South Carolina President Harris Pastides said Sunday that the Southeastern Conference will play a nine-game conference schedule beginning in 2012, according to The Daily Gamecock. This means that all SEC schools would play three non-conference opponents rather than four.
For South Carolina, one of those would be Clemson. For Georgia, there's Georgia Tech and Florida would retain Florida State. No word yet on whether Kentucky would maintain its rivalry with Louisville, but some have expressed the opinion that under a nine-game format, the ‘Cats would drop it.
The nine-game schedule also necessitates half of the conference playing five away games and four home games each year, while the other half plays four away and five at home. This means that at best, half of the conference will get seven home games unless they have scheduled a neutral site game against a non-conference opponent, in which case they will have six at home (six home, five away, one neutral). The other half of the conference will have eight home games, or seven if they have a non-conference opponent at a neutral site.
Alabama is scheduled to play Michigan in Cowboys Stadium to open the 2012 season. Auburn is scheduled to open against Clemson in the Georgia Dome, and Tennessee will meet North Carolina State in the Georgia Dome as well.
We’ll know more once the new conference schedule is announced, but moving to a nine game schedule would twist many ways. For one thing, it could be the end of the non-conference, neutral site matchups. It may also mean the end of the home-home agreements such as the Alabama vs. Penn State series.
The SEC schedule with 12 teams is a tough enough slate. Add one more conference game and the pressure mounts to keep non-conference cupcakes on the schedule while jettisoning the tougher matchups. The schools with non-conference traditional rivals—Kentucky, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina—will be under even more pressure to do so.
It’s hard to see even a majority of the SEC AD’s and coaches in support of a nine-game conference schedule, and in his interview with Mizzou’s official athletics department media, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said the league would keep its eight-game format.
UPDATE: SEC Spokesman Charles Bloom says there have been no discussions regarding a nine game schedule. Somebody should alert Dr. Pastides.