Oklahoma football: SEC still struggling with scheduling format for 2024 and beyond

Oklahoma football will have an all-new set of conference foes beginning in the 2024 season when it officially begins play as a member of the Southeastern Conference.

The SEC was already believed to be the best and strongest college football conference, and now they are adding two longtime national football powers in Oklahoma and Texas.

The 2024 college football season is still over 15 months away, but the SEC has been all over the map the past couple of years with decisions on structure and scheduling with OU and Texas in the fold.

Ever since OU and Texas announced plans in July 2021 to leave the Big 12 no later than the end of the 2024-25 academic year, SEC officials have been working through options on how to structure the conference and future scheduling issues and scenarios once the two Big 12 schools formally join the conference.

Since 1992, after Arkansas and South Carolina joined the SEC, the conference structure has consisted of two seven-team divisions for football. For the past year or so, there has been a lot of talk and speculation that the SEC would change the divisional structure when Oklahoma and Texas come in and go to four four-team pods.

The follow-up debate naturally was how to go about formatting the four teams in each pod. Should it be done based on natural rivalries, geographical considerations or some combination of both?

A couple of options were being floated affecting Oklahoma, both of which included keeping the Sooners and Longhorns in the same pod configuration. One proposal was OU, Texas, Texas A&M and Missouri, which would bring together the former Big 12 teams. Another possibility was OU, Texas, Arkansas and Missouri, combining two former Big Eight schools and two former Southwest Conference rivals.

Now it appears the idea for a pod structure for SEC football is dead, as is the two-divisions format. The decision point now has come down to two scheduling options:

  • A nine-game conference schedule in which every team has three annual opponents and rotates with the other 12 conference teams, or
  • An eight-game conference schedule where every team has one annual opponent.

Regardless of which scheduling option becomes the final decision, every team will play everyone else at least twice every four years.

We’ve heard this before, but the SEC is expected to finalize all of this when it meets beginning May 30 in Destin, Florida, for its annual spring meetings.

According to Seth Emerson of The Athletic, there appears to be momentum among SEC officials in favor of the nine-game format. The potential pushback to a nine-game league schedule is the lost revenue that would result from having to drop a nonconference game. Proponents of the nine-game slate would argue that it allows for other so-called marquee matchups, like Texas-Texas A&M, Alabama-Tennessee and Georgia-Auburn, to be played every year rather than twice every four years.

It’s not clear cut how a vote on the eight- or nine-game schedule format would come out, but there is a belief by some that there is enough pushback among the school representatives who will be in Florida later this month that the vote could result in a draw. In which case, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, who is believed to favor a nine-game format, might step in and try to appeal to the opposition to alter their position in consideration for the greater good.

We might finally have an answer to all of this in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned.