We’ve been waiting all week for the expected release of the 2012 SEC schedule, but we now know that’s not going to happen. Here, briefly, is where we stand:
The SEC office is “[w]orking through [the] final stages of [the] 2012 #SEC football schedule,” which will be “release[d] once it's complete, but not before Christmas.” This has been reported widely as “not until after Christmas,” but that is not what the SEC announced, and I believe that semantic distinction may matter a great deal, for reasons I will clarify shortly.
Citing a “[h]igh ranking SEC source,” Pat Dooley reports that “we know for sure [that] Texas A&M's first SEC game [will be] vs. Florida at Kyle [Field].” If true, this indicates some reshuffling is occurring, not just with respect to the opponents a team will face, but also with respect to the order in which that team will face those opponents.
This would appear to lend credence to the widespread rumors that the Georgia Bulldogs will open their 2012 SEC schedule against the Missouri Tigers, causing the Red and Black’s date with the South Carolina Gamecocks to be pushed back to October. These persistent rumors might explain why South Carolina’s athletic director says some fans will be “upset” over the changes to the schedule, because Gamecock fans attach great significance to playing the Bulldogs early.
I find Kevin’s projected Georgia schedule more plausible than Paul Westerdawg’s version. If we know the Florida Gators’ slate is being rearranged to accommodate a conference opener against the Texas A&M Aggies, it seems sensible to suppose something similar could happen to the Classic City Canines, as well.
Regarding the replacement of one rotating interdivisional game with an extra divisional showdown, the logical solution is to drop the game against the opponent from the other division rotating onto a team’s schedule rather than to nix the back half of the home-and-home series with the squad that rotated on this year. In 2011, Georgia hosted the Mississippi St. Bulldogs to close out the two-game set that began in Starkville in 2010 while traveling to Oxford to open a two-game series with the Mississippi Rebels. I expect to see Ole Miss play in Athens this autumn, with the Bulldogs’ scheduled trek to Tuscaloosa to face the Alabama Crimson Tide being axed to make room for an extra SEC East outing against new division rival Mizzou.
Finally, regarding the choice of phrasing employed by a league office noted for its legalistic precision in matters of conference expansion, I question whether the phrase “not before Christmas” was accidental. One SEC athletic director already has indicated that fan ire will be aroused by the revised slate, and we know there are issues regarding the site at which the Arkansas Razorbacks will square off with the Aggies. When this news officially breaks, there are going to be some outraged partisans in the Southeastern Conference, and outrage around these parts tends to be good for merchants who deal in tar, feathers, torches, pitchforks, and, occasionally, herbicides.
Followers of politics and fans of “The West Wing” are familiar with the notion of “take out the trash day,” whereby the White House holds stories it doesn’t want covered extensively until Friday afternoon, when it dumps them en masse to limit the number of column inches devoted to, and the number of eyeballs that will peruse, those stories. Knowing fan reaction is apt to be forceful, is it possible the SEC plans to unveil the 2012 schedule on Christmas Day, in order to blunt the potential firestorm? Mike Slive is a pretty shrewd dude; I certainly wouldn’t put it past him.