Cupcakes and Cash: How the SEC Can Schedule Both

As we follow the SEC spring meetings in Destin this week, I have an outside-the-box idea I believe can be wildly beneficial for anyone wanting to watch quality SEC football. 

Two main points of emphasis I’ll explain as you read on:
— A Week 1 cupcake/tuneup game that counts
— A mega addition to the SEC regular season

Among the topics discussed this week in 30A, I’m most interested in comments that will be made about the future scheduling of the conference. 

Yes, Name Image Likeness and collective money will be the hot topic, and Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher’s media availability will be must-watch — but no matter if there are NIL guardrails or not, I’m personally still going to watch college football. I’m interested to learn the first few bullet points of how the conference crafts what we will be watching. 

SEC VS NIL WILL BE ON FULL DISPLAY IN SEC SPRING MEETINGS, OUTKICK 360 DISCUSSES

Pods, divisions, historic rivalries and rotational opponents … all of those factors play a role. But if I were an athletic director and had the ability to speak up, I’d stand on the table with an idea to make more money in a future where donors may give to collectives on a more regular basis than funnel gifts-in-kind through the athletic department. TV revenue will matter even more, and I’m looking to add more exclusive content to an already football-rich landscape.

My proposal is to add a game to the college football season that presents a better way to produce a meaningful season of impactful, watchable, and more profitable football. 

I’m also attempting to keep in mind that football fans want different things with their fall football schedule. 

— Some, but not all, want to keep the traditional rivalry matchups.

— No matter the drop-off in talent level, some fans want to show up or tune in to watch their school win. It doesn’t matter the opponent or the money spent for the W, if the program dials up 1-800-ASS-WHIP, they’re happy. 

— Some fans want that rare thrill of watching ETSU beat Vanderbilt or seeing Auburn narrowly avoid a loss to Jacksonville State. They want a reason to flip over for the final five minutes of those random games. 

— Some want to help out the directional schools who use these SEC games to prop up a bad system and faulty business model. I’d argue it’s not Alabama’s job to make sure Austin Peay can make its budget, but I’m playing ball with this stance and giving those programs the Power Five tithe they seek.

My proposal would take care of all of those wants and needs, but my focus is centered on more home revenue, added inventory for the exclusive media partner ESPN/ABC/SEC Network, and a model that would allow for super conference expansion down the road. It all equals more cash. Lots more for everyone. 

The TV networks are always looking at ways to create more value to their already valuable inventory, and I personally want more compelling games, no matter how compelling a season can already be to some.  

Let’s call this my Week 1 FCS-only model. 

Cupcakes and Cash: How the SEC Can Schedule Both

I’d start the season a week earlier by playing the boat race game I mentioned earlier. Every SEC school schedules an FCS opponent in Week 1.

South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer wants a preseason game? Here’s the week to schedule it, but it’s not preseason. It counts. Honestly, though, this should be a Week 1 beatdown against a lesser opponent, which for some reason, a group of fans actually enjoy watching because of that “chance” of the lower tier pulling the Appy State-like upset. That’s alive and well here, and it’s only available in Week 1. 

It’s another guaranteed home game for every school in the conference, with added revenue from season ticket packages and merchandise/concession sales. The FCS level gets paid and they make their budget. Your school gets a win and your team gets a chance to play younger, developing talent, or start your 5 stars and get them tuned up for what is ahead. 

I’m then eliminating all FCS games played in the middle of the season. Done. Gone. Good riddance. 

And I’m adding another conference game. (Groan from the room) 

Come up with whatever pod system you want. As long as there’s an extra SEC game, I’m signing up for it.

The extra league game would set up the SEC to quickly equal if not surpass the NCAA’s annual reported revenue of $1.3 billion. The conference made $778 million in 2020-21. It will be more in 2022. Now think about what an extra SEC matchup would mean for the network payments, especially once Texas and Oklahoma join the conference. What would seven more exclusive SEC vs SEC matchups equal in monetary value for the conference?

I haven’t even factored in further expansion, but that’s happening too. 

The NFL didn’t add a 17th regular-season game because the league wanted more football. It was because the networks were willing to pay for even more valuable programming, more than they already had scheduled in their current agreements. We don’t know the unintended consequences of NIL payments (which I’m not against whatsoever), but that could include less money in future donations. 

With playoff expansion on the horizon it’s time to expand the way the college moneymakers approach the regular season. Those opposed to more regular season football have pointed out title contenders are already playing up to 15 games to win a national title, making conference title games a big hurdle for this idea. There are ways around that, and we all know the addition of more playoff teams would equate to more SEC teams getting in the CFP.

Maybe those in the room would roll their eyes and wouldn’t give me much time and consideration — I’d guess current SEC coaches don’t want to play another SEC game because the league is so difficult as it is. Maybe other ADs with the business sense of Greg Sankey would take the idea and run with it. 

One thing I wouldn’t be afraid of or focused on is the extra chance of losing. Playoff expansion will happen. Conference expansion is coming. The SEC is going to win.

To claim more money and power the SEC schedule should be about the rake and the take.

I have a secondary schedule idea if you didn’t hop on board with me for this one… but that’s a separate column and segment for OutKick 360.


Written by Jonathan Hutton

Jonathan Hutton hosts OutKick 360 each weekday afternoon. He spent 16 seasons as the gameday host and sideline reporter for the Tennessee Titans Radio Network and covered the biggest NFL events. Follow @HuttonOutKick on Twitter/Instagram.

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