So, if Oklahoma and Texas are on their way to becoming the newest members of the Southeastern Conference, we can assume the schools will have overcome their biggest concern — the money (duh). That leaves the fans’ biggest concern, which is scheduling.
The last round of expansion, to fourteen teams, has led to an awkward phase of scheduling, to put it mildly. The conference elected not to increase the number of games each team played with other members, while leaving one permanent cross-division team in place, which has led to a situation where SEC teams in one division go six years before playing any team other than the one permanent rival (using the term loosely for some). That’s hardly palatable if one of the purposes behind having a conference is to have members face each other regularly.
So, if fourteen is awkward for scheduling purposes, what does that make sixteen? Ridiculous, for starters: without any changes from the current scheduling format, you’ve added another year between cross-division teams meeting. Obviously the conference will be faced with making some changes to the status quo, if only for the obvious reason that there’s another divisional game on the schedule going forward, which means something has to give somewhere.
That brings us to the pods vs. divisions debate, which is succinctly summarized as follows ($$):
If this move with Texas and Oklahoma goes through, the SEC will need to figure out if it’s more important to have everyone play each other (pods) or create deeper rivalries with the same annual matchups (divisions).
I don’t think it’s any secret that my sympathies lie with a divisional setup, for precisely the reason stated there. But I’m not Greg Sankey. And I have a sinking feeling that his choice will depend on the answer to another question; namely, will the SEC change its conference schedule from eight games to nine? If the answer is no, I don’t see where the conference has any choice but to ditch divisions, because otherwise the result would be even worse than what is has now.
It’s a close call. On the one hand, you’ve got those coaches who want the cushion of enough cupcake games to grease the skids on the way to bowl eligibility. (Curious, when you think of all the people who insist that the bowls are on their way to becoming anachronisms in the coming era of playoff expansion.) Then, you’ve also got coaches who insist the SEC’s brand is so strong that a ninth conference game not only isn’t necessary for playoff consideration, but would be an unfair roadblock. (Adding Oklahoma and Texas would seem to give further weight to that argument.)
On the other, adding that ninth game means more product for Mickey, which should mean more money for the conference coffers. Further, a 12-team playoff lessens the roadblock issue. In fact, if we’re to believe Kirby Smart, a tougher schedule will be a net plus for selection committee consideration. So, for now, I don’t know how this shakes out.
What’s your preference?