Saban: Nine SEC games right thing to do

HOOVER, Ala. -- It’s sounding more and more like the SEC will look seriously at going to nine conference games in the near future, and Alabama coach Nick Saban said Thursday it’s the right thing to do.

“Rather than being so division-oriented, what has made this league great is the conference in its entirety,” Saban said. “The No. 1 priority should be that every football player has the opportunity to play against every SEC school.

“When you play at Alabama, you want to play Florida sometime in your career. You want to play against Georgia sometime in your career. It’s the same thing with the schools on the other side. So how do we get to that?”

With the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M, the SEC will operate under a 6-1-1 format for the time being, which means schools will play all six foes in its division, one permanent cross-divisional foe and one rotating cross-divisional foe.

But Larry Templeton, chairman of the SEC’s transition committee, said the league could always vote to go to nine conference games in the next few years and conceded that there was growing support among the coaches to do so. One of the big reasons why is the importance strength of schedule will play in the selection committee’s decision on the four teams who get into the national playoff beginning in 2014.

As recently as two years ago, finding any SEC coach in favor of going to nine games would have been a stretch.

“Everybody has an agenda,” Saban said. “The teams that barely qualify for bowl games and get to six wins don’t want to play any more SEC games. The people who have big fixed rivalries, which we do, don’t want to give that up.

“So everybody has sort of a self-indulgent or whatever opinion of how it should be done. But if you look at it from 1,000 feet, to me, that should be the No. 1 priority, that every SEC player gets an opportunity to play every SEC school in his career.”

Saban likes the idea of playing two rotating opponents from the opposite division if the SEC does indeed go to nine games.

“I think rotating two is the most important thing because that gets it where you play everybody in a four-year cycle or pretty close,” Saban said.