SEC football schedules by divisions will be eliminated when Texas, Oklahoma join in 2025

Emily Adams
Greenville News

GREENVILLE - Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey said Thursday that SEC football plans to eliminate its two-division structure for scheduling once Texas and Oklahoma join the conference on July 1, 2025.

The SEC currently consists of two seven-team divisions, East and West. Oklahoma and Texas, which will become two of the westernmost schools in the conference, make continuing that system a challenge for schedules.

Sankey said the SEC is waiting on other factors, like potential College Football Playoff expansion and the Big Ten media agreement, to make final scheduling decisions. The Big Ten has also expanded west, adding current Pac-12 members Southern California and UCLA for 2024.

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Sankey did not elaborate on whether that also means that divisions would stop being used for conference standings. The East and West division champions currently meet in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta. This year's matchup is between Georgia and LSU on Dec. 4.

Sankey said the 2025 schedule and beyond will likely be conference-wide, allowing for programs that have never met to play. He noted that during the 2022 football season, Missouri traveled to Auburn for the first time since joining the conference in 2012.

“We right now are not thinking about maintaining a two-division format for football scheduling in the SEC,” Sankey said. "It would potentially be one single division with the idea that we want to rotate our teams through our campuses more frequently. We have big brands with big interest and large following ... that want to go to places like Fayetteville, Arkansas or have their fans come to Columbia, South Carolina."

Sankey said the move to do away with divisions is encouraged by the conference's success during the 2020 season, during which SEC teams played all 10 games against conference foes due to COVID-19 restrictions. Each team plays eight conference matchups per season under the current system, but Sankey that could increase to nine after expansion.

"During the pandemic we played 10 conference games and had on our SEC Network the highest viewership we had ever experienced," Sankey said. "We drew people in by playing each other with greater frequency."

Texas and Oklahoma, which currently compete in the Big 12, announced in 2021 they would leave to join the SEC. The move will not happen until 2025 after the Big 12's media rights deal expires.