With the impending arrival of Texas and Oklahoma in 2024, it was thought that the SEC might finally expand its football schedule to include nine conference games. With the Big Ten, Big 10, and Pac-10 all playing a nine-game conference schedule and a rising demand to ensure yearly rivalries remain intact, it was presumed the league might make the change.
The SEC, turns out, is fine with things the way they are.
League administrators announced Thursday at their annual spring meetings that they will continue playing eight conference games when Texas and Oklahoma officially join the conference.
Not everyone is in agreement on the decision, with LSU, Texas A&M, Georgia, Florida, and Missouri voting for a nine-game schedule. Texas and Oklahoma may have agreed, but those schools do not become full voting members of the conference until July 2024.
There’s still some speculation that the decision is a short-term one until the league can figure out how to monetize the ninth conference game better. In fact, the inability to get newly minted broadcast partner ESPN to commit to ponying up more money for that extra SEC game appears to be part of the reason why it’s not happening.
“At least nine member schools supported remaining at eight games for a variety of reasons, most notably that ESPN is, for now, not providing any additional revenue,” wrote SI’s Ross Dellenger.
“Asked about the possibility of being compensated for an extra conference game, Sankey said he believes, ‘Money follows. It doesn’t lead,'” wrote ESPN’s Alex Scarborough.
There are certainly other concerns the league needs to consider, including the many non-conference games that schools have already scheduled through the next decade, not to mention the desire not to add another tough game to the slate of SEC teams that have a good chance to advance far in the newly expanded College Football Playoffs.
However, all signs point to that ninth game coming to fruition whenever the league and ESPN can figure out how to make it part of their overall TV deal.