COLUMBUS, Ohio — Last week at the SEC's spring meetings, Alabama head coach Nick Saban took to the stage to lay the groundwork for a grand future of college football scheduling that sounds too mystical and magical to believe.
Nick Saban Having Trouble With Scheduling, Doing Nothing About It
By Tony Gerdeman
While talking about the difficulty of creating a football schedule every year, he said that he would like to see the Power Five conference teams only play other Power Five conference teams.
I think this is a tremendous idea, and obviously so does Saban. My question, however, is if it's such a good idea, why isn't Alabama doing it now? Why do they have to wait for everybody else to do it first? As a leading program in the world of college football, why is Saban content with such backseat driving now?
At those same meetings, Saban told reporters that because of the difficulty of scheduling FBS opponents, he has been forced to schedule FCS opponents essentially against his will.
The most powerful coach in college football, rendered powerless by a shoddy Rolodex nearly every single year that he has been in the SEC.
The Crimson Tide have played an FCS opponent in each of Saban's seven seasons, and they have another on the schedule this year. In the previous eight seasons prior to Saban's arrival, Alabama somehow only managed to play one FCS opponent.
Perhaps they had better contacts back then?
When Saban was at LSU, he played three FCS opponents in five seasons. In the five seasons before and after him, LSU would only play two more FCS opponents, and one of them came the season after Saban left, so it wouldn't take much limbwalking to assume that Saban scheduled that one as well.
But yeah, Nick Saban would totally rather not schedule FCS teams.
The SEC as a whole is torn on the idea of scheduling FCS teams. Some wanted to ban it conference wide. Florida's Will Muschamp has said that they won't be scheduling those kinds of teams anymore, probably because it's easier to explain losses to FBS teams than FCS teams.
Georgia's Mark Richt said that he'll continue to schedule FCS teams because somebody has to think of the children!
"If we don't have those games with the FCS schools, a lot of them have a very difficult time making their budgets," he told reporters. "I think college football is too important at all levels to hurt them by setting criteria that will not allow you to play them. I'm for doing it."
You see, he's doing it for charity.
Since the anti-FCS mandate and the quest for nine conference games failed worse than a hippie keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention, SEC commissioner Mike Slive is instead asking his teams to schedule a non-conference game against another Power Five conference team each year.
Or, you know, pretty much what everybody has already been doing all along.
This is apparently much easier said than done, however, because Alabama just can't find anybody to play -- even when they already have them scheduled. A home-and-home with Michigan State was once scheduled, but that got scrapped because, according to Saban, "it just doesn't make much business sense."
Saban has since said that they couldn't come to terms on a game or series of games because MSU had no desire to play at a neutral site.
In other words, Michigan State was happy to keep the home-and-home that they had agreed to, but that just wasn't possible from Alabama's perspective.
The reason Saban isn't finding much success with scheduling is because he doesn't have much desire to play games in opposing stadiums.
Including this upcoming season, Saban's Crimson Tide will have played just two true road games against non-conference opponents in eight years -- Duke in 2010 and Penn State in 2011. Everything else is either in Tuscaloosa or a "neutral site".
This year Alabama plays West Virginia at the neutral site of Atlanta. It happens to be the second-closest non-home game for the Tide all season.
Per the internet, Alabama only has three future opponents set up -- Wisconsin (at Arlington, TX) and Louisiana-Monroe next season, and Colorado State in 2017.
For comparison's sake, Ohio State has home-and-homes scheduled with Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, TCU, Oregon, Texas and Boston College from 2014 to 2024.
Scheduling isn't that hard if you're actually willing to work at it, and once in a while maybe play a game on the road.
Saban doesn't appear interested in doing either.
There is an episode of 'The Simpsons' where the Jesus-loving (and deceptively-toned) Ned Flanders reminisces about his childhood as an out-of-control little bastard, blaming his lousy beatnik parents for his shoddy upbringing.
In that episode, his parents -- who absolutely do not believe in discipline -- take Ned to a child psychologist about his uncontrollability and they tell the doctor, "You gotta help us, Doc. We've tried nothin', and we're all out of ideas."
That's Nick Saban when it comes to building a non-conference schedule -- trying nothing and completely out of ideas.
Saban saying that the Power Five teams should only play other Power Five teams is like the Marlboro Man telling Joe Camel that they should ease up on all of the advertising aimed at kids, but he's doing this on his cell phone while at a photo shoot for a new campaign in the Weekly Reader.
Scheduling non-conference games is only impossible when you refuse to play on the road, or keep canceling the games you already have scheduled.
Saban has chosen to go the "neutral site" route, and while it may make for good television, it doesn't make for easy scheduling. After all, some schools still actually like playing on college campuses.
But don't expect much of anything to change with Alabama's scheduling -- at least not until it changes everywhere else first.
Or until the day after Nick Saban leaves Tuscaloosa.
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