SEC athletic directors met in Nashville on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of moving to a nine-game conference football schedule.
No decisions were made on the future scheduling model and the AD’s are expected to continue their discussions in New Orleans next week during the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Before Missouri and Texas A&M were added to the conference, the SEC had a 5-1-2 schedule format. Each school played the other five teams within their division, one permanent cross-division protected rival and two cross-division rotating teams.
Georgia’s cross-division protected rival is Auburn and has been since the conference moved to divisions in 1992. In fact, the two schools were a permanent fixture on each others schedule long before that.
The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry has been played since 1892 and almost continually since 1898. The two teams did not meet in 1917 and 1918 due to World War I and 1943 due to World War II. Auburn leads the overall series 54-53-8.
The Georgia-Auburn rivalry is one that could be in jeopardy due to conference expansion. The Bulldogs and Tigers will meet this year on Nov. 10 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. But yearly future match-ups are not clear.
A 6-1-1 scheduling format was adopted for the 2012 season, but the conference made it clear that the format was for one year only. With 14 teams now in the SEC, the conference is seriously considering moving to a nine-game schedule.
The current format (6-1-1) allows for old rivalries to continue, such as Georgia-Auburn and Alabama-Tennessee. But this model also means it would take 12 years for each team to play every team from the opposite division, compared to only five years under the old 5-1-2.
If the SEC decides to move to a nine-game schedule, they could go with a 6-1-2 format. That would allow the protected rivalries to continue and each team would play every other team home-and-home in six years.
Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said that “…our top priority in the whole scheduling discussion is maintaining the rivalry with Auburn.” But McGarity also supports discussing a nine-game SEC slate.
“Many SEC fans have a decision whether to come to our game, or sit at home in front of their 60-inch HDTV,” McGarity said. “Would they be more likely to come to a conference game as opposed to a guaranteed (non-conference) game? I’d probably say yes.”
Mark Richt doesn’t feel the same way. “Eight league games to me is enough to prove you’re a good football team. And when you always play Georgia Tech to go along with that, that’s another one that you’ve gotta deal with,” Richt said. “It’s gonna take everything you’ve got.”
The questions appears to be not if the SEC will adopt a 9-game schedule, but when. Georgia and Auburn will lobby hard to continue playing yearly, as will Alabama and Tennessee.