The recently announced autonomy by the top five conferences — ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC — combined with the introduction of the College Football Playoff this season means big changes to college football, but Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart doesn’t think scheduling will be one of them.
The SEC has toyed with scheduling nine or even 10 conference games in order to fulfill the strength of schedule component of the new College Football Playoff, but Barnhart said during a press conference Friday that there’s no momentum behind that movement and that SEC schedules probably won’t be much different than they are now. Even with the top five conferences breaking off into their own governance structure, Barnhart said he expects SEC teams to continue to schedule programs outside of the power five.
“A lot of people are pointing to, quote, unquote, the RPI, the strength of schedule stuff for the playoff system. Our strength of schedule is plenty good in the SEC. We're fine,” Barnhart said. “And everybody is playing at least one other big five conference team. So we've got nine on our schedule. Alabama is always going to have nine, maybe ten. Florida is always going to have nine, maybe ten. So we're going to be fine. And I think it's important for the growth of the game of football that you continue to play other people and we don't get so tight on 65, 70 teams, whatever. I think that's important not to do that.
“Now, that's my opinion. Whether that resonates across — I don't know. I think it's important for the game of football not to do that.”
And FCS teams shouldn’t be worried either.
Several FCS teams depend on a game against the SEC — and the payday that comes with it — to help fund their athletic departments. And, every now and then (looking at you Georgia Southern) a win against an SEC team becomes a big recruiting boost for a smaller program.
SEC teams have traditionally squeezed an FCS team into their schedule, usually in November, to break up the grueling SEC schedule. Barnhart said despite the pressure to eliminate those schools and exclusively play FBS teams, he doesn’t think the relationship between the FBS and the FCS is changing anytime soon.
“To play one FCS team a year is probably fair,” Barnhart said. “I think it's fair to them. It helps them sustain their program. They need it for financial viability to be able to maintain their programs.
“We need it too, to be honest with you. We can't afford to ‑‑ from just ‑‑ sometimes from an injury perspective and a cost perspective, there's lots of pieces that come into play when you play an FCS team, and it's important that you weigh all that in there. I think it's important that you continue to play them.”
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