Will SEC pick football scheduling model soon? What Greg Sankey said Monday
BIRMINGHAM ― SEC commissioner Greg Sankey was answering questions from sportswriters at the APSE Southeast region meeting Monday, and one inquiry began with a disclaimer.
"Greg, I've got a couple scheduling questions," the reporter said.
"So do I," Sankey replied with a smile.
So do many across the conference about the future of football scheduling. Texas and Oklahoma will join the SEC for the 2024 season, and a new scheduling format with 16 teams in the league is still being determined. Sankey has made clear that a single-division format is the focus, as opposed to the existing two-division format. The question is, will teams face eight SEC opponents or nine?
That was the main discussion point a year ago when SEC presidents, athletics directors and coaches met in Sandestin, Florida, for spring meetings. No decision was made, though.
Will this year's spring meetings, scheduled for May 30, finally be the finish line?
"Could be," Sankey said. "Could be. But I said that last year, too. So be nimble."
The format would likely be different under eight- and nine-game schedules. With eight games, each school would be expected to have one permanent rival and seven rotating opponents. For example, Alabama would almost certainly face Auburn every year. Under a nine-game schedule, there would likely be three permanent rivals with six rotating.
ALABAMA FOOTBALL:Alabama football takeaways after scrimmage No. 2: Notable buzz about Justice Haynes
JALEN MILROE:Watching Alabama QB Jalen Milroe's 179 snaps from 2022, here's what we discovered
Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban told Sports Illustrated a month ago that Auburn, Tennessee and LSU are the proposed opponents for Alabama under that model, and he questioned that decision.
“I’ve always been an advocate for playing more (conference) games,” Saban said. “But if you play more games, I think you have to get the three fixed (opponents) right. They’re giving us Tennessee, Auburn and LSU. I don’t know how they come to that (decision).”
Saban seeks more balance and equity than the exact proposed nine-game model for opponents, he expressed to SI.
Sankey, however, emphasized it's not about a one-game or a three-game SEC schedule.
"There’s a whole other set of teams that fill out the schedule," Sankey said. "What we have learned through our analysis is we can narrow the competitive bandwidth compared to our two-division format currently where depending on the ebb and flow of divisional strength, some team’s schedule is much more challenging than another team in the conference. That is the type of information we have developed over time and will be used as we make a decision."
The ultimate goal, Sankey said, is to get teams rotated through campuses with more frequency. That's possible with either option moving forward.
So, what's his opinion on what the new model should be?
"We'll see," Sankey said.