The SEC is considering a "temporary eight-game conference schedule" in the 2024 football season when Texas and Oklahoma join the conference that would "at least for one year, preserve both primary and secondary rivalries," according to Ross Dellenger of SI.com.
But if ESPN is willing to pay additional money in its contract with the SEC for a ninth game on the schedule, it's likely the conference would move in that direction.
"That's probably what will happen," a high-ranking SEC administrator told Dellenger. "I don't see the desire to go to a ninth game and not have any increase from a revenue standpoint. That's what I think comes out this week [at the annual spring meetings], unless something dramatic happens."
Such a deal wouldn't come cheap for ESPN, with Dellenger reporting that "some within the league believe a ninth league game is worth at least $5 million per school in additional revenue each year" and that "without the extra cash, those in the eight-game camp will not vote for a move that will result in eight more losses to conference members."
The argument is straightforward enough—an added loss could cost some SEC teams a bowl game or, more importantly, a berth in the College Football Playoff and the revenue that either scenario generates.
Along with questions about the ESPN deal, Dellenger also reported that SEC commissioners are concerned with how adding an extra game might impact player safety and question how adding an additional conference game might effect SEC schools in an expanded playoff system.
And there is the complicated issue of some teams getting five home games a season, while others get four, though that obviously would alternate from year to year.
On the other hand, an eight-game schedule could inevitably see a number of rivalry games skipped in certain years due to the challenges associated with scheduling for 16 teams. In an eight-game schedule, teams would have one fixed opponent every year and seven rotating matchups. So think traditional rivalries like Alabama vs. Auburn or Texas vs. Oklahoma.
That might mean that secondary rivalries like Alabama and LSU wouldn't be played each season, however.
In a nine-game schedule, meanwhile, the idea would be having three fixed games for schools and six rotating matchups. And changes generally bend toward increased revenue, so if ESPN is willing to sweeten the pot, it seems likely the SEC will add a game to its schedule.
But it's certainly a decision rife with pros and cons.