The Movement Shifts Gears

On Wednesday morning, I called your attention to Orson Swindle's open letter to Jeremy Foley.  

Although I would like to see the Florida-Notre Dame series Orson proposes---if only because I would enjoy watching the game secure in the knowledge that either the Gators or the Fighting Irish would lose, making it a win-win situation for me---my interest in his idea was concerned primarily with how it would affect "The Movement":  the effort to persuade Damon Evans and Bill Martin to schedule a home and home series between Georgia and Michigan.  

Not that we don't enjoy seeing this bad boy unfurled in three or four S.E.C. stadiums a year, but . . .

Orson has since offered his expanded thoughts on S.E.C. schools' out-of-conference scheduling and the means by which it might be improved.  Orson admits, "That the SEC doesn't get out enough is beyond debate-they don't."  

Although the situation certainly is changing, I agree that the league's member institutions should go back to our historic practices of scheduling aggressively and traveling outside the region.  

However, Orson is equally correct when he notes that "they're not being cowards, they're not being insular rednecks, they're just responding to dollahs and hollas from alumni and the press."  How, then, do we improve the incentives for S.E.C. teams to schedule tough road games against elite opponents from other regions?  

In addition to arguing in favor of leaving undefeated teams with weak non-conference slates on the outside looking in (as happened to Auburn in 2004), Orson advocates rewarding risk-taking.  He writes (with emphasis added, by me):  

Whether it's via a bolstering of the strength-of-schedule component in college football, a locking-down of automatic conference bids in the current BCS, or improved revenue-sharing from home-and-away agreements, you have to change the math for SEC ADs.  Television money could play a tremendous role in this; rather than locking up the games within the confines of the network contracts, special bidding status could be allowed for future intersectional games of great interest, something budding college football providers like FOX would be more than happy to see since they'd throw dump trucks full of money at one-off series like Oklahoma-Miami or Notre Dame-Texas.  Make the money work, and the action will follow, and no one plays a more important role than the networks.

To a certain extent, of course, this is happening already.  The benefits to Texas and Ohio State for having the guts to schedule one another are readily apparent, from prestige to B.C.S. bowl bids to the money that accompanies them both.  

Orson's concluding sentence, though, helped to crystallize a thought that had been percolating in the back of my mind throughout this process.  While writing the athletic directors of the schools in question is a useful first step, Orson is correct that outside incentives are crucial to providing adequate motivation for running the risk of adding a team of Georgia's or Michigan's caliber to a program's fall schedule.  Grassroots populism is all well and good but money talks.  

It's just business.

That conclusion leads inevitably to this question:  "If the key to scheduling a Georgia-Michigan series is to provide both schools with the financial incentive to do so, where do we direct our lobbying efforts to make this happen?"  I can name that tune in four letters.  

E.S.P.N. was an integral part of arranging the latest deal for the Wolverines to play an S.E.C. squad in football and, the last time we went to the Worldwide Leader in Sports for help, we obtained a measure of satisfaction.  This sounds like a job for E.S.P.N. ombudsman George Solomon!  

Georgia and Michigan webloggers have already written their respective athletic directors to soften the ground.  Now it's time to direct our efforts at the programming giant that has the money and muscle to make this matchup happen.  

How do we go about doing that?  Stay tuned.  

To be continued. . . .

Go 'Dawgs!

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