By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Mark Womack is the Executive Associate Commissioner of the Southeastern Conference and has been at the SEC since 1978. In addition to his role as the conference’s chief financial officer, one of his responsibilities in the league office is serving as the liaison to the conference athletics directors and working with scheduling for the sport of football.
Womack sat down with the SEC Digital Network on Thursday for this Q&A to provide insight into the formulation of the 2013 conference football schedule.
SEC Digital Network: The 2013 SEC football schedule is being termed a “bridge” schedule. What do you mean by that?
Mark Womack: “Instead of having a long-term schedule that is established with who the permanent and rotating opponents are, this is a stand-alone schedule for just 2013 that has no impact on what is going to be agreed upon going forward. It is really to get us through the 2013 year as we look to create a longer-term schedule for 2014 and beyond.”
SEC Digital Network: There are three repeat-venue games on the 2013 SEC football schedule. How important were those to finalizing a schedule that worked for next season?
Mark Womack: “I think there were certain things that had to be done. We would rather not have any repeats, but we had some this year with the 2012 schedule and we have three in the 2013 schedule. Historically, when we went back and added Arkansas and South Carolina to the league, we had repeat venues in that schedule as well. It’s really a matter of having to even up the home and aways within the division and outside the division, and that created issues with having to have repeat-venue games.”
SEC Digital Network: The SEC announced a new set of permanent inter-division opponents for each team during the Spring Meetings in Destin this past June. Why are those not reflected in the 2013 schedule?
Mark Womack: “That was part of the ‘bridge’ schedule and really part of trying to have either a conference game or a non-conference traditional rival game on the last week of the season that created some issues for us. It created the situation where we had to look at holding off going to those permanent opponents for a year.”
SEC Digital Network: Were there any issues that played out with the 2012 SEC football schedule that influenced decisions made with the 2013 schedule?
Mark Womack: “No, not really. What we tried to do was work within the framework that we had with the existing non-conference games that our institutions had scheduled. We were trying to work around that and fit those in, keep some historical rivalry games in certain places date-wise, and that became the challenge of trying to fit that in and have somewhat of a balance to the schedule.”
SEC Digital Network: What decisions will need to be made in the future in order to develop a football scheduling model for the long term?
Mark Womack: “I think we just have to look at the last weekend of the season and how that shapes up to try to have games for everyone on that last weekend. We need to take a look at the best way to accomplish that and work to see how we can rotate teams on and off the schedule over a 12-year period.”
SEC Digital Network: In a broad sense, what were the main considerations in putting together the 2013 SEC football schedule?
Mark Womack: “Certainly, we had the games that we ended up having to get scheduled at certain points and then we had to include those within the structure of the existing games for the non-conference teams. We tried to move as few of those non-conference games as we possibly could and not have to have any schools break any contracts to get the schedule done. We’ve looked at trying to spread games out for our television partners so we could have some quality TV inventory on each and every week. Those became the challenges of just trying to fit those games in and even honor some requests that the schools had made with some issues that they wanted us to address in their schedules. As we moved through trying to accommodate as many of those as we possibly could, it certainly created some challenges in getting the schedule put together.”
SEC Digital Network: Who was involved in putting together the 2013 SEC conference football schedule and what additional groups had input?
Mark Womack: “It was a cooperative effort from all of our athletic directors to take the schedule and try to work through it, along with Larry Templeton and Mark Whitworth in our office. We use a scheduling group outside the office from a computer standpoint of trying to generate some things for us. At the end of the day, the cooperation of each athletic director in trying to make this work is vitally important.”
SEC Digital Network: You mentioned the computer group that assists you with scheduling; how does that process work?
Mark Womack: “They run different versions of what we give them as far as we’d like to keep certain games on certain dates and other parameters. They will produce the rotation of schedules and how that would work over a 12-year period. They can also assist us in trying to tell us whether, mathematically, we can do something or not. They will tell us that these games would fit in or there’s no way to schedule what we want to schedule.”
SEC Digital Network: When will you and others begin looking at developing a long-term football scheduling model beginning with the 2014 season?
Mark Womack: “Right away. We will start moving on 2014 and what we hope to come out of there is a long-term 12-year schedule that would show who rotates on and off and in which years. We’ve started to put the dates to some of those schedules, maybe not for 12 years out, but for a four-to-six-year period of trying to establish the dates of those games, not just who would rotate on and off your schedule.”