On Wednesday, SEC athletic directors met in Nashville to discuss, among other things, future SEC football schedules. No decision was made on a scheduling model for 2013 and beyond.
There are several scheduling concerns that the SEC must address moving forward. Chief among them is whether to continue with an eight-game conference schedule or move to a nine-game slate.
Currently, the SEC plays an 8-game conference schedule and will do so for the 2012 season with 14 teams. Each team will play six divisional games, one permanent cross-division opponent and one rotating cross-division team.
The current format (6-1-1) allows for old rivalries to continue, such as Auburn-Georgia and Alabama-Tennessee. But this model also means it would take 12 years for each team to play every team from the opposite division, compared to only five years under the old 5-1-2.
If the SEC decides to move to a nine-game schedule, they could go with a 6-1-2 format. That would allow the protected rivalries to continue and each team would play every other team home-and-home in six years.
Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said that “our top priority in the whole scheduling discussion is maintaining the rivalry with Auburn.” And Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley said that conference realignment is “tampering with something that has made college football so special.”
What about the other SEC cross-division games? The consensus appears to be that those match-ups – Florida-LSU, Arkansas-South Carolina, Vanderbilt-Ole Miss, Kentucky-Mississippi State and Missouri-Texas A&M – don’t have as much tradition as the others and are expendable.
As Mr. SEC points out, a nine-game conference schedule makes sense for several reasons. An additional SEC game is more attractive for ticket buyers and television partners and old rivalries such as Auburn-Georgia could be saved.
But there are a few reasons some SEC schools won’t be in support of the change. Losing a home game every other year could hurt the bottom line, unless TV revenue makes up for it. And an extra SEC game over a non-conference game could be the difference in bowl eligibility.
More than likely, the SEC will eventually move to a nine-game conference schedule. How that happens and what format it will take is anyone’s guess.