Debate Rages in SEC Over Eight- or Nine-Game Conference Schedule for Football
The Southeastern Conference (SEC) is currently in the midst of a debate over whether to adopt an eight- or nine-game conference schedule in football moving forward. With Texas and Oklahoma set to join the conference in 2024, the SEC is considering a change to its current scheduling format, which sees teams play eight conference games. The debate hinges on whether to retain one permanent opponent and seven rotating opponents or to adopt three permanent opponents and six rotating opponents. Every team would have the opportunity to play against every other team at least twice within a four-year period, regardless of the option chosen. Every choice also removes any divisions.
The SEC's current scheduling format sees teams play six division games, one permanent cross-division rival, and one rotating cross-division opponent. Many long-term rivalries are played annually under this format. With a nine-game schedule, SEC teams would play three permanent rivals and six rotating opponents. With an eight-game schedule, there would only be one permanent rival and seven rotating opponents given the league's long-held divisions will be going away no matter the overall number of games played.
Ross Dellenger of SI.com reports that the SEC is contemplating a “temporary eight-game conference schedule” for the 2024 football season after Texas and Oklahoma become part of the conference. The proposed schedule aims to maintain both primary and secondary rivalries for at least one year. This proposal would have one permanent opponent and seven rotating opponents.
The dialogue over the SEC's scheduling format continues, with representatives from all 14 teams, plus Texas and Oklahoma, currently haggling over whether to add a ninth conference game beginning in 2024. Currently, the main concern is that the SEC's proposed ninth game is anticipated to not generate any extra revenue for the league, leaving many disappointed. It is not expected that ESPN, which holds the entirety of the league's media rights starting in 2024, will commit to paying any additional money if the SEC added a ninth conference contest.
According to SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, the league is “poised to make a decision” this week on its future conference football schedule format. Sankey has already “made clear what I think eventually should happen” and that he'd like to have a solution soon. The focus of the debate is the two options mentioned above, and each option would allow every team to play every other team at least twice every four years. Sankey has indicated that he would prefer to land on a decision rather than continue to debate the issue.
LSU coach Ed Orgeron has expressed his preference for the nine-game conference schedule, which would keep Alabama on the Tigers' schedule every season rather than every other season. The SEC's future scheduling model is expected to be a hot topic at the league's annual spring meetings this week, with a possible vote coming at the end of the week.
0. “SEC commissioner Greg Sankey on advantages of 9-game football schedule format” The Athletic, 29 May. 2023, https://theathletic.com/4562273/2023/05/29/greg-sankey-sec-football-schedule/
1. “Greg Sankey seems to prefer nine SEC games: ‘The league at the forefront … does not stand still'” CBS Sports, 30 May. 2023, https://www.cbssports.com/college-football/news/greg-sankey-seems-to-prefer-nine-sec-games-the-league-at-the-forefront-does-not-stand-still/
2. “Report: SEC Exploring 9-Game CFB Conference Schedule amid Addition of Texas, Oklahoma” Bleacher Report, 29 May. 2023, https://bleacherreport.com/articles/10077604-report-sec-exploring-9-game-cfb-conference-schedule-amid-addition-of-texas-oklahoma
3. “SEC ‘poised' for decision on future football schedule. Here's what you need to know | Toppmeyer” Tennessean, 30 May. 2023, https://www.tennessean.com/story/sports/college/SEC/2023/05/29/sec-football-schedule-eight-nine-games-oklahoma-texas-2024-greg-sankey/70267133007/
4. “Greg Sankey hopes for resolution on SEC football schedule soon – ESPN” ESPN, 30 May. 2023, https://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/37756429/greg-sankey-hopes-resolution-sec-football-schedule-soon
5. “SEC wants more money from ESPN before making big change?” Yardbarker, 29 May. 2023, https://www.yardbarker.com/college_football/articles/sec_wants_more_money_from_espn_before_making_big_change/s1_127_38863779