Back in late May, the SEC’s basketball coaches convened down in Florida to discuss, among other things, what the league’s conference schedule would look like after the addition of Texas A&M and Missouri.
The answer they came up with?
Each school gets a permanent rival (Kentucky and Florida, Ole Miss and Mississippi State, etc.) to play an annual home-and-home against. Each team will then play four more home-and-homes and one game against each of the other eight teams in the conference. That’s 18 games and, according to Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com, all of those 18 games for each team were determined while the coaches were in Florida.
And then a funny thing happened.
When the league sent out the schedule in an email, it didn’t look the same. From Parrish:
“I got an email from the SEC office, and my four [home-and-home] opponents … were changed,” once SEC coach told CBSSports.com. “There was no discussion or phone call. I just got an email of our league schedule, and the league schedule wasn’t the league schedule they told me I’d have last month. It’s crazy.”
To help you better understand exactly what happened, consider that Vanderbilt was supposed to have Tennessee as its constant rival and Kentucky, Alabama, Missouri and Ole Miss as its home-and-home opponents, but sources told CBSSports.com that Vanderbilt now has Kentucky, South Carolina, Arkansas and Auburn as its home-and-home opponents. Meantime, Ole Miss was supposed to have Mississippi State as its constant rival and Auburn, Florida, Vanderbilt and Arkansas as its home-and-home opponents, but sources told CBSSports.com that Ole Miss now has Auburn, Tennessee, Missouri and Texas A&M as its home-and-home opponents.
This is a big deal for a couple of reasons. For starters, the coaches never discussed the fact that changes were going to be made to the schedule, let alone what those changes would be. The email caught them completely by surprise, which is not a good thing when it was sent out in the middle of one of the three five-day live recruiting periods.
The biggest problem is that these schools have already started building their non-conference schedules, and those non-conference schedules reflect what their conference schedules look like. In Parrish’s example, Vanderbilt traded home-and-homes with Alabama, Missouri and Ole Miss for home-and-homes with South Carolina, Arkansas and Auburn. If they lost a home game against Missouri for a home game against Auburn, Kevin Stallings has every right to be angry because he now has a home game against a conference bottom-feeder instead of a top 15 team.
He built his non-conference schedule — one of the most important tools for getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament — around having that home game against a top 15 team. And now that game is gone.
I’d be pissed, too.