September 28, 2023

SEC is sticking to the 8-game 2024 conference schedule as the league adds Oklahoma, Texas

The SEC is sticking to an eight-game conference schedule for the 2024 football season, even as it expands to 16 members.

The conference announced the decision to stay at eight games on Thursday instead of moving to a nine-game schedule, with Commissioner Greg Sankey deeming it a temporary measure during a transition period for the league. Oklahoma and Texas will join the SEC in 2024.

The SEC currently has an eight-game schedule where teams play their divisional opponents, plus two cross-divisional opponents. The updated 2024 scheduling format eliminates divisions and allows teams to play eight conference games plus one non-conference game against an opponent from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, or major independent (Notre Dame). The SEC title game will be a matchup of the top two teams in the conference standings. The SEC had been split into East and West divisions since 1992.

The decision was made after a series of discussions among league officials at the SEC’s spring meetings in Destin, Florida, this week. Each school’s eight opponents for the 2024 season will be announced on SEC Network on June 14. Dates will be finalized later.

Sankey told reporters in Destin that “fairness and balance” and preserving the league’s traditional rivalries are key priorities as they set the 2024 schedule.

A move to a nine-game schedule is still a possibility for 2025.

“We have been planning for Oklahoma and Texas to join the SEC since the summer of 2021, but the membership date change from 2025 to 2024 creates scheduling complexities that are better managed with a one-year schedule,” he said. Sankey said in a statement.

Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey speaks to reporters at the conference's spring meetings, Tuesday, May 30, 2023, in Destin, Fla.  (AP Photo/Ralph Russo)

Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey speaks to reporters at the conference’s spring meetings, Tuesday, May 30, 2023, in Destin, Fla. (AP Photo/Ralph Russo)

SEC has been discussing the future planning model for over a year

The conference has been discussing two planning models for over a year. The first is an eight-game schedule where teams play against one regular rival and seven alternate opponents. The other is a nine-game schedule with three permanent rivals and six alternate opponents. Moving to the nine-game format would allow teams to play each other much more frequently and allow secondary rivalry games to be played annually.

In February, Sankey said he viewed this week’s spring meetings as a “deadline date” for reaching a long-term decision. Instead, the conference is kicking the can down the road.

In making that decision, Sankey cited concerns among members, including retaining previous non-conference game deals, a better understanding of the 12-team College Football Playoff (namely, the strength of the schedule for the selection committee), and the ability to move forward. are going to “cooperate with media partners.” There were also schools that were concerned about the ability to qualify for a bowl.

In addition to the expanded CFP coming in 2024, the SEC’s exclusive media rights agreement with ESPN kicks off that season. According to multiple reports this week, school officials are hoping ESPN will provide additional revenue for that ninth conference game.

“Creating a one-year schedule will provide a longer ramp to manage football scheduling around existing non-conference commitments of our members. It will also provide additional time to understand the impact of an expanded College Football Playoff and engage our media partners as we make it determine proper long-term SEC football scheduling plan,” Sankey said. “During this time of change, our fans will continue to enjoy traditional rivalries and begin to see new matchups presented by the addition of two historically successful football programs to the second.”

To pass the nine-game format – which Sankey himself is reportedly in favor of – a simple majority vote (8-6) was required. According to Sports Illustrated, only five schools have publicly supported a nine-game schedule change: Florida, Georgia, LSU, Missouri and Texas A&M. Oklahoma and Texas will not be able to vote on league matters until July 1, 2024, when they become full members.

The Big 12, Big Ten, and Pac-12 have all moved to nine-game conference schedules in recent years. For now, the SEC remains at eight.

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