DESTIN, Fla. (AP) — The Southeastern Conference will play eight league games in 2024 when it expands to 16 teams with the additions of Oklahoma and Texas, but beyond that the schedule model is still to be determined.
Commissioner Greg Sankey said Thursday, the second-to-last day of the SEC’s spring meetings, that the conference’s university presidents unanimously voted to implement a short-term solution to a scheduling conundrum that has been debated within the league for more than a year.
SEC leaders have been trying to decide between a nine-game conference schedule that would include three annual rivalry games and an eight-game model with one annual rivalry game.
“Our long-term options are fully open,” Sankey said.
He also said, confidently, a long-term scheduling model would be hashed before the conference returns to the Florida Panhandle this time next year.
“Nobody wants to go through this every year,” Sankey said.
Football matchups for the 2024 season will be released on June 14 on the SEC Network, without exact dates. Sankey said traditional rivalries such as Alabama-Auburn and Mississippi-Mississippi State would be honored.
“Are you asking me: Are we not going to play the Iron bowl and Egg Bowl? I won’t be the commissioner if that happens,” Sankey said.
Sankey would not commit to a renewal of the Texas-Texas A&M rivalry, which has not been played since the Aggies left the Big 12 for the SEC in 2012.
“I’m pretty confident they’ll play before (2026) though,” Sankey said.
Other yearly rivalries such as Alabama-Tennessee, Georgia-Auburn and Ole Miss-LSU could be worked into the 2024 schedule as well, but are not as likely as they would have been with a nine-game slate.
SEC leaders had already said they were planning to abandon the two-division structure the conference has had since 1991 when Texas and Oklahoma relocate from the Big 12. The top two teams in the standings will meet in the league championship in 2024 for the first time.
The Texas and OU move comes a year earlier than the SEC originally expected. Texas and Oklahoma were contractually bound to the Big 12 through the 2024-25 school year.
The advanced timetable left some athletic directors apprehensive about rushing into an expanded conference slate.
Some schools such as LSU and Texas A&M have been clear in their support for playing more conference games, and a few such as Kentucky have been steadfast in their desire to stay at eight. It remains unclear exactly where each school stands.
Texas and Oklahoma athletic directors participated in this week’s meetings at a resort hotel on the Florida Gulf Coast, but do not have voting rights until July 2024.
Some SEC athletic directors cited College Football Playoff expansion from four to 12 teams in 2024 and the need to re-arrange already-booked nonconference games as reasons to stick with an eight-game schedule — at least for another year.
“You can put a lot of people in a tough position if you go to nine and you discontinue certain (nonconference) games en masse,” Sankey said.
There was also the question of whether ESPN, which becomes the exclusive home of the SEC next season, would pay for more an increased number of conference games.
“A lot of change,” Sankey said. “A list of reasons probably could make six or eight more if I had my notebook with me. Or 12 more. I think this was a really healthy one-year opportunity.”
The SEC also announced a revised policy for its schools to follow to attempt to prevent fans from storming the court or field after a game.
“Schools must provide security and uniformed law enforcement around each team and game officials before, during and after the event to prevent contact with spectators,” the league said.
Schools will be required to submit to the conference before next season detailed plans to manage field and court rushing and a communication plan that discourages students and fans from doing so.
Fines home teams face for field/court rushing will be reset heading into this season and increased. The fine for a first offense doubles to $100,000. A second-offense will increase from $100,000 to $250,000. Third offenses double to $500,000.
Instead of fines going to the league office, they will now be paid directly to the visiting school.