Nick Saban is a lot of things.
Brilliant, tough, relentless.
The best college football coach ever.
Sometimes, at 67, the winner of six national championships gets a bit cranky, too. For instance, when failing to properly credit Clemson for a 44-16 beatdown during his latest SEC Media Days appearance.
But rarely has the Alabama football coach made more sense than while recently advocating for Power 5 conference programs to schedule at least 10 games against fellow Power 5 opponents (or Notre Dame) each season.
The “at least” part is the best of Saban’s pitch. What's better than 10 Power 5 games per year? Eleven or 12.
The reason is as clear as the view of Fort Sumter from the Charleston Battery on a sunny day.
“If we don’t, fans are going to quit coming,” Saban told ESPN’s Chris Low, “and I can’t say I blame them.”
Many fans already have retired as regular stadium visitors though they are nowhere near retirement age; college football attendance dipped in 2018 for the seventh time in eight years. Reasons include advances in television and hand-held technology, and the fact that so many digital choices dilute just about any single option.
But in this fight for turnstile dollars and viewership, entertainment quality matters. It’s simply ridiculous that an industry that can offer customers Florida State versus South Carolina prime rib chooses to present Florida State versus Charleston Southern chopped liver.
The essence of high-level sports as spontaneous theater is the likelihood of excellent competition, not boring mismatches.
The Power 5 conferences should band together. They should make 10 (at least) Power 5 foes mandatory ASAP, either with added conference games or beefed up non-conference schedules or a combination.
It’s an easy fix, even easier for Clemson and South Carolina. They have an annual rivalry game featuring each other and a stated willingness to upgrade.
The road to 11 or 12 Power 5 games:
The Power 5 conferences are split on whether to play eight or nine conference games per year.
The SEC and ACC play eight.
The Pac-12, Big 12 and Big Ten play nine.
No big deal as long as everyone plays the same total number of Power 5 opponents.
But here’s the ultimate super-schedule formula: 10 conference games and two Power 5 non-conference foes.
The solution for extra fatigue for players likely to see more snaps against better teams than in games against FCS teams featuring third-stringers in the fourth quarter? Add a bye week college football-wide, which also gives the sport one more weekend in the spotlight.
How to compensate FCS teams eliminated from nice paydays? Cut charity checks from the increased FBS gate receipts.
It makes the most sense, geographically and economically, for SEC and ACC teams to schedule their extra Power 5 non-conference games against each other as home-and-home series.
Scheduled: Akron on Sept. 19
New opponent: at Kentucky (plays Kent State)
Scheduled: S.C. State, date to be determined
New opponent: Tennessee (plays Bowling Green on Sept. 4)
Scheduled: Louisiana Tech on Sept. 17 or other date
New opponent: Kentucky (plays Youngstown State on Sept. 17)
Scheduled: Wofford on Sept. 2
New opponent: at Tennessee (plays BYU)
South Carolina rescheduling
Scheduled: Coastal Carolina on Sept. 5
New opponent: Miami (plays Temple)
Scheduled: East Carolina on Sept. 12
New opponent: at Georgia Tech (plays Gardner-Webb)
Scheduled: at East Carolina, date to be determined
New opponent: Georgia Tech (plays Kennesaw State)
Scheduled: Two opponents to be determined
New opponent: Miami (plays at Temple on Sept. 23)
This is just a start; the Gamecocks need more help in 2022 when their schedule calls for Georgia State, Charlotte and Wofford.
But there is so much upside here.
What’s good for College Football Playoff rankings is good for business.
Clemson having home-and-home series with Tennessee and Kentucky is much better than the present alternatives.
South Carolina fans get a built-in Miami vacation option. The Gamecocks' coaching staff gets exposure in the recruiting-rich lands of metro Atlanta and South Florida.
“We have to have a good show,” Saban said, “if we want people to come.”
Fun football is at least trying, which is more than you can say for too many future schedule dates.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff