The SEC is expected to finalize its football planning format for 2024 and beyond next week when coaches and administrators convene in Miramar Beach, Fla. for the league’s annual spring meetings. One of the main topics on the table will be whether the league will move to a nine-game fixture list post-expansion – a move that is quickly losing support, according to multiple reports.
Administrators have been debating proposed models since the June 2021 conference announced it would add Texas and Oklahoma. The finalists will be a nine-game format with three permanent rivals and six rotating opponents, or an eight-game format with one permanent rival and seven rotating games.
247Sports’ Brandon Marcello reports that Alabama coach Nick Saban is emerging as one of the main opponents of the nine-game model. Saban has long supported adding games to the SEC schedule, going back to 2012 when Texas A&M and Missouri joined the league.
“If you increase the league by 15 percent, you almost have to play more games to get a real sense of who the best team in the league is,” he said in 2012. “We should come up with a format.” In the future every player in the league gets the opportunity to play against every team in the league. We’ve had that in the past. This format will not necessarily give every player the opportunity to do that.”
Both proposed formats will give teams the chance to play against any opponent at the conference every two years through 2024, which almost lives up to Saban’s wishes. Yes, Saban seemed a bit frustrated in March, when he got wind of the three permanent opponents proposed for the Crimson Tide.
“I’ve always been a proponent of playing more [conference] Games,” Saban told Sports Illustrated. “But if you play more games, I think you need to get the three fixed.” [opponents] To the right. They give us Tennessee, Auburn and LSU. I don’t know how they get there [decision].”
Marcello reports that Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi State and South Carolina were against the nine-game model, while Auburn, Tennessee and Ole Miss are undecided on their votes. Vanderbilt did not specify which proposal he favors.
Each format has disadvantages. The eight-game model would eliminate a current permanent opponent, meaning rivalries like Auburn-Georgia, Tennessee-Alabama and others could risk not being held annually. The nine-game model would perpetuate the vast majority of rivalries but could lead to massive inequalities in the strength of the team’s game plan.
The 12-team extended college football playoffs is also one of the factors involved. When Texas A&M and Missouri joined the SEC, there wasn’t even a spark in the eyes of administrators, but since the four-team model was announced in early 2012, the path to getting one of those spots has changed drastically.
Additionally, as Marcello notes, 12 of the soon-to-be 16 conference teams have four non-conference games scheduled in 2024, and nine are fully booked through 2026.