Billy Donovan says decision to scrap divisional play was in the best interest of the SEC
Florida coach Billy Donovan said today that the vote by the SEC's coaches last spring to end divisional play in the league was what was best for the overall conference, but it won't alter how the Gators approach the conference season.
When league play begins on Saturday, teams will no longer be playing for the East and West Division titles. There is only the 12-team league now, with the top team being crowned as the champion.
"I think because of all the expansion and all that’s going on with schools moving into different leagues and so many teams in different leagues, there never really is anymore a true champion'' Donovan said. "I don’t think an East champion or a West champion alters our mindset going into the season. But I think we’re all as coaches on board with trying to do what’s best for our league to help our league . And whoever wins the league this year, in a lot of respects none of our schedules are exactly the same. And I think the only way to have a fair league champion is if you play everybody twice – once home and once away. And that’s certainly not going to happen with the amount of games that need to be played, and for people with what they are trying to do with their non-conference schedule. So I think the feeling was to move to one league and not have divisions was the best thing for the league. I think the coaches agreed that would be a good thing to do.''
Florida opens SEC play at Tennessee on Saturday, with an 11 a.m. tipoff that will be televised on ESPN2. Donovan said because of the way the schedule is set up, in many ways teams are still competing in divisional play. But the Gators' mindset will remain to try and improve as the season goes along, he said.
"I don't think we've ever gone into the season saying let’s win the East,'' Donovan said. "Certainly all the schools are competing for an SEC championship and trying to compete for postseason play and continue to move forward and try to grow, develop and get better as the course of the season unfolds. There will be some high moments and there will be some low moments. How your team can develop and grow becomes very, very important.''