SEC Commissioner ‘Leaning Heavily’ To Change SEC Format That’s Been In Place For Three Decades

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There could be a major shakeup in the alignment of the SEC following the additions of Texas and Oklahoma. The two Big XII programs announced their intention to move leagues this past offseason, creating an arms race within college athletics.

The Big Ten countered by poaching a pair of PAC 12 schools in USC and UCLA, causing fans and media to debate the futures of the rest of the Power Five conferences.

Adding those teams will have an inevitable effect on the SEC. We saw it back in 1992 when the league expanded to 12 teams. The Southeastern Conference introduced the idea of two divisions, an East and West, along with an SEC Championship Game. That divisional structure has been emulated throughout college football.

Now, as the league moves to 16 teams, we could see another shakeup.

Many believe the SEC will move away from the two-division format that we’ve seen over the last three decades. Instead of having an eight-team East and West, a number of options have been proposed. Many suggested a pod system that would break the conference up into four, four-team groups. It would allow for less restricted scheduling, while maintaining traditional rivalries.

But commissioner Greg Sankey is reportedly “leaning heavily” towards another format.

It’s been reported since early Spring that Sankey was in favor of a single division, which would help ensure that the two best teams always make the title game. The debate has been struck back up following a report from Marc Ryan of CBS Radio.

Look no further than this season for Sankey’s reasoning. The SEC’s top two teams reside in the East in Georgia and Tennessee, but with the Vols’ eastern division affiliation, they’ll cede an opportunity to play in the championship game to Georgia. LSU will represent the West despite having two losses, one of which includes a 27-point throttling at the hands of that Tennessee team.

In a single-division setup, the Vols and Dawgs could have a rematch to settle the SEC race. Sankey had the following to say about the potential move in July at SEC Media Days.

“We had a focus placed on a single-division model, with the ability to accommodate either an eight-game or nine-game conference schedule… We have over a quarter of a century in divisions, and we understand all the nuances about how to break ties. We have to dig a bit deeper there with a single-division concept in front of us.”

Sankey will want to ensure that historic rivalries like Auburn-Georgia, Alabama-Tennessee, and the Iron Bowl all remain intact while allowing for schools to cycle through the entirety of the league over a four-year period.

It will take time and energy to reconstruct the league, but it seems that the SEC system as we know it will inevitably be changed.