With the recent additions of Oklahoma and Texas to the Southeastern Football Conference (SEC) starting with the 2025 football season, Greg Sankey; Commissioner of the SEC along with the soon to be, SEC 16 member conference athletic directors; must have already figured out how to schedule football games starting the 2025 season. I believe that they have not even scratched the surface. I believe that with the recent additions of Oklahoma and Texas to the SEC, that their are arguments, discussions and many questions on how to advance problem(s) solve without disrupting rivalries and strengthening the conference. These are the questions that I believe that must be addressed by the power brokers of the SEC for a smooth and fluid transition.
- Number of Conference Games:
Currently, the SEC schedules 8 conference games during the college football season. There are current talks about adding a 9th SEC conference game. With the primary focus being 3 common conference opponents and 6 rotational conference. With this scheduling type format, this indicates that the current and future 8 teams per 2 division standard will fall to the waist side. This suggest and indicates that the SEC will move towards a 4 division concept, with 4 teams per division conference (4X4). With this 4X4 model allows the 9 game conference scheduling format to evolve. This (4X4) model will be called a POD concept.
2. Number of Divisions:
With the current 7X2 and future 8X2 divisions for the SEC football, how will these highly academic athletic directors strategically place teams in their respective divisions. The current conference alignment is as follows:
SEC West: Alabama (AL), Arkansas (ARK), Auburn (AUB), LSU, Mississippi (MS), Mississippi State (MSST) and Texas A&M (TXAM)
SEC East: Florida (FLA), Georgia (GA), Kentucky (KY), Missouri (MZ), South Carolina (SC), Tennessee (TN) and Vanderbilt (Van)
If by adding Oklahoma and Texas, and maintaining the 2 division concept, then which current SEC programs move? If TX and OU are in the west and are added to the SEC west; who moves from the current SEC West and slides over to the SEC East? Logistically, Alabama and Auburn would have to move to the SEC East. Oh wait, that cannot happen because Coach Saban and the AD of Alabama would not let that happen. That would mean Alabama would have to face GA and FLA every year in divisional games, which might place dents into the Alabama armor of mirage like prestige and “king like” impression of college football. That means we must move forward to a 4X4 POD concept model.
With all these highly academic leaders with Master’s and Ph. D. degrees as athletic directors and commissioner, they all must agree to a 4X4 concept with Democritus intentions. Meaning, how to align the 4×4 concept with relationship to strength and scheduling. There are multiple ways the 4×4 concept can be executed; based upon region, cost efficiency of travel, fans and planning. Below are examples of what the 4X4 concept for the SEC football conference could look like:
|REGION EXAMPLE A||REGION EXAMPLE B||REGION EXAMPLE C|
(Abbreviations Grid: AL- ALABAMA, ARK- ARKANSAS, AUB-AUBURN, FLA-FLORIDA, GA-GEORGIA, KY-KENTUCKY, LSU-LSU, MS- MISSISSIPPI, MSST- MISSISSIPPI STATE, MZ- MISSOURI, OU-OKLAHOMA, SC- SOUTH CAROLINA, TN- TENNESSEE, TX- TEXAS, TXAM- TEXAS A&M, and VAN- VANDERBILT)
As you can see, it does not matter how you align the pods; someone is not going to be happy with the geographical moves and which pod they belong to. The purpose of these pods will assist in maintaining current scheduling practices and rivalries. What happens when a rivalry game is moved out of the pod? How do these games get schedules in fairness, competitiveness, continued rivalry and strength of schedule?
3. Scheduling of Conference Games:
The current conference scheduling format of 8 conference games, designed by the SEC athletic directors seems to protect the marquee high profile SEC programs. Meaning, after scheduling the 6 conference games, that leaves the remaining 2 conference games based upon cross division rotation every 7 CFB seasons and a cross division rivalry game. Thus, avoiding scheduling quality competitive cross divisional programs based upon placement in the divisions. That means Alabama avoids the scheduling of Georgia or Florida as the cross divisional games. Furthermore, Alabama would rather schedule lower non competitive SEC cross divisional games. Coach Saban has been heard saying, ” I would play anyone, anywhere and any place…” In addition to saying, ” I would like to see scheduling more like the way the NFL does…..” That means Coach Saban would be required to play the higher placed SEC East programs year in and year out. However, Coach Saban would rather play lower level SEC East programs to give a mirage like impression of success. Alabama and Coach Saban cannot afford a loss in a regular season game and place the Alabama program out of the playoff talk.
When the SEC or any conference changes to this type of team pod placement with more than the current 2 division concept, there needs to be a simplified scheduling grid that allows competition, creates budgetary awareness and fan attendance. The future discussion for the SEC football scheduling of football games with a 4 pod division system is causing the Athletic Directors and Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey to scratch their heads. It’s a simple scheduling system. The SEC would like change the number of conference games schedule from the current number of 8 to 9. Here is the best design to schedule with the 4 pod system;
A. Pod teams will be required to schedule each other once. This equals 3 conference games.
B. Based upon placement from previous season, Teams that finish first and second in POD A will be required to schedule first and second placement programs in the other PODS; B through D. This equals 6 conference games.
C. Teams that finish third and fourth in POD A will be required to schedule third and fourth placement programs in the other PODS; B through D. Still 6 conference games
D. The scheduler of all the conference games must also adhere to conference games which have historically occurred on the same weekend. This means that games that are scheduled currently on Thanksgiving Weekend, and or games that occurred during the regular season on the same weekend, can still be scheduled without interruption to tradition and history.
This type of scheduling model is NFL like and creates competition, validity, strength of schedule, and takes the scheduling procedures, arguments and discussions out of the AD’s hands. Once the current football season is complete, the following seasons conference schedule can be completed in less than four hours of work. The one primary question that many of, or some of the AD’s, and fans might possess is can teams in PODS move pod to pod. The answer is simple, yes they can if the conference adopts the relegation concept.
If the SEC were to adopt the relegation concept, then you will have program movement. This means the last place team in PODS A through C will drop to PODS; B through D. The first place teams in PODS B through D will move upward to PODS; A through C. This can be done every season and will have NO EFFECT on scheduling. What relegation does add is change in POD competition and program movement.
4. How do we Maintain Rivalries:
The other question that conference AD’s and fans of the SEC or other conferences may have is, what if my program does not schedule that one rivalry game we have been having year in year out through the relegation or NFL placement scheduling procedure? Then two programs can schedule a non conference game if the next season schedule does not align with the scheduling guidelines. Its a simplified process.
5. SEC Championship Game Validity:
When adopting the 4 POD style conference alignment, then this jeopardizes the Championship Game at the end of the regular season. To maintain that the conference championship game stays intact and part of the end of the regular season, then the conference must keep the current format of a 2 division conference system with 8 teams per division. That means that any conference needs to understand the dynamics of the changes they are strategically making by increasing conference membership and increasing the number of conference games. In addition to, increasing conference membership but keeping the number of conference games the same. Overall, the conference AD’s must determine if the financial value of the conference championship game possesses validity and a true culminating effect to the end of the season. I do believe that the SEC AD’s, ESPN and the conference Presidents will forego conference championship game in lieu of expanding the college football playoff and leaving millions of sponsorship dollars, television revenue contracts and fan driven dollars on the table. Oh the decisions the power brokers need to make.
To conclude, I have investigated, examined, drawn up, used a higher cognitive thinking process to address any problem that college football at the FBS level may have with; expanding the college football playoff, scheduling of all games, subjective rankings, increase membership with conference games, FCS scheduling non credibility, using data to provide a better validity assessment on scheduling credibility and much more.
Finally, I have proven that I can solve this scheduling problem if the SEC or any other conference wants to adopt a 16 team conference membership format with 9 conference games.
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