The Southeastern Conference has come up with a plan that makes some sense when it comes to playing football in this year of the COVID-19. Each team will play a 10- game schedule against conference opponents only. The plan, as it’s currently laid out, isn’t fair enough.
So here’s how it works when there’s not a global pandemic getting in the way of our lives:
Basics: The SEC is made up of 14 teams, which are broken into two divisions of 7 teams each. Each of the 7 teams play 8 conference games. This is how it usually works:
—Each team plays the 6 other teams in their division every year = 6 games
—Each team plays a permanent opponent from the other division every year = 1 game
—Each team plays a “home and home,” series against a team from the other division = 1 game
The current system leaves a team five potential SEC opponents who are not already on the schedule. For this weird 2020 season, it is from those five potential opponents that two additional SEC games will be scheduled.
All of this will be determined by SEC Executive Associate Commissioner, Mark Womack. Whatever he comes up with must gain the approval of the SEC’s athletic directors.
WHO IS MARK WOMACK?
Womack has been employed by the SEC for longer than any current employee and was in the running to become commissioner when current commish Mike Slive retires. He has served as interim commissioner on a number of occasions, and according to a 2015 article in the New Orleans Times Picayune, “his areas of expertise are TV and bowl negotiations, and football scheduling.”
Great choice, right? Well…….maybe, if he wasn’t a graduate of the University of Alabama.
I’m not pointing fingers here, but a lot of people agree that Alabama gets preferential treatment by the SEC and his long-term, high-level presence on staff probably doesn’t help.
But, regardless of his alma mater, no decision such as this should be reached by any one man, even with approval by SEC athletic directors. It should be okay to work out when teams play, but not who those teams are.
There are just too many subjective elements that go into that decision making process.
THE ONLY FAIR WAY:
The only fair way to deal with the question of “who plays who” is to make it a true “luck of the draw” system. Here’s how I envision this system, using Arkansas as the example:
The five teams not currently on our schedule are Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Kentucky and Vanderbilt. So, we will play one of these five teams in Fayetteville and a different one at their home field.
—Step One: Each team in each division picks one of 7 numbers out of a hat, with #1 getting first draw. So, let’s say Arkansas pulls #1 from the hat.
—Step Two: Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina and Vanderbilt’s names are placed in a hat
—Step Three: Yurachek reaches in the hat — wearing a blindfold and a “V for Vendetta” mask — and draws South Carolina. So, Arkansas plays South Carolina in Fayetteville. Case closed.
When the next team from the West draws, South Carolina will not be in the hat because their “away” game has already been set.
The same process takes place in the East. The only exception is that when it becomes South Carolina’s turn to draws for their home game, Arkansas’ will not be in the hat because 1) we don’t want teams playing each other twice, and 2) it messes up the numbers in the system.
When drawing out of the hat comes back around to the West, the West team with the #2 draw will draw — blindfolded and masked, mind you — among their five potential opponents. The exception to this is if South Carolina is among their 5 potential opponents, they will draw from only 4 teams because SC is already set to play its away game at Arkansas.
By the end of the process, the #7 pick will only have one team left in the hat. At the end of the day, each team in the West will have blindly drawn a home opponent and will have been blindly picked as someone else’s home opponent in the East.
HERE’S THE DEAL:
This is not like a draft, or picking players for a kickball game like we did on the playground. This is a simple “blind” draw to determine who plays who. It does not take into account TV contracts, what is or is not best for a team on a potential national championship run, or any other factor.
Yes, it may be difficult to adapt the schedule to the system and working out TV contracts is supposedly one of Womack’s strengths. Let’s put the ball in his hands only after the opponents are set, not before.