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SEC official Larry Templeton confirms plans for '6-1-1' scheduling model

By Jerry Hinnen | College Football Writer

Even as various athletic directors and presidents have confirmed the SEC's 2013-and-beyond scheduling plans, the league itself has been resolutely quiet on the topic of its future schedules. Until Saturday, that is, when the league's "scheduling guru" confirmed that an eight-game, "6-1-1" model is all but official.

That guru is SEC official and "transition committee" head Larry Templeton, who told the Birmingham News that he fully expects the 14-team league's upcoming schedule rotation to feature six divisional games, one permanent cross-division game, and one rotating cross-division game. Those plans will be finalized at the SEC's annual spring meetings in Destin, Fla., next week.

"I've been around this group enough to know that when they get together for four days (in Destin) there's a lot of things that change from Tuesday to Friday," Templeton said. "But I wouldn't look for a lot of change in the permanents (i.e. the annual cross-division rivalries) if truly the 6-1-1 is what we end up with."

Templeton's acknowledgment of the 6-1-1 model is the first time an SEC official has spelled out the league's likely scheduling plans so plainly, though he had also previously expressed the conference's "strong commitment" to keeping its cross-divisional rivalries intact. Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity sounded an alarm in February that such rivalries -- including his Bulldogs' with Auburn -- could be eliminated in the new scheduling rotation.

Despite Templeton's claim that he "wouldn't look for a lot of change" in the pairing of cross-division partners, only four -- Auburn and Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee, South Carolina and Texas A&M, and the Arkansas and Missouri matchup that necessitated "breaking up" the Razorbacks and Gamecocks -- seem like certainties. The LSU and Florida series, in particular, has already drawn plenty of chatter about possibly being on the chopping block, and that won't change soon considering Les Miles' recent concerns over the inequities in cross-division scheduling.

Templeton and the Birmingham News illustrated another possible shortcoming of the 14-team scheduling overhaul -- not enough quality games for the league's television partners, particularly late in the season:

"I think what TV is interested in is how many quality games we're going to have every Saturday," Templeton said. "They're more interested in what we're doing the second week of the season and what are we doing the week before Thanksgiving with everybody either on an open date or nonconference games before their archrival games."
CBS' broadcast on the next-to-last weekend in 2011, Arkansas-Mississippi State, drew its second-lowest SEC rating of the season. The only other choices that day weren't very appealing, either: Kentucky-Georgia, LSU-Ole Miss and Tennessee-Vanderbilt. The options on that day this season could be rough, too: Arkansas-Mississippi State, Ole Miss-LSU and Tennessee-Vanderbilt.

As we wrote earlier this week: the league may fully committed to the 6-1-1 model now. But don't be surprised if the demands of television mean that Templeton's expounding on the benefits of a 6-1-2 in a couple of years.

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