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The news of Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC a year early was a surprise to some, but not Greg Sankey. Since the announcement in 2021 of two new members joining the conference, and as far back as 2019, the SEC Commissioner has been working on a new scheduling format.
The new schedule will transform how SEC football is played every fall, beginning in 2024.
The current format is bound for extinction, with the SEC having to make room for the Longhorns and Sooners as the conference expands to 16 teams. Chances are high that the SEC is done with the East and West divisions. No longer will some teams go 12 years without playing. In the end, this will benefit the fans looking to explore towns across the SEC on a more frequent basis.
Speaking with OutKick for an upcoming edition of The Trey Wallace Podcast, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey has his sights set on spring meetings in Destin as a date for when the new format will be revealed. In Sankey’s mind, he would welcome the chance to get this done before coaches, presidents and athletics directors meet in three months.
Between now and then, though, there are still many questions for Sankey and his team to answer.
“What are the continuing annual opponents? What are those that rotate? Is it eight or nine [schools]? Then how often do we see everyone rotate through the schedule?” Sankey asked rhetorically to OutKick. “I think we have from today about 90 days to figure that out. I welcome the chance to make decisions before we go to Destin. …
“[Last year] we ultimately said if we wait we can learn a lot about CFP, other conference media deals, look more deeply at tiebreakers, if we’re in a single division,” Sankey continued. “We’ve learned an immense amount. … We’ve seen some conference membership movement, the CFP format change and that’s going to help us make a better decision.”
SEC Schedule Changes Were Being Prepared In 2019
The potential overhaul in scheduling was first brought up in 2019, when member schools asked the SEC to start working on a potential change in the format. Schools were looking for change with the current 14-team league, not looking ahead yet at potential additions that were about to happen in 2021.
Unfortunately for Sankey and the SEC, even though they were ready to present research at the 2020 basketball tournament in Nashville, COVID-19 changed those plans.
“We were actually planning in 2020 to present an initial level research to our presidents and chancellors at our meeting at the SEC basketball tournament,” Greg Sankey told OutKick. “That turned to whether to play or not to play, then that research project went on hold, really for a year. And at the end of that year is when expansion took place, so we had laid a lot of groundwork on what the future could look like.”
ESPN Contract Will Give SEC The Opportunity To Release Game Times In The Summer
Game times were one of the bigger talking points in negotiations with ESPN on the new television rights deal. In the past, fans and schools needed to wait until 12 days out before knowing what time a football game would be played. It’s noticeable during the season on social media, with fans waiting for the conference to tell them what time to start tailgating for an upcoming game.
According to Greg Sankey, having so many different ESPN networks to broadcast games, it allows more flexibility in terms of deciding the kickoff times for games, which would mostly come in the summer, not a week or two from kickoff.
“Because we’ll be aligned with one set of networks, our kickoff times can be identified in great majority during the summer time, particularly the early kicks,” Sankey said. “There’ll be some flex games within a Saturday from afternoon to evening or evening to afternoon. But we won’t have these wait until 12 days, and then you find out well, the game I want to do attend is going to be at 11 a.m. Central, or six day wait for huge movement between 11 a.m. or 8 p.m.”
Now that the SEC has the July 1st, 2024 date set in stone for the arrival of Texas and Oklahoma, the focus now turns towards trying to please every team with a new schedule format.
Let the bickering continue.