What’s next for SEC football scheduling with Oklahoma, Texas officially joining in 2024?
As Oklahoma and Texas officially join the SEC ahead of 2024, the future of the SEC’s football schedule is starting to become clear.
As the conference grows to 16 attendees, the need for an updated scheduling format is clear, and Greg Sankey, Commissioner of the SEC, had this to say.
For years, the central debate has been whether to play eight or nine conference games. As other conferences moved to nine games, the SEC stayed at eight. But with the arrival of two new members, other factors and objectives come into play.
In an interview with Cole Kubelik and Greg McElroy on WJOX In Birmingham, Sankey said league officials had explored “dozens of scheduling patterns” since Oklahoma and Texas were first announced to join the league.
Now that the two schools have been confirmed to join the team in 2024, rather than 2025 (as previous contractual commitments required), the decision-making process has accelerated.
Sankey said Friday that he sees the SEC’s spring meetings in May as a “far end date” for a decision.
The fact that the extended College Football playoffs and a new SEC deal with ESPN will take place in 2024 also contributes to the need for a speedy decision.
“The sooner the better now that we have clarity on the expansion to 16 and the timing of that expansion. It helps a lot in making decisions.” Sledge said WJOX. “Knowing where the CFP will be in 2024 is useful information and working with our TV partner will be useful information.”
If there are no more divisions, will the SEC play an eight or nine game schedule?
Sankey said the SEC has been focusing on dropping divisions and moving to a “single division format,” as the ACC and Pac-12 have already done.
According to Sankey, the SEC hasn’t decided whether to stick with the eight-game conference schedule or move to nine. Whether it’s eight or nine, he said the focus is on getting teams to play each other more often.
“Last year we saw games – Missouri at the Auburn, for example – that haven’t been played since we added Missouri in 2012. What stands out the most is that Georgia hasn’t traveled to College Station since Texas A&M was a member. . It shouldn’t be,” Sankey said. “We don’t have to go 12 years between campus visits. We should change our teams more often.”
The key point of the discussion is to keep the SEC rivalry, whether it be annually or biennially.
“We deliberately discussed the possibility of holding an annual rivalry or rivalry every two years. We didn’t hit the target between eight or nine games. The number of games will increase the number of annual games,” Sankey said.
He said the league had worked out “all possibilities” for a future schedule over the past year and a half. According to Sports IllustratedThere are two preferred formats, with one lead candidate as a broadcast partner of course playing a prominent role in the proceedings:
Last spring, the league narrowed down more than 30 scheduling models to two non-split formats: an eight-game format in which teams play one regular opponent and seven rotational opponents (model 1-7); and a nine-game format in which teams play three permanent opponents and six rotational (3-6).
Administrators are still leaning towards the nine-game model, but there’s still an unanswered question that hangs over any decision: if the conference moves to a nine-game conference schedule, will ESPN generate additional revenue for the SEC?
Hardest Challenge: Picking Regular Opponents
If the league decides on a nine-game schedule, as many expect, the biggest hurdle will be picking three permanent opponents for each team.
The ACC, which is made up of 14 members, went through this song and dance in a 3-3-5 format. The 3-3-5 scheduling model sees teams play three major rivals annually and face the other 10 teams twice in a four-year cycle, once at home and once away.
Some ACC fans weren’t thrilled about their three regular opponents. This is bound to happen in the SEC, but Sankey said “balance and fairness” were “guiding principles” in the process.
“We looked at bandwidth balance and fairness in the schedule,” Sankey said. “We have been working with athletic directors to determine what this means. You will always have differences in the competitive nature of the schedule based on the performance of other teams and your team’s performance this particular season.”
With 16 teams, it will be a difficult task for the SEC to try and thread that needle when rivalry and balance are key ingredients in future scheduling.