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Monday January 23, 2012 Billy D agrees with Vandy coach as Gators prep for quick Thursday-Saturday turnaround

Updated: 3:57pm, January 23

Two Southeastern Conference games in three days. Sometimes three league games in six days. When the SEC signed its lucrative television pact with ESPN in 2010 -- to play games on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturdays and Sundays -- all schools signed off on the potentially difficult scheduling gauntlet.

Not every team has had to face it, though, as Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings pointed out last week.

Stallings, whose Commodores were set to go through the Thursday-Saturday-Tuesday paddle wheel last week, was curious why a certain team from a certain commonwealth had no Thursday-Saturday games on its schedule for the second year in a row, yet got the benefit of four -- count ‘em, four -- Saturday opponents coming off Thursday games. Vandy coach Kevin Stallings

“Go figure that one out for me, would you?" Stallings said. "We all agreed to do it, so if you have one, like we have one, I'm not going to complain. To not have any and to be able to play four teams that have to do it to play you that's not right."

As if Kentucky, which ascended to No. 1 in both polls Monday, needs that kind of help.

The tight scheduling issue, thanks to Stallings, was a hot talk-radio topic across the region last week, so obviously it came up Monday morning when Florida coach Billy Donovan had his weekly meeting with the media with the 14th-ranked Gators (15-4), winners of three straight, set to play Mississippi (13-6, 3-2) on the road Thursday night, then return home for a quick-turnaround against 18th-ranked Mississippi State (16-4, 3-2) Saturday at 1:30.

Donovan recalled the SEC meetings two summers ago when Commissioner Mike Slive and the basketball coaches agreed league teams needed to take action to up thei conference's collective profile -- better non-conference opponents and more TV games, specifically -- and improve resumes for the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee.

But as Donovan pointed out Monday, what’s fair for one team should be fair for all 12 conference teams.  

“I think we all felt like there was some give and take with that,” Donovan said. “My problem with it is, if you want to get more teams in the NCAA tournament and you want to do more with your non-conference schedule, our league should not put teams at a disadvantage competitively -- and there are teams in our league that are put in a disadvantage competitively. And I don't think that's right to the players [and] to the teams that are playing. I think we all agree that we need to play Thursday-Saturday-Tuesday. We've done it. But I think everybody needs to do it.”

Ole Miss, for example, has a league-high three Thursday-Saturday double-dips, while Auburn, LSU and Kentucky have none.

That the Wildcats have none for the second straight year does seem a little, shall we say, coincidental.

“You would probably have to ask the league if it’s a coincidence,” Donovan said.

Not so coincidentally, the league was asked about all this after Stallings’ rant last week. UF coach Billy Donovan

"The SEC's athletics directors have established a set of parameters to follow when building the men's basketball schedule,” conference spokesman Craig Pinkerton told USA Today.  “These parameters are in place to ensure that the schedule is as equitable as possible and enables the SEC to fulfill its contractual obligations with television. We make our best effort to balance out the Thursday-Saturday tandem among all of the teams."

Worth noting Part 2: When Alabama won the national championship in football in 2009, in 2010 the SEC scheduled pitted the Crimson Tide agaisnt six opponents coming off byes. Bama brought up the issue to the SEC offices down the road in Birmingham.

Think that will happen to the Crimson Tide when they go to defend their latest national title next season?


“I can sit here all day and talk about the problems. Sometimes, you need to come with a solution. I don’t know what the solution is [and] that’s why I’m not saying it’s an oversight,” said Donovan, whose team gets the Thursday-Saturday-Tuesday run next with that third leg being a date at Rupp Arena. “That is going to get addressed and looked at somehow to try and balance it out.”

But not by Thursday.

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