SEC commissioner Greg Sankey is not going to hear any criticism you may have of his league sticking with eight conference games in 2024.
While this could be amended over time, the SEC is going to go with an eight-game schedule in 2024 once Oklahoma and Texas join the league.
Commissioner Greg Sankey seemed to be in support of this slight scheduling change, as opposed to fully adopting a nine-game conference slate. In 2024, the SEC will play eight conference games with one annual rival and seven other games on a rotating basis. A nine-gamer would have featured three annual rivals and six other games on a rotating basis. It could still happen, though.
As for any pushback the league could get for sticking with eight games instead of going to nine, Sankey offered the following on The Paul Finebaum Show Wednesday.
"“I’m pretty sure the last game of the season was 65-7. If the indictment is that we don’t play the highest level of football, then someone isn’t watching the games.”"
Keep in mind that the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 all play nine conference games annually, while the ACC and SEC only play eight.
There are two important caveats in the SEC adopting the new eight-game schedule in 2024. It has only been adopted for one season and it will be a requirement for each conference member to play at least one Power Five game in the non-conference. Keep in mind that Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and South Carolina have annual in-state rivalries in the ACC, but that’s only four of the SEC teams.
In a few weeks, the SEC will release what the eight-game schedules will look like for all 16 member institutions. It is beyond paramount to get the right seven games in rotation right away.
Greg Sankey rips critics of the SEC football schedule staying at eight games
Look. I was completely in favor of the SEC going with a nine-game schedule. While I am okay with it being a one-year trial run with the revamped eight-game format, I’m going to really struggle with seeing great rivalries like The Third Saturday in October and the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry bite the dust. My guess is Alabama will play Tennessee and Georgia will play Auburn this season.
While Sankey has a point in that he is the commissioner of the most dominant league in the sport today, that could change one day. We don’t know if and when it will happen, but it could. Having a mandatory non-conference Power Five game makes me feel better about the 2024 schedule, but I don’t feel an eight-gamer curries any favor with the College Football Playoff Selection Committee.
Sankey is right in that it doesn’t really matter what the other Power Five conferences think about the new SEC schedule. All that matters is what the Selection Committee thinks about it. While I would expect for multiple teams to make the playoff annually, I have reservations about a 9-3 SEC team getting in over another 10-2 Power Five team that played a nine-game conference schedule.
I think what the SEC should do is see how this newfangled eight-game format works in 2024 and go from there. If it serves the league to keep on keepin’ on with it, then by all means, go ahead with it! I’m not smart enough to run an entire athletic conference. However, if playing only eight conference games is seen as a way to poke holes in SEC playoff candidates, they’d need to adjust.
Ultimately, agreeing to a one-year trial run gives Sankey and the rest of the conference two seasons’ worth of data to come to a conclusion on what to do in 2025 and beyond. What I would expect for the SEC and all conferences going forward to do is to implement adaptive scheduling models, so that they can go back to the drawing board and reevaluate every four seasons or so.
As long as the SEC remains proactive in this and avoids fear-based decisions, they will be okay.