The SEC has now settled its football scheduling dilemma, at least for the foreseeable future. On the heels of that, Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity answered a few questions on how he will now proceed.
Q: You haven't spent the past 48 hours on the phone scheduling, have you?
McGarity: “No. Just (talking with) the beat writers. Because there was really no surprise.”
Does it change anything for you other than you now know how to proceed going forward?
McGarity: “No that’s really about it. I think that’s why there wasn’t so much surprise from our ranks. This is what we preferred. This is where we wanted to be, and this is where it ended up. So now we can move forward with scheduling.”
I know it was the presidents involved in this meeting Sunday, but do you think it's a concern about not facing teams that often other than Auburn from the West?
McGarity: “No, it’s the model we’ve had in place for a number of years, and everyone was accustomed to it. So I don’t think there was a level of displeasure with it from the conference standpoint. Everyone just prefers to move forward as we have in the past. The results speak for themselves, and it allows a level of flexibility for all institutions to schedule as they so desire.”
Was that flexibility, because of having the Georgia Tech game every year, what went into your desire to stick with eight SEC games, rather than go to nine and be able to face more of those SEC teams?
McGarity: “Well as we’ve said before a nine-game conference schedule reduces the opportunity to play another BCS opponent. Eleven out of 12 games, while I’m sure the fans would love it, the coaches and student-athletes just don’t prefer that. This is a model that works. It allows institutions that want to schedule tougher games to do so. It allows those who want to schedule one or two to do so, it allows so much more flexibility for everyone. That’s why it was the desire of the conference. So we all move forward now.”
How are you going to approach scheduling those final three games? As in, how often and whether you have a Clemson or a Notre Dame or whoever?
McGarity: “It’s just like we’ve said before with the eight-game schedule. We will look to schedule games of that nature, in addition to Georgia Tech, periodically. We’ve done that four out of the past five years. (Five of the past six, including Oklahoma State in 2009.) While it might have been exciting to fans, it did not yield a championship. So one could argue that in order to put yourself in the best spot, what model works best. So I think it just leaves it up to each institution to do what they think works best as they see fit. And this eight-game schedule allows that flexibility.”
Would you rather start a season with a game that’s not a Clemson or a Boise State?
McGarity: “Oh I don’t know. It’s hard to say because some years you may have a veteran team coming back, and your opponent may be not in that same position. So to be able to say, 'Well you may never be able to start a season that way', there’s just no way you can tell. Injuries may play a part of it. There’s so many factors that I just don’t think you can go into scheduling it and say: 'I don’t want to play somebody in the first game because of A, B and C.' Because those dynamics may change even the week of the game.”
What about your philosophy in terms of continuing to schedule the FCS teams? Is there anything evolving or changing in your philosophy there?
McGarity: “No. We’ll just keep all options open moving forward, including the FCS teams.”
That’s the criticism some people take of the SEC: ‘Well they’re not only sticking with the eight-game schedule, but they’re going to continue to schedule these FCS teams.’
McGarity: “Well some could argue that these FCS teams are as good of better than (some) FBS teams. And I think one misconception out there is people think you can just pick up the phone and schedule a game. It’s very difficult to do. Extremely difficult to do. You’ve got to have cooperation on dates, you’ve got to have cooperation on schools that want to either play a neutral-site game or want to play a home-and-home series. Scheduling is extremely difficult, and it gets discounted sometimes, that you can just pick up the phone and call School A and say, Hey let’s play a game. It just doesn’t happen that way. It takes months and months to cultivate. It takes months and months to bring one of those games, whether it be a neutral-site or a home-and-home series, to make it happen. So it’s difficult. And our rivalry with Georgia Tech is something that’s always going to be on our schedule.”
And as far as potential other major conference games – there was that report about Notre Dame a few weeks ago – is there any movement on that, or are you close with anybody?
McGarity: “No. Not at this time. We still have a number of schools that we’re in discussions with verbally.”