Texas AD favors 9-game model upon joining SEC

DESTIN, Fla. — When Texas does join the Southeastern Conference next year, the Longhorns prefer to play as many league games as possible and Texas A&M every year.

“For where we’re at, and having Oklahoma at a neutral site, I prefer more games,” Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte said Wednesday.

That might have to wait.

The SEC remained undecided on increasing the number of conference games it plays in 2024 from eight to nine, with some athletic directors saying they would like more time and information.

“That’s an interesting way for them to communicate their perspective,” commissioner Greg Sankey said.

Sankey reiterated that among the options under consideration is a short-term agreement to stay at an eight-game conference schedule, with a commitment to reconsidering the model in the next year or so.

A year ago when the SEC was debating eight or nine, the conference was operating under the expectation that Texas and Oklahoma would arrive in 2025, after the schools’ contractual obligations to the Big 12 had expired.

A deal between the Big 12, the schools and television partners was struck earlier this year to allow the Longhorns and Sooners to join the SEC next year and become a 16-team conference.

A bigger conference made playing more conference games seem like a natural, but some schools, among them Kentucky and Arkansas, are concerned about the rigor of more SEC games.

A simple majority vote is all that is needed to implement a schedule model. While Texas and Oklahoma lean toward nine, they also don’t get a vote until they are full-fledged members.

There are also financial considerations. There is no guarantee that ESPN, which becomes the exclusive network home of the SEC next year, is willing and able to pay extra for more conference games.

Adding more conference games would also mean canceling some already contracted nonconference games for SEC programs.

Another factor: The expansion of the College Football Playoff from four to 12 teams happens in 2024. The SEC anticipates that being a windfall for the league, and that it will routinely have multiple teams in the field.

“The expanded playoff has to be discussed,” Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne said. “Those additional games, what does that load look like? To me, if we’re going to play more Power Five and SEC games, let’s make sure we’re rewarded for the strength of schedule.”

The SEC athletic directors are scheduled to meet Thursday with the university presidents, who ultimately have the final say on the matter.

Will they vote before leaving the Florida Gulf Coast?

“We’ll see,” Sankey said. “Stay tuned.”