The SEC announced Thursday it will continue to play an eight-game football schedule in 2024 when Oklahoma and Texas join the league for competition.
Just a few months ago, it appeared the SEC would move to a nine-game schedule, but when it became apparent its television partner ESPN was not ready to commit to paying the schools any more money for an additional game until the current contract is up in 2025, attitudes cooled on adding a ninth SEC game.
Sports Illustrated reported that the SEC was expecting a payday of over $5 million per program from ESPN for the ninth SEC game to be added to the schedule, but ESPN’s parent company Disney has experienced struggles of late, and layoffs and cost-cutting are underway across the board.
Without additional funds on the table, moving to a nine-game SEC schedule, no doubt, proved problematic for SEC programs, who would have had to buy out contracts for previously scheduled non-conference games.
Moving to nine games in 2024 would have cost SEC programs money because of the buyouts instead of making them money.
Without additional money coming in from ESPN for the ninth conference game to cover those buy-outs and to fill their bank accounts, the incentive for adding a ninth game vanished in the minds of SEC decision-makers among a majority of the programs.
While the SEC is standing pat at eight games for the 2024, the league is dissolving divisional play after this season to coincide when Texas and Oklahoma join the league. Each team’s schedule of opponents for 2024 will be announced June 14 on the SEC Network.
The move Thursday was a stop-gap measure. It’s expected that the SEC will move to a nine-game schedule when the league renegotiates its television contract with ESPN for the 2025 season and beyond.