SEC football coaches have wide range of views on scheduling challenges

Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 11:41pm

James Franklin likes the Southeastern Conference's current schedule format just fine. Les Miles would be OK with a makeover. And Steve Spurrier reminded everyone no one said it was going to be fair. 

The start of college football season is four months away but scheduling dominated most of the conversation on the SEC coaches spring football teleconference Wednesday.

Miles sparked the scheduling hubbub when, at the end of his eight-minute opening statement, he suggested the SEC should do away with permanent cross-divisional partners. When Missouri and Texas A&M joined last year, the league set one permanent cross-divisional partner for each school and a rotating one in addition to the six divisional foes.

Miles lobbied for a change as LSU’s 2013 slate features two SEC East juggernauts — permanent foe Florida and 2012 divisional champion Georgia.

“I wonder if there should be no permanent partners,” Miles said. “I wonder if a computer might pick a fair schedule by random draw. I wonder what other conferences require mandatory crossovers. The key piece for any conference is to allow equal access to be champion.”

Spurrier agreed with Miles about eliminating permanent partners. He imagines the topic will come up again at the league meetings in Destin, Fla., next month. The veteran South Carolina coach even went so far to stick up for Tennessee.

“Tennessee’s got Alabama, who’s been the best team the last three or four years, and that’s not fair for Tennessee to have to play those guys every year,” Spurrier said. “But I don’t know. Heck, that’s just sort of the way it is. Coaches, we don’t make the rules. We just try to coach our teams the best we can. Nobody said it’s supposed to be fair anyway. Have you ever heard any commissioner or anybody say it’s supposed to be fair?”

Alabama coach Nick Saban had a suggestion for how to make the schedules more balanced — nine conference games.

But Franklin, entering his third year at Vanderbilt, believes eight allows for more room in non-conference scheduling. Plus, he said it allows the SEC to be a better league from top to bottom.

He also is in favor of keeping with the permanent cross-divisional foe. Well, at least with Vanderbilt hanging on to its current partner — Ole Miss.

“I think eight games is by far the best thing for the whole league,” Franklin said. “It allows people to solve problems. If people are interested in strength of schedule then go out and schedule a really competitive out of conference schedule and that allows you to play for national championships. If you’re another program that is trying to build their program then you have the opportunity to solve your problems too. I think the eight games create the flexibility to allow all of us to manage our teams and build our programs the way we need to.”

Briefly

• Franklin said Austyn Carta-Samuels is “widening the gap” between himself and redshirt freshman Patton Robinette but added he was not ready to name his starting quarterback for the season-opener against Ole Miss on Aug. 29.

• Spurrier isn’t opposed to voting for defensive players for the Heisman Trophy. In fact, he voted for one of his own last year — defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

But Spurrier, a former Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, admitted it would be tough for Clowney to become the first defensive player since Charles Woodson in 1997 to win the award.

“It’s hard for a defensive player to do a whole lot,” Spurrier said. “When you’ve got a couple of guys blocking one guy, it’s hard to take over a ballgame.”

• First-year Tennessee coach Butch Jones said running back Marlin Lane remains suspended from all team activities.

Lane, a sophomore, was suspended for disciplinary reasons earlier this month. He finished second on the team last year with 658 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

“We have given him and provided him certain criteria he has to meet for reinstatement,” Jones said. “Is he in on that path and doing that? Absolutely. We’re just taking it one day at a time with Marlin. He knows what he has to do be reinstated at this time.”