DESTIN — When the SEC’s powerbrokers convened Tuesday at the Hilton Sandestin to renew their discussions about future football scheduling, Auburn coach Hugh Freeze had a question.
“How does the Playoff look at it?” Freeze asked at the SEC’s spring meetings.
The answer is hypothetical until the College Football Playoff expands from four teams to 12 next year. But the implications for coaches are real, which is why playoff access remains one of their top concerns about whether the SEC should have eight or nine conference games when Texas and Oklahoma join next summer.
“How is the College Football Playoff going to view strength of schedule relative to the metrics that will contribute to that decision by the committee,” Gators coach Billy Napier said. “To me, that’s one of the critical factors.”
The logic is easy to follow. The expanded playoff will have spots for six conference champions and six at-large teams. If the playoff selection committee rewards strength of schedule, a ninth SEC game makes sense from a competitive standpoint.
The possibility of a loss is greater when the Gators play Alabama or South Carolina instead of Alabama Birmingham or Charlotte, but the risk is worth the reward if the committee favors a 9-3 team with a brutal schedule over a 10-2 team that steamrolled a weaker league. But if the committee effectively punishes a team for that extra loss, then coaches might prefer the lighter league schedule.
The problem is that no one knows what the committee will do because it hasn’t happened yet. That means coaches are discussing a pivotal aspect of their future success or failure with incomplete information.
“All of those things are what coaches are going to think about, is how do we best position ourselves and satisfy our fans,” Freeze said, “and all of that’s kind of difficult.”
Coaches displayed great skill Tuesday by dodging direct questions about their preference. The point is moot, anyway. The decision will be made by the schools’ athletic directors and presidents, potentially this week.
That assumes they’ll finally vote on something that has been simmering since before last year’s spring meetings.
“I’m a history teacher by trade, and every time I come to one of these meetings, I’m blown away that the 13 colonies actually formed a union,” Missouri coach Eliah Drinkwitz said. “We can’t agree on an eight- or nine-game schedule.”
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Will that decision finally come this week, before presidents head home Friday?
“We’ll see,” commissioner Greg Sankey said.
Odds and ends
Gators men’s basketball coach Todd Golden and women’s basketball coach Kelly Rae Finley are scheduled to speak to the Pinellas County Gator Club next month. Their event is set for 5-7:30 p.m. June 20 at The Karol Hotel in Clearwater. More information is available through the UF Alumni Association. ... The Gators’ Oct. 28 rivalry game against Georgia was announced as that Saturday’s 3:30 CBS game.
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