There is increasing momentum among SEC schools to go from eight conference games to nine in football once Oklahoma and Texas join the league, sources told ESPN.
The league’s athletic directors held their regular meeting earlier this week. Administrators and coaches from several schools in the league said the feeling now is that the SEC will ultimately end up with nine conference games using a 3-6 format when the new scheduling model is announced.
“Being able to watch nine games not only adds value to television, but also protects season ticket sales, donations and access to the college football playoffs for more teams,” an SEC athletic director told ESPN.
Another league source said there were a few schools on the fence between eight and nine games in May during the SEC spring meetings, but added, “I think there’s ample support now to get to nine. More rivalries can be fought annually, and the content that an additional league match would provide for television would mean a lot more money.
Oklahoma and Texas are scheduled to join the SEC in 2025 and possibly a year earlier. The proposed nine-game model would feature three permanent opponents each year, and then a rotation of six more opponents.
For example Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork told ESPN this week that the Aggies would be in favor of playing Texas and LSU every year, and then another regular opponent.
One of the frustrations for many in the league with the current schedule is how long teams play without each other. For example, Georgia has never played Texas A at College Station&M who joined the league in 2012.
“If it were voted on today, it would be nine games,” an SEC athletic director told ESPN. “I thought we would be there in May too, but there were a pair of flip flops. I think most of those schools have crossed over and will probably vote with the space.”
Some coaches have expressed their support for nine games. Alabama’s Nick Saban has been a longtime advocate and said schools “owe it to the fans to play more good games.” If we don’t, they will stop coming.”
Missouri’s Eliah Drinkwitz said this summer, “It has to be a 3-6 model for me.”
Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher told ESPN this week he thinks nine games is “probably the best scenario. That way you can keep the rivalries and the secondary rivalries alive because in this league the secondary rivalries are almost as important as the primary rivalries.”
Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said it’s important for the Longhorns to be able to play against Oklahoma and Texas A&M every year once his school starts playing in the SEC. The only option would be to play nine games with a 3-6 model.
Several ADs said they hope the schedule will be finalized sometime this fall before the 2022 season wraps up.
The ACC announced in June a similar eight-game scheduling model, a one-division format that will be used from 2023-2026. Each team plays three main opponents each year and meets the other 10 league teams twice (one home and one away) during a four-year cycle.