Nick Saban speaks to the media after Alabama won the BCS title game against Notre Dame. (Getty)
DESTIN, Fla. – Nick Saban’s Southeastern Conference brethren should listen to him.
Not just because he owns them on the field in the fall. Because he’s the smartest coach in the conference room, too.
They should listen to the Alabama coach’s pitch for adding a ninth game to the league schedule. They should man up and embrace the challenge, instead of using the SEC’s legitimate power status as an excuse to schedule timidly. They should resist the lure of three or four hollow victories a year over the likes of Alabama State, Alcorn State and Southeast Missouri State and take on someone their own size.
This will be the hot topic this week at SEC spring meetings – over chilled jumbo shrimp, at the beach, on the golf course and at places where actual work may get done.
Saban made his case for nine games again Tuesday, saying “I’m absolutely in the minority, no question about it.” Most SEC coaches say it’s like volunteering to hit yourself in the head with a hammer nine times instead of eight.
“If you look at it through a straw and how it affects you and you’re self-absorbed about it, nobody’s going to be for it,” Saban said. “I shouldn’t be for it. We have a better chance to be successful if we don’t do it. But I think it’s best for the game and the league.”
Despite his minority status, Saban might have the most powerful ally in the room when the issue is raised here. Commissioner Mike Slive hasn’t come out as publicly pro or con regarding the nine-game schedule, but at the very least he sounded eager last month to engage his membership in serious debate.
Slive knows that, on the drawing board at least, strength of schedule will be a bigger part of the equation when the lyrically named College Football Playoff is implemented in 2014. And the best way to augment strength of schedule in a power league is to play more league games.
Under the tragically flawed current system, the greater goal is to go undefeated than to play the best competition possible. To that end, Saban was asked Tuesday about the possibility that Ohio State – undefeated but on NCAA probation last season – would have taken the Crimson Tide’s spot in the national title game last year.
Which gave Saban a chance to take a shot at both the current system and the Buckeyes, who played a soft 2012 schedule.
“How well would they have done if they played the six (SEC) teams ranked in the Top 10?” Saban asked. “Would they beat them all? Would they beat three of them? And I think they have a really good team and Urban (Meyer) is a great coach. I’m not questioning any of that. I’m just saying that’s where strength of schedule and who you play don’t get sort of accounted for quite equally.”