be the reason somebody wins the division or even the conference championship.‚Äù
Spurrier spoke on the day the SEC spring meetings opened at the Hilton Sandestin, pitching his plan to count only division records to determine division champions. The current SEC system counts records against all conference opponents.
‚ÄúI think every man has a right to his own opinion,‚Äù Georgia coach Mark Richt said. ‚ÄúIf it gets changed, then good for him, I guess, this year. I don‚Äôt know if he‚Äôd feel that way every year. This year he‚Äôd probably feel good about it. I don‚Äôt think it‚Äôs going to change. I‚Äôve always said for me, personally, tell me what the rules are at the beginning of the year and let‚Äôs go play by them.‚Äù
Georgia players got SEC East championship rings after going 7-1 last year in the league but avoiding the big boys of the West.
South Carolina players got rings for winning 11 games, the most in program history, but didn‚Äôt go to Atlanta for the title game despite going unbeaten against SEC East teams. The Gamecocks finished 6-2 in the league but lost to SEC West foes Auburn and Arkansas.
It‚Äôs a longshot that Spurrier‚Äôs plan will ever be adopted, but it at least went from not being on the agenda this week to something that SEC commissioner Mike Slive said he expected will be brought to the table for athletic director‚Äôs to think about.
Slive doesn‚Äôt support the idea.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs hard for me to think about a conference game that doesn‚Äôt count,‚Äù he said.
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen called the division-only scheme ‚Äúinteresting,‚Äù and said it could be ‚Äúfair,‚Äù but added: ‚ÄúThey‚Äôre still SEC games. You hate to devalue those games in terms of league play.‚Äù
Count LSU‚Äôs Les Miles as one who backs Spurrier‚Äôs division plan, but Alabama‚Äôs Nick Saban does not.
‚ÄúThere‚Äôs no perfect way to schedule,‚Äù Saban said. ‚ÄúYou can look in the NFL and say well this team got in the playoffs because they didn‚Äôt play all of these good teams. I know there were teams last year in the East that didn‚Äôt play LSU, Arkansas or us and we were 1-2-3 at one point and time, but how many times does that happen? That might happen every now and then.‚Äù
Georgia happened to avoid LSU, Alabama and Arkansas again in this year‚Äôs schedule.
The combined overall record of Georgia‚Äôs 2012 SEC opponents is 52-49 compared to 65-39 for South Carolina. The Gamecocks play at LSU and are home against Arkansas while Georgia gets Ole Miss at home and goes to Auburn.
‚ÄúThe best team in the West should play for the championship,‚Äù Miles said. ‚ÄúThe best team in the East should play for the championship. I think there‚Äôs a view of a loss in a crossover game that it could be detrimental and not allow the best team to come into the championship game.‚Äù
Richt said the football coaches discussed the issue Tuesday but today ‚Äúwe‚Äôre going to dig in a little bit more on it.‚Äù
Said Vanderbilt‚Äôs James Franklin: ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs something we need to at least look at. I want to hear everyone‚Äôs opinions on it.‚Äù
Florida‚Äôs Will Muschamp wasn‚Äôt embracing it.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs hard for me to say that I could lose to an Eastern Division team and have that Eastern Division team lose to two Western Division teams and go play for the SEC title,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúThat doesn‚Äôt make any since to me. An SEC game should count as an SEC game.‚Äù
Richt said earlier in his career he might have looked more at other teams‚Äô schedules.
‚ÄúNow I know that you really don‚Äôt know until the end of the year who had the toughest schedule, you know what I mean?,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúSome people going into it might think a certain thing and when the year is over they might be like, ‚ÄòMaybe this other team had a tougher schedule.‚Äô ‚Äù
Richt‚Äôs first SEC title at Georgia ‚Äî and the program‚Äôs first in 20 years ‚Äî would not have happened if Spurrier‚Äôs division plan had been in place in 2002.
Florida went 5-0 in the division that year but 6-2 in the conference. Georgia finished 13-1 overall that year, but was 4-1 in the division and 7-1 in the league. That was the year after Spurrier departed Florida to coach the NFL‚Äôs Washington Redskins.
‚ÄúYou‚Äôre going to sort of minimize the importance of cross-divisional games if you say they don‚Äôt‚Äô count toward the championship,‚Äù Saban said. ‚ÄúThen we‚Äôre really not the SEC. Then we‚Äôre just an East and a West, so why would we play the games?‚Äù