With the Southeastern Conference Spring Meeting in Destin expected to resolve a football schedule plan for when Texas and Oklahoma join the SEC in 2024 or 2025, discussion of the plans seems to vary among fan bases.
When I first threw out suggestions for the 3-6-6 model (nine games, three permanent opponents, rotating six per season from the remaining 12), the primary issue here was for the third permanent Alabama opponent.
Not that what I say on a subject like this matters (but at least I’ve given it some thought), my initial three for Bama were Auburn, Tennessee, and LSU. The primary issue seemed to be LSU being a permanent opponent rather than Mississippi State. To that end, I was persuaded to make that change, respecting the longer rivalry of Crimson Tide and Bulldogs and the geographical feature, Tuscaloosa and Starkville being the closest SEC sites to one another.
Wondering what was being discussed regarding future schedules among other sites, I looked around.
When I went to the 24/7 Arkansas site, it was pretty much a blank sheet. There is a little football talk, but the Hogs have a strong overall program going and there was much more talk about basketball and baseball than football. I found no mention of the future schedule plan.
That was not the case among Auburn followers. It certainly is not a scientific poll, but there was more than a little sentiment that the Tigers should not have to play both Alabama and Georgia as permanent opponents, and beyond that, if Auburn is saddled with what are considered the top two programs in the league that AU should then get Vanderbilt as its third permanent opponent. That is not the unanimous opinion, of course. Some wanted to dump Georgia – thus ending the South’s oldest rivalry. More (though not a majority) wanted the Alabama-Auburn rivalry to cease.
At Auburn, too, there was more discussion of a third opponent with Florida a popular (and reasonable) selection. There was also talk of moving Alabama and Auburn to the East and continuing the East and West divisions, and even some of the 1-7 plan (one permanent, 7 rotating, only 8 games).
Florida took note that new head coach Billy Napier said he had so much on his plate in rebuilding the Gators football team that he hadn’t had time to study the proposals and wouldn’t make a suggestion, which was more than understandable and accepted by the Florida faithful. The fans, however, did have some opinions, including thinking the conference favors Georgia (“has not traveled to Texas A&M since the Aggies joined the league”).
A Ross Dellenger article for Sports Illustrated had the Gators’ three permanent opponents as Georgia, Oklahoma, and South Carolina. The inclusion of the Sooners drew complaints, both for geographical and competitive reasons.
Georgia Athletics Director Josh Brooks said that every program has issues, but that in the end, he expected the schools to do what is best for the conference. He also said he believes that SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey will be instrumental in leading the schools to a resolution.
There have been numerous discussions of the new format, almost all agreeing that the East and West divisions will be scrapped, and the Georgia board suggestion that Alabama and Auburn move to the East and keep them was quickly squashed. One poster thought the SEC would wait until Texas and Oklahoma came in before making this determination. (My guess is that Texas and Oklahoma will be kept apprised, but not involved in a decision.)
Kentucky has more football conversation than is the perception, but insofar as future football schedules, we found no mention.
The LSU board had a spirited discussion of one version of the 3-6-6 in which the Tigers have Ole Miss, Arkansas, and Texas A&M as their three permanents. Most agreed that it would be good for LSU and there was also reasonable evaluations of other selections.
One observation from and LSU partisan: “The traditional ‘football’ schools (Florida, Georgia, Bama, Auburn, LSU, A&M, Texas & OU) must each get two ‘football’ schools to make the field level.” By leaving Tennessee – second or third in almost every category of wins, championships bowls – out of the traditional top eight, he has Alabama as getting off light with potentially Auburn, Tennessee, and Mississippi State.
A number of LSU faithful wanted to keep Florida as a permanent opponent, not as many wanting to keep Alabama.
One pointed out that even if the three permanents couldn’t be even that the six rotating would lead to some parity.
Ole Miss fans are primarily occupied with joy over the Rebels baseball team making the NCAA Tournament but have noticed the future schedules conversation. Immediately, one poster gave a hearty endorsement to the three permanent opponents listed for the Rebels in one model: Mississippi State, Vanderbilt (historically the two worst football teams in the SEC), and LSU. Another thought that geography was important and replaced Vanderbilt with Arkansas or Missouri (??? I know.).
“I don’t care what happens as long as we get Alabama and Auburn off our permanent schedule,” one said.
One fact I had overlooked in making Arkansas’s three permanents Missouri, Texas, and Texas A&M is that the Razorbacks play LSU for the Boot trophy, so that might be enough to keep them permanent for one another.
Mississippi State doesn’t like being considered an SEC “non-blueblood” in the same breath as “Vanderbilt,” and there was more dissent regarding the nine-game SEC schedule than on other sites. Part of it was needing the extra home game and part of it was avoiding a potential loss that costs a bowl game.
One said he preferred the nine-game schedule because it meant better football games in the SEC, and one went so far to say a 10-game conference schedule would be best. That got some agreement, little disagreement. One pointed out the enjoyment of the 2020 season in which all games were SEC contests.
Somewhere almost certainly a Missouri spokesman or spokeswoman or fan has an opinion on what the Southeastern Conference plans to do or is considering or anything else, but, as usual, I can’t find it. Moving on.
South Carolina comments included several involving the Gamecocks’ annual non-conference rivalry with Clemson, most suggesting nine conference games plus Clemson is too much. In answer to some who consider eight SEC games enough, one said the ninth game means more good SEC football and that South Carolina shouldn’t shy away from nine SEC games plus Clemson. There was also one who wanted to drop Clemson.
Tennessee has always had a good overall sports program, and that continues today. Well, okay, younger readers may scoff at the idea that the Vols were ever competitive in football, but it’s true. Today, though, the Tennessee board has more on Alabama’s softball team having so many players in the portal than it does on how a new SEC football schedule format might affect the Vols. That’s one thread on Alabama softball, none on a new SEC football schedule.
One would think that Tennessee would be involved in protecting its annual game (once upon a time, “The Third Saturday in October”) against Alabama, the game that has determined the most SEC championships. But maybe after a 15-year drought that may not be so high on the wish list in Knoxville.
In both the models I have suggested as possibilities, I have had Texas A&M’s three permanent opponents as Texas, LSU, and Arkansas. That is also the top three mentioned in a story on Gigem247. And although some of the posters were not happy about Texas, almost all said it was certain and some look forward to it. There was no interest in Oklahoma or Missouri, but some suggestions that Ole Miss would be better than Arkansas. LSU is a very popular choice as a permanent.
As one put it, “There is no scenario where we don’t play Texas every year.”
Vanderbilt has some discussion of football, though not about proposed future SEC schedules. The Commodores know how to get to Hawaii for their August 27 game, but they are stumped about making it to DeKalb to play Northern Illinois on September 17.
Presumably, Vandy would be very happy to have the three permanent opponents I suggested, maintaining historic and geographic games against Kentucky and Tennessee and also matched against Mississippi State.