Storin: I'm siding with Saban on SEC strength of schedule

storapse@aol.comJune 6, 2013 

It's time to give the "Devil" his due.

The Devil in this case is Alabama football coach Nick Saban, so tabbed most recently by Florida assistant coach Tim Davis. A former aide to Saban at 'Bama and with the Miami Dolphins, Davis referred to his old boss as "the devil himself" at a Gators booster club meeting last month.

Davis is the latest to take that kind of verbal punch at Saban. Vanderbilt coach James Franklin often refers to the four-time winner of the national college championship as "Nicky Satan."

Success often comes with a price. Plus Saban is not a warm and cuddly guy and is reputed to be extremely cold and businesslike with his assistants and players.

I've taken my shots at Saban, calling him a charter member of the Coaches Liar's Club. He gained membership during his last days as coach of the Dolphins when asked if he was leaving Miami to coach Alabama. As Don Shula noted, he "blatantly lied four or five times." Shula, whose middle name is Integrity, does not speak like that very often.

But today I am here to praise "The Devil" for his stance on future Southeastern Conference football schedules.

Saban wants the SEC to move from an eight-game league schedule to nine games. But he was outvoted 13-1 by his fellow coaches at the SEC meetings last week in Destin, Fla.

Why is this important?

When college football finally goes to a playoff system in 2014, strength of schedule is going to be one of the top criteria for the panel that will determine the four teams selected for the semifinals.

Playing two or three non-conference cupcakes will not be a positive in the eyes of the panel. As a matter of fact, it will be a big negative when comparing SEC teams with those in the Pac-12 and Big 12, which already play nine conference games, and the Big Ten, which will move to a nine-game schedule in 2016.

There is another factor in all this. With ESPN launching the SEC Network next year, the "world leader in sports" will want to increase the quality of the games.

Saban gets this. His 13 fellow SEC coaches don't. Not yet anyway.

What Saban really would like is for teams in the big five conferences -- SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12 -- to play at least 10 games per year against teams from the five big conferences. That would give the selection committee a better basis for comparison at the end of the regular season.

According to the Sporting News, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive is in Saban's corner on this subject. He has similar concerns about the proliferation of "patsies" on schedules of SEC teams.

"I made it very clear, " Slive said, "I don't want us playing four games that mean less."

Saban's athletic director Bill Battle is on board, too.

"What I think is that we really need to play at least 10 good games, because our fans are going to get tired of lesser opponents," Battle told ESPN.

According to the Macon Telegraph, University of Georgia president Michael Adams recently raised the same issue about fans rebelling over paying for home games against teams they don't really want to see.

"I don't blame them," Adams said.

The administrators -- Slive, Battle and Adams -- all worry that more and more fans are likely to stay at home to watch more competitive games on a large screen HD-TV.

The fact that Saban is the only SEC coach who is thinking that way might be a hint as to why he wins more games than all the others.

What a devil he is.

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