Greg Sankey talks football schedule format at SEC Media Days 2023

By Kevin Kelley -

SEC Media Days 2023 kicked off on Monday, and the future SEC football scheduling format was once again a topic of discussion.

During a question and answer session following his opening statement, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey was asked if the eight-game football schedule in 2024 was a result of schools realizing there would be no additional television revenue with a nine-game format.

“No, there were a lot of issues,” Sankey said. “When you think about what we’re going to see next year, we have expansion, we add two historically prominent football programs in Oklahoma and Texas. And not only prominent, but successful. We have the College Football Playoff changes, lingering questions about what that may or may not mean. Discussions about non-conference scheduling.”

Oklahoma and Texas are set to join the league in 2024, which will bring the conference to a total of 16 schools. The SEC will also eliminate the East and West divisions in favor of a single-standings format.

Last month, the SEC announced an eight-game conference schedule for the 2024 season, which will be a single-season format as the league and its members continue to discuss the scheduling format for 2025 and beyond.

When will that decision be made? Greg Sankey hopes to have it made before the spring meetings next year.

“When I was asked in Destin about timing for the ’25 decision, we could go out to Destin next year,” Sankey said. “The earlier we do that, the less pain we cause for the discontinuation of non-conference games.”

Regarding the non-conference games, several SEC schools have four non-conference opponents already contracted in future seasons. If the league moves to a nine-game schedule, many non-conference games will have to be canceled.

“One of the bigger elements was that non-conference game issue,” Sankey said. “Now, part of the motivation, I think, going forward is I really think our eight-game schedule is pretty remarkable. Like when we were going through the final filtering you’d say, wow, schedule A is tough, and then you’d be at schedule G and you’re like, that school has got a tough schedule and all the way through. There are 16 really challenging schedules.”

Does it sound like the league is leaning towards continuing the eight-game schedule format? Not so fast.

“But there are some important, we’ll call them rivalry games, and we’re going to have to have a decision about do we play those every year or do we play some of them every other year,” Sankey said. “The eight-game format we can protect one on an annual basis and the other seven rotate.

“In the nine-game format we know we can protect up to three, rotate the other six and achieve both that fairness and that balance issue.

“That’ll be right in front of us again.”

Comments (2)

Good grief. Keep your precious 3 opponents every year and get on with it. One extra conference game (other conferences already play 9 game conferences) is no big deal in the mighty SEC. Lower tier SEC teams lament that eliminating 1 non-conference game to 3, lessens their path to a Bowl game by losing a probable W to get them to 6 wins. So, buckle up lower SEC tier teams.

Good grief. Keep your precious 3 teams you have to play every year and go to 9 conference games. If you lament losing 1 non-conference game might keep you from 6 wins and a Bowl Game, buckle up and generate some upsets.