Southwestern Athletic Conference commissioner Duer Sharp says the league’s Council of Presidents simply changed their minds about a seven-game scheduling mandate for football.
“They all were open to the idea when it was first suggested,” said Sharp, himself an early proponent of a matrix that has allowed four open dates a year. “I think they all found out it was a little bit tougher than what they thought it was going be to get quality opponents.”
The SWAC announced a move today back to a previously used nine-game mandate, one that only leaves two available spots for out-of-conference opponents.
In many ways, the switch helps shore up a growing public relations problem for the league, admitted Sharp, who once served as an interim athletics director at Grambling.
The problem: A deflating number of out-of-conference games being played against lower classification teams — Division II and NAIA. (See TheDerisoReport.com’s examination of this trend here.)
The additional dates weren’t being used to upsell the conference, Sharp said. A succession of speedbump games took the wind out of efforts to move the league forward.
“When I was at Grambling, people were always calling you wanting to play,” Sharp said. “Grambling doesn’t have to solicit games, but there are those schools who do. For those who don’t have the name of a Grambling or Jackson State or Southern, it hurts their ability to get those games. When you went to the 7-game mandate, you went with the hopes they would play up, to get some revenue games. It just never worked out that way.”
To critics who say some programs are being punished for their success, Sharp says: “That’s part of being in a conference. Instead of focusing on your institution specifically, you have to look at what’s good for the conference as a whole.”
Sharp described support for the measure as coming from all sides, with little factionalization amongst the presidents — be they from rural or urban institutions.
“I think in the end, they were all of one voice,” Sharp said. “Even some of the bigger schools who shouldn’t have a problem getting those games were saying they would go back for the betterment of the conference.”
He added that there were almost enough votes among the Council of Presidents to reverse the seven-game mandate last year, but that the motion was put off.
TheDerisoReport.com has confirmed that a release is pending that announces a return to the 9-game conference schedule for Southwestern Athletic Conference football in 2010.
We’ll return this afternoon with exclusive comments from SWAC Commissioner Duer Sharp.
The nine-game conference schedule will be in place for a minimum of four years through at least the 2013 football season. The SWAC last played a nine-game Conference schedule for three seasons from 2005-07. Since the SWAC expanded to 10 teams with full membership prior to the 1999 season, the seven-game format was used from 2000-2004, and from 2008 and the upcoming 2009 season.
Other key sport changes include:
The three-team football tie-breaker criteria has been amended. In 2009, the seventh tie-breaker criteria will be best point differential among the tied teams. (Here is our take on the rule change.)
Conference baseball games will be played in three 9-inning games, consisting of two 9-inning games on Day 1 of the series, and one 9-inning game on Day 2. A 10-run rule will be in effect after seven innings.
The 2011 SWAC Basketball Tournament will now be played one week earlier on the first weekend of March. The Conference basketball season will start on the third weekend in December, 2010 with two games played. The schedule will resume on the first weekend of January, 2011.