The Great SEC Timing Debate Shouldn’t Even Be A Debate

The big SEC debate — which shouldn’t even be a debate — somehow turned into another year and came to dominate another round of meetings in Destin, Florida.

It left Missouri football head coach Eli Drinkwitz as mystified as ever.

“I’m a history teacher by trade,” Drinkwitz told reporters on Tuesday. “And every time I come to one of those meetings, I’m amazed that the 13 colonies have actually formed a union, but we can’t agree on an eight or nine game schedule.”

Yes, the ongoing SEC discussion of how often and who to play often is back. Most leagues play nine intra-conference games. The SEC stubbornly stuck to eight. With Texas and Oklahoma joining in 2024, pushing the conference to 16 members, the need for more intra-conference games is evident.

Along with eliminating divisions, a nine-game slate would allow each team to maintain three permanent rivals and then cycle through the remaining 12 teams every two years. Each team would visit each campus every four years (except for a few neutral site rivalries).

Yes, it insures more cumulative losses, since a league game insures someone in the league a loss rather than a probable win against a non-conference cupcake. It also ensures more excitement.

So even though most of the league’s traditional bottom half favor eight, Drinkwitz and Missouri view it differently…and correctly.

“The SEC is the best conference because of our passionate fans and fan bases,” he told reporters Tuesday. “I think you’re losing sight of saying it’s not fair to me.”

Namely, if you are an SEC football program, you should play SEC football as much as possible. For your players. For your fans. For your school.

Otherwise, what is this operation even for?

You can get laughed at in college athletics for raising the interests of the fans, i.e. the people funding the operation, but it’s good when someone mentions them.

College football is in the midst of a sea change due to the conference realignment driven by the television dollar. It’s what brought Texas and Oklahoma into the league in the first place. This led the Big Ten, a year later, to add USC and UCLA. It’s what’s freaking out pretty much everyone in the country about finding higher, more lucrative ground.

Will the SEC cause so much uproar by adding the Longhorns and Sooners, then only dipping their toe in the water and not maximizing their arrival?

Under an eight-game schedule, each SEC team would have a permanent rival, then play seven of the remaining teams one year and the remaining seven the following year. For example, Alabama would keep their annual game against Auburn, but they would no longer play LSU and Tennessee every season. Who wants that?

If the SEC sticks to an eight-game conference schedule, matchups like LSU vs. Alabama would only be played every two years.  (John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

If the SEC sticks to an eight-game conference schedule, matchups like LSU vs. Alabama would only be played every two years. (John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Or in the case of Texas and OU, they met every year in Dallas for the annual Red River game, but the highly anticipated and equally intense Texas-Texas A&M clash would only happen every two years. It is an absurd concept.

College football fans want LSU-Bama and A&M-UT and Georgia-Auburn, and all that. If television is going to spoil lore, rivalry, and history, it can’t fool fans of good games just so a bottom feeder can schedule The Citadel or Middle Tennessee because they fear further loss.

Is the traditional SEC game at the end of November against an FCS opponent worth saving? Are the fans of these teams really fooled?

Universities advocating for less SEC football might want to question whether they really belong in the SEC…and not just for revenue. There are plenty of other teams who would be happy to take their place and take on the challenge.

A nine-game schedule isn’t just the obvious choice for the SEC, it’s the only choice. More games. More good games. More rivalry games. More SEC, where they claim it just means more.

Or, as Drinkwitz puts it, something for the fans, who are the only reason this has all become so important.

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