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Nick Saban: What about the fans?

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DESTIN, Fla. -- Alabama's Nick Saban knows he’s in the minority, but when has that stopped him?

Saban reiterated his support Tuesday for nine conference games in the SEC, even though his coaching brethren in the league are more than content to keep it right where it is at eight games.

Ultimately, Saban’s probably going to get his wish, at least somewhere down the road. But the 2014 and 2015 schedules the league is working to finalize this week at the SEC spring meetings are expected to be eight-game formats.

“I just think if we increase the size of the league by 15 percent, then we really need to increase the number of games,” said Saban, who’s 38-6 against all SEC opponents over the past five seasons.

“There are people who want to keep their cross-division rivalries. I think every player should have the opportunity to play every school in his career. If you don’t play two rotating games on the other side, that doesn’t happen. I really don’t think we should become a conference of just two divisions, where you just play your division and never play anybody on the other side.

“Now, there’s going to be arguments that say, ‘Well, we have to play some rivalry team in our state that makes us have another tougher game.’ Well, we’re scheduled out until 2017 with tougher games already. We play Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Michigan State twice. I would really like to see everybody, not just in our conference, but everybody in the country play at least 10 games from the five major conferences.”

Saban said it’s the fans who are getting the raw end of the deal by not having more marquee games.

“The biggest thing we all need to do in some of these decisions we’re making about who we play and what we do is: What about the fans?” Saban said. “One of these days, they’re going to quit coming to the games because they’re going to stay at home and watch it on TV. Everybody’s going to say, ‘Why don’t you come to the games?’ Well, if you’d play somebody good, then we’d come to the games.

“That should be the first consideration, the fans. Nobody’s considering them. They’re just thinking about, ‘How many games can I win? Can I get bowl qualified? How many tough teams do I have to play?’ After coaching in the NFL for eight years, everybody in the NFL plays everybody in the NFL, and you lose some games. The Giants lost how many games and won the Super Bowl … six? I think it makes it more exciting if you don’t have to go undefeated or lose just one game to be able to have a chance to qualify to play for something at the end.”

The SEC has won seven straight national championships, and Alabama has won three of the past four.

So, obviously, playing just eight conference games hasn’t hurt the league. What nobody knows is how playing just eight league games will be viewed by the selection committee when the College Football Playoff goes into effect in 2014.

“If you look at it through a straw and how it affects you and you’re self-absorbed about it, then you’re not going to be for it,” Saban said. “I shouldn’t be for it. We’d have a better chance to be successful if we don’t do it, but I think it’s best for the game and for the league.

“I’m trying to look at it from 1,000 feet.”

Saban said he’s not lobbying to expand the playoff or even change the playoff in any way. He just wants to see more weight given to strength of schedule and less given to how many games you lose.

“I just think it would be better if people were talking about more teams at the end of the season rather than just two teams that might be able to get into the championship game,” Saban said. “I think what makes it healthier for college football and the fans is if they’re talking about 20 teams that have a chance to get into the Final Four ... and there aren’t going to be 20 teams undefeated.”
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