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SEC Football to Eliminate Divisions After Texas and Oklahoma Join

02 June, 2023

SEC will play eight conference games but will no longer have divisions after Texas and Oklahoma join in the 2024 season.

The SEC opted to continue playing eight league games for the 2024 season on Thursday, putting on hold lengthy discussions about whether to increase its intraconference schedule when Texas and Oklahoma raise membership to 16 teams. Divisional standings will also be eliminated under the one-year stop-gap system, with the league’s top two teams playing in the SEC Championship Game at the completion of the regular season.

Since 1992, the SEC has been divided into East and West divisions. Regardless of whether the SEC ultimately decides on an eight- or nine-game conference schedule in the future, all league programs will play each other a least of two times (home, away) in a four-year span under the single-standings model. That represents progress in and of itself, as some SEC teams have gone as long as a decade without playing a single opponent in both home and away games.

Commissioner Greg Sankey stated that the eight games will be chosen at random with “fairness and balance” in mind. He also stated that classic rivalries like Alabama vs. Auburn and Florida vs. Georgia will be taken into consideration.

SEC schools will be required to play at least one nonconference Power Five opponent from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 or Pac-12 (or a significant independent) in 2024 in addition to the eight conference games. Such a contest is already set for 15 of the 16 teams; Oklahoma had previously agreed to a series with Georgia that was abandoned once the Sooners entered the conference.

The SEC Presidents and Chancellors accepted the schedule structure after receiving a recommendation from the league’s athletic directors at the SEC spring meetings in 2023. Texas and Oklahoma representatives were present, but they were not allowed to vote.

“We have been engaged in planning for the entry of Oklahoma and Texas into the SEC since the summer of 2021, but the change of the membership date from 2025 to 2024 creates scheduling complexities that can better be managed with a one-year schedule,” said SEC commissioner Greg Sankey in a statement.

“Creating a one-year schedule will provide a longer on-ramp to manage football scheduling around existing nonconference commitments of our members,” he continued. “It will also provide additional time to understand the impact of an expanded College Football Playoff and engage with our media partners as we determine the appropriate long-term plan for SEC football scheduling.

“During this time of change, our fans will continue to enjoy traditional rivalries and begin to see new matchups presented by the addition of two historically successful football programs to the SEC.”

The 2024 opponents for each team will be revealed at an SEC Network primetime special on June 14.

At this point, the challenges of switching to a nine-game conference schedule were too great to overcome. Concerns about the College Football Playoff and bowl eligibility are a few of them, along with the question of whether ESPN would even pay for a ninth game.

By adding an extra home game every other year to a nine-game schedule, some colleges might increase their ticket sales by eight figures. Despite this possible benefit, the majority didn’t see the point in playing the extra game.

Sankey, though, appears unconcerned by criticism of the SEC’s choice to remain at position eight.

Nobody is avoiding anything, he said. We just chose not to add another game during a period of transition.


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