All of the SEC travels to Destin Florida this week to discuss the future of college football for the south. Some questions still remain unanswered from last year, like the proposal to increase the regular season schedule to nine games instead of eight.
The Arrival of Oklahoma and Texas
With incoming additions to the SEC (Oklahoma and Texas) right around the corner, the problem that plagues college football is how extra conference games will work? Are they fair to other conferences without the same opportunities? Is this extraneous danger to expose our student athletes to?
There are many problems with the addition of two more teams and even more with adding another game to the SEC schedule. Problems with fairness, rivalry games, and the college football playoffs arise with the arrival of Oklahoma and Texas. Another problem would be the uneven home and away schedules.
With nine games that leaves an odd number of matchups. That means some teams will have five home games to others four. Now this of course would switch off every other year, but the fact remains that it could be unfair to have some teams with a home game schedule advantage.
The problem for the SEC is the additional payout for the ninth game. ESPN is not contracted to pay out or broadcast nine games in the season.
With the addition of Texas and Oklahoma secondary rivalry games like Alabama and LSU or Florida and Tennessee may be put in danger. With the need to fit the two teams into schedules, an 8-game option restricts the availability of secondary rivalries.
An eight-game schedule has only one protected rivalry game and seven rotating opponents. A nine-game schedule would instead be three fixed games and six rotating matchups. This allows for breathing room for the conference and developing rivalries around the SEC.
With SEC schools at odds over an eight or nine game schedule there is no obvious answer to all of the complications. Both sides have their own reasons for their contention on scheduling. A major incentive for a ninth game is the additional revenue from ESPN. But without that some teams back the eight-game schedule.
What is under consideration currently according to reports from SI’s Ross Delinger is a temporary 8-game conference schedule for 2024. This will save primary and secondary rivalries for the upcoming year. It will also allow more time for the SEC to figure out how a 9-game schedule will work.
Do players have a say in an increase of games per season? Do they have a problem with the fairness associated with home game discrepancies and playoff berths? Player safety is already a major concern and with an additional game plus playoffs could lead to more major problems.
Another point of focus for this meeting is field storming. There has been a need for tighter restrictions and safety precautions for stadiums storming fields. Punishments and more options have been discussed as deterrents such as forfeiting games, giving up home games, and more serious penalties.