SEC sticking with eight league football games in 2024, still weighing long-term options

Tennessee Athletics photo by Andrew Ferguson / The future of the Alabama-Tennessee football game taking place on an annual basis remains in limbo after the Southeastern Conference decided to implement an eight-game league schedule for the 2024 season but nothing further.
Tennessee Athletics photo by Andrew Ferguson / The future of the Alabama-Tennessee football game taking place on an annual basis remains in limbo after the Southeastern Conference decided to implement an eight-game league schedule for the 2024 season but nothing further.

Divisions are going away in Southeastern Conference football following the 2023 season.

An eight-game league schedule is not.

The SEC announced Thursday afternoon at its spring meetings in Destin, Florida, that a bridge schedule will be used for the 2024 season in which every league member will play eight conference contests and at least one required opponent from another Power Five conference or a major independent. The league added that it continues to finalize "a long-term strategy as a 16-team conference," which it will become in 2024 when Oklahoma and Texas move over from the Big 12.

"We have been engaged in planning for the entry of Oklahoma and Texas into the SEC since the summer of 2021," SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said through a league release, "but the change of the membership date from 2025 to 2024 creates scheduling complexities that can better be managed with a one-year schedule. Creating a one-year schedule will provide a longer on-ramp to manage football scheduling around existing nonconference commitments of our members.

"It will also provide additional time to understand the impact of an expanded College Football Playoff and engage with our media partners as we determine the appropriate long-term plan for SEC football scheduling. During this time of change, our fans will continue to enjoy traditional rivalries and begin to see new matchups presented by the addition of two historically successful football programs."

Every school's opponents for the 2024 season will be announced June 14 on the SEC Network.

The SEC used bridge schedules during the 2012 and 2013 seasons, which were the first two years Missouri and Texas A&M were in the league to form a 14-member collection. The league remained with eight conference games and has debated sticking with eight moving forward in which every team would have one permanent opponent and seven that would rotate for two contests during a four-year stretch.

A nine-game model also being discussed would contain three permanent opponents, which would protect annual rivalries such as Alabama-Tennessee, Georgia-Auburn and LSU-Ole Miss.

"We're going to honor our traditional rivalries and our tradition games," Sankey told reporters Thursday.

When asked if that meant Texas playing Texas A&M for the first time since 2011, Sankey said, "Tune in June 14."

The eight-game schedule for 2024 was approved Thursday by a vote of the league's presidents and chancellors following a recommendation from the league's athletics directors.


Punishment reset

The SEC also announced a stronger penalty scale for schools whose fans storm the field or court.

Effective immediately, each institution will reset to the beginning of a fresh cycle in which a first violation costs $100,000, a second violation costs $250,000 and a third $500,000. If officials and the visiting team have exited the field or court before the fans arrive, the hosting university may avoid those fines.

The league added that the penalty will reset if an institution is free from a violation in all sports for a consecutive four-year period.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com.


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