The SEC was facing a series of thorny scheduling issues with the addition of Texas and Oklahoma accelerated to 2024. After months of strident debate and closed door lobbying it appears the league has decided to, well, just sort of do what they were already doing. At least to the extent it remains possible.
After more than a year of debate, the fourteen current SEC presidents voted unanimously in favor of preserving the eight game schedule during the SEC spring meetings today, putting a temporary halt to speculation that the league would bow to external pressure and the winds of change elsewhere in college football.
The nation’s premier college football league will play an eight game conference football schedule once Oklahoma and Texas officially become members in 2024, but will re-evaluate the merits of a nine game slate before the 2025 season. The league is going to go ahead with jettisoning the two current divisions, giving Vanderbilt a chance to officially finish in 16th rather than 8th.
The conference also has not determined a specific scheduling structure regarding permanent or rotating opponents due to the one-year nature of today’s decision. That means the speculation about permanent rivals will also continue. Will Georgia continue to have the opportunity to beat up on Auburn annually worse than their other hated rival, remedial algebra? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe it will depend on what happens elsewhere in college football, the halls of Congress, and the corridors of ESPN’s executive suites over the next year.
It is worth noting that by axing divisions the league has actually given itself plenty of leeway to both set matchups between the conference’s most lucrative brands and the newcomer Longhorns and Sooners, while also allowing traditional rivalries to remain intact. I would absolutely bet money that the Bulldogs will find themselves playing either Oklahoma or Texas in 2024, but also Auburn and Florida. The tradeoff may be missing Missouri or Kentucky. C’est la vie.
The 2024 schedule will be announced on June 14th live on SEC Network. However the dates for those games won’t be public just yet. This should also allow a little time for non-conference schedule adjustment, which one would expect is going to be non-trivial with the confirmation that teams can indeed keep that fourth non-conference game that some of them need for bowl eligibility.
The decision is going to draw fire from those who wanted the SEC to follow the lead of other power conferences going to a nine game conference slate. But it beats repeating that Greg Sankey and the SEC power structure know exactly where they sit in the college football pecking order and won’t bow easily to peer pressure. They have a difficult job balancing the needs of a constituency with pretty diverse program goals. Staying at eight games but throwing off the strictures of the divisional structure gives them flexibility and solves the most pressing issue: getting the best quality television product out there as soon as possible. You gotta know where your bread is buttered in this business, and for the SEC that’s in Bristol, Connecticut, not on Twitter or talk radio. Until later…