DESTIN, Fla. — The perception may be that the Southeastern Conference meetings taking place in Destin this week center around football. Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari joked about the focus on his gridiron counterparts at the conclusion of Tuesday’s meeting.
“Do they play football in this league?” he said sarcastically.
His point: There’s plenty being discussed on the hardcourt, as well.
The primary discussion coming out of men’s basketball was the issue of scheduling better non-conference opponents.
Conference commissioner Mike Slive announced that programs would be asked to submit their non-conference schedules to the conference for review. Slive said the process would be a bit like a stoplight.
“Some (games) will be in the green zone, some will be in the yellow zone, and some will be in the red zone,” he said.
The concern is over the conference's RPI, which is a factor in the postseason tournament selection process. Slive and the league’s coaches hope to improve the collective strength of schedule in the conference, which would benefit the teams in the long run.
The review will be based on a system of metrics developed for the league by Greg Shaheen, the organizer of the men’s tournament for 12 years through 2012.
Saban, Richt discuss Malzahn's offense
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn was M.I.A. during the first day of meetings on Tuesday, but rival SEC coaches Mark Richt and Nick Saban shared a handful of opinions about the rookie head coach.
Most prominent from the coaches’ comments was the discussion about the extreme challenge Malzahn’s offense brings to the SEC.
“Gus is a fantastic coach and does a really good job offensively,” Saban said. “This whole concept of playing fast and not letting the defense get lined up and doing a lot of different formations and motions and sort of having things orchestrated, you know, is challenging.”
As an offensive coordinator with the Tigers, Malzahn led an offense that saw plenty of success, particularly during the 2010 season when the team won a national title.
Saban said the hope is that as players get used to playing against it, they’ll be able to do a better job and make less mental mistakes.
Richt shared similar sentiments.
“You just—the more you see it the better you’ve got a chance to have an idea of preparing your guys for what’s going to happen,” he said. “He’s got a lot of different twists and tempo and, you know, different than most people.”
Defending Johnny Football
While there is still debate over the future of the Southeastern Conference schedule format, one thing that isn’t up for debate is games within the division.
For Alabama, that means recent SEC West addition and potential powerhouse Texas A&M is and will continue to be on the schedule. Last year, that was the Crimson Tide’s only loss of the season and perhaps the coming-out party for eventual Heisman winner, quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Saban spoke on Tuesday of the challenges Manziel presents on the field.
“A fantastic player is a fantastic player,” Saban said. “We thought he was a fantastic player last year, and we really tried to prepare for him. But he has such a good instinctive feel for scrambling and making plays and ad libbing and making something happen when there’s nothing there. That’s kind of hard to prepare for. I’m not sure you stop a guy like that, but to keep him from making big plays and allowing him to break down the defense, that’s something we’re going to have to continue to work and do a better job of.”
Alabama is scheduled to play at Texas A&M at 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 14.