Alabama's Nick Saban: Consider this before switching to 9-game SEC football schedule

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MIRAMAR BEACH, Fla. — Nick Saban's stance hasn't changed about playing more conference games, but the Alabama football coach thinks SEC coaches and administrators should consider a few factors before voting on a potential nine-game league schedule.

A vote might be on the table this week at the SEC spring meetings. With Oklahoma and Texas joining in 2025, the league must adjust its scheduling format to account for 16 teams.

A change might have been due anyway with frustration about the SEC's current divisional system, in which teams play the same seven opponents every season plus one rotating cross-divisional opponent. In this setup, a number of SEC programs only see each other once every six years.

"I've always been for playing more conference games," Saban said Tuesday, emphasizing the need to eliminate games that fans are not interested in.

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"I think the nine-game format is a start in that direction, but what is the best model?" he said. "I think that's the issue. What is the best model? That's No. 1. And No. 2 is: Are other conferences doing the same thing? Are they going to play more conference games? Are they going to have the same kind of competitive balance? This always goes back to competitive balance. And when you have conferences making all the decisions, sometimes you lose a little bit of that."

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At an inflection point for college football when SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey has said publicly that the conference is considering an SEC-only playoff, Saban's comments reflect a counter-perspective to the every-man-for-himself approach on the table at the SEC spring meetings. Saban said that when considering new schedule templates, everyone should examine how an added conference game would affect SEC teams' College Football Playoff résumés relative to other leagues.

"If we're going to play nine conference games and we're going to end up playing probably five minimum top-15 teams in the country – and I'm talking about all of us, not just our team – how is that going to compare to other conferences?" Saban said. "We could have a great team and lose two games in our conference, and somebody else gets the playoffs because they went undefeated, but they didn't have the same opportunity to play as many good teams."

Among the options reportedly being considered are two eight-team divisions; four four-team pods (though this is losing traction); and a no-division structure in which teams have three annual rivalry opponents plus a rotating cast of five or six SEC teams to increase variety.

"It's a tough act for the conference to try and get it where it's equal," Saban said, "in terms of whatever the three, six, whatever the model is."

This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: Alabama football: What Nick Saban said about nine-game SEC schedule