ATHENS — The SEC had to know when it announced it would re-draw the league schedule that there would be some upset fanbases and conspiracy theories.
In hindsight, perhaps the SEC should have just gone with an accelerated cross-division schedule model.
Consider it one more lesson learned as the league attempts to build a bridge as it crosses the river, per a Greg Sankey’s metaphor in the early stages of crisis management.
Each team would draw the next two teams up from the opposite division in 2021 and 2022 — already predetermined — and be done with it. In fact, the league could have just announced the opponents at the same time it revealed it was going to a 10-game SEC schedule.
Instead, the decision was put off and we all waited. And waited. And waited.
“What could be talking so long?” many asked and wondered aloud on Twitter and Facebook. Finger pointing and speculation over who could be “holding up” the process grew on social media channels.
All eyes focused on a potential Alabama and Florida game should the league use the accelerated cross-division schedule.
The Tide and Gators are still scheduled to meet in Gainesville in 2021, but the 2020 slate featured no such showdown when revealed on the SEC Network on Friday night.
There’s no evidence that the SEC attempted to protect the Tide and Gators with its schedule model, there was no public lobbying nor lobbying when the athletic directors held their weekly call.
But when Alabama drew Kentucky and Missouri, to go with Alabama and Tennessee, the howling started.
The Vols’ fans, most notably, were uptight, having drawn Texas A&M and Auburn to go with the two West Division opponents already scheduled, Alabama and Arkansas.
Per a CBSsports’ rankings model, Arkansas has the toughest schedule in the league after the additions, followed by Tennessee.
Florida, it’s worth noting, has the easiest schedule per the website.
But in the social media world, perception quickly overtakes reality.