published Saturday, July 6th, 2013

SEC coaches not thrilled to submit schedules

It is not uncommon for Southeastern Conference men's basketball coaches to babysit players who lack maturity.

Now it's the coaches who are being supervised, at least as far as scheduling is concerned. SEC athletic directors, at the request of league commissioner Mike Slive, agreed at the spring meetings to have their coaches submit their nonconference basketball schedules to the conference office each year for review.

"I'm not a huge fan, to be honest with you," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. "I understand the reasoning why, but scheduling is a little bit more difficult than the people who don't do it think it is. To add more layers of approval and things like that is not necessarily what I would desire."

The league's nonconference scheduling became a focal at May's gathering in Destin, Fla., after the SEC had just three of its 14 members invited to the NCAA tournament. The SEC's 21.4-percent acceptance rate into the NCAA field was its lowest since 1979.

As the SEC began league play in early January, only two teams -- Florida and Missouri -- were in the top 50 of the Rating Percentage Index rankings, while Georgia, South Carolina, Auburn and Mississippi State were all outside the top 200. South Carolina coach Frank Martin said his Gamecocks had the nation's 336th toughest nonconference schedule, and that was out of 347 Division I programs.

"When I first heard about submitting our schedules, I wasn't happy," Martin said. "I'm not in kindergarten anymore, and I think I can take care of my responsibilities. I also understand that South Carolina was part of the problem. We have to improve our RPI number, and we have to improve the league's RPI number, because that's the only thing that's fair in how we do our business.

"We all compete with one another, but we're also one big family, and my doings can not negatively affect the other 13 schools."

The Gamecocks opened last season with games against Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Morgan State, Rider, Elon, Missouri State and Arkansas-Little Rock. They won five of those, losing to Elon by 12.

At the spring meetings, former NCAA vice president Greg Shaheen met with the coaches to discuss scheduling, which has become more difficult with the SEC going from 16 to 18 conference games. Shaheen discussed options for the league's Top 25 programs, those in rebuilding mode and those in between.

"I think what the league wants to do is be a resource to help guys who are struggling with their scheduling and be a sounding board," Kentucky's John Calipari said. "I doubt seriously, knowing the commissioner like I do, that this league would ever step in and say, 'Nope, you're not scheduling those teams.' I don't see him being that way.

"I think he's saying, 'Use us, because we have some expertise now.' I think it's more of that than anything else."

Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said a lot of his contracts for the upcoming season had been signed before the league announced its new policy. Kennedy added that the league has no desire to ask coaches to go back and tear up any existing documents.

Martin promises that South Carolina will have a much tougher schedule, and the other obvious way the SEC can enhance its RPI is simply to win more.

"If you look at our schedule the years that I've been here, we've played people," Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. "It was just unfortunate last year that we didn't beat some of those people. We had a five-game stretch that was as good as anybody's in the country when you talk about Arizona State and Wisconsin out in Vegas, and then you play Syracuse, Oklahoma and Michigan.

"That alone is a tremendous nonconference schedule. Had we won some of those games, our postseason would have been a lot different."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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