The New Look SEC
By: Robert Craft
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
For the next several days, the SEC will take over Destin, Fla., as the league’s leaders and coaches meet to discuss name, image and likeness, future scheduling, playoff expansion, transfer portal windows and more.
There’s undoubtedly going to be grumblings about collectives and college football free agency, but after commissioner Greg Sankey told Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher to zip-it recently, the spiciest of soundbites may have already happened.
Still, even if we don’t get Fisher vs. Saban Round 2, these SEC spring meetings could carry as much importance as they have in many years.
With Oklahoma and Texas set to join the league in 2025, the future of the conference could be hammered out at the Hilton Sandestin this week.
Here’s primer on the various topics expected to dominate the conversations:
Which scheduling model will the SEC choose? Heading into the SEC spring meetings, the conference is split on a couple different potential scheduling options starting in 2025 when new members Oklahoma and Texas join the league.
Pods (think NFL-like divisions) have been eliminated from the proposals.
The league is now considering two main formats: An eight-game (1-7) schedule where schools would have just a single permanent opponent (think Alabama–Auburn) and seven rotating opponents. This would allow every team and fan base to see the entire league every other year.
On the flip-side, it would eliminate a bunch of annual, storied rivalries.
There’s also a nine-game format proposal, where every school would have three permanent opponents, thus preserving more rivalries, and six rotating league games.
For now, divisions seem unlikely but haven’t totally been ruled out.
Expect plenty of horse-trading with whatever format the league chooses. The powerbrokers (i.e., Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Florida, etc.) are in favor of the nine-game format, understanding that it would generate the league even more revenue (i.e., more TV inventory, more butts in the seats) and produce better games. Again, it bears repeating, but it would also save important rivalries like Auburn-Georgia or Tennessee–Kentucky.
Notably, Sankey prefers a nine-game conference slate.
The bottom half of the league currently favors the eight-game format, wanting that extra non-conference game as a potential boost for their overall win-total.
Determining team’s permanent opponents will lead to some contentious debates. What’s equitable? And to whom? Is it fair if Auburn has to play Alabama, Georgia and Florida every year plus a rotating set of opponents? No. And other schools will make similar cases.
How serious is the league about an All-SEC playoff? Four Means More to the SEC than any other conference, so don’t expect Sankey or the league’s ADs to cave on any future eight-team playoff.
They were willing to sacrifice for 12, but when talks collapsed, the league began tinkering with ideas about its own postseason tournament.
The early details include an eight-team playoff tournament, likely starting around the same date (early December) as the current SEC Championship.
The question at hand is this merely a leverage play by Sankey and the ADs to essentially threaten the rest of the sport that if they don’t meet back in the middle on College Football Playoffs expansion then the league will be ready to do its own thing, or are they serious about exploring potential additional expansion (think poaching ACC schools like FSU and Va. Tech, among others), building a super conference and holding their own tournament?
The league would obviously benefit greatly financially from an intra-SEC postseason, and could still plot a path to playing someone from The Alliance (Big Ten, ACC, Pac-12 or Big 12) for “national championship.”