Alabama Football: SEC may get 3-6 format sooner than later

Sara Diggins/Austin American-Statesman-USA TODAY NETWORK
Sara Diggins/Austin American-Statesman-USA TODAY NETWORK /

Officially, for now, Alabama Football can win two more SEC West Division championships in 2023 and 2024. There have been recent rumblings that 2023 may become the last season for the SEC to be structured into divisions.

A division title does not mean much to Alabama football fans, beyond the qualification of playing for a meaningful championship in Atlanta. The Crimson Tide has won the SEC West 17 times, going back to the start of the SEC Championship game in 1992.

Eleven SEC football programs have been division champions. Only Kentucky, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt have not. Closest to the Crimson Tide in division titles are Florida with 15, Georgia with 12 and LSU with 10.

The SEC’s expansion to 16 teams is scheduled to officially occur in July 2025. After the addition of Oklahoma and Texas, the league’s division structure will be scrapped. What will follow is still being debated. Not every SEC program wants to expand to a nine-game SEC schedule.

Based on a recent tweet by Ross Dellenger, the teams preferring to remain at eight games are losing the debate.

Alabama football fans have strong opinions about what three teams will become the Crimson Tide’s permanent opponents. Auburn will of course be one. The other two are less clear. Many Crimson Tide fans prefer keeping Tennessee and LSU. If that happens, the annual games with Ole Miss and Mississippi State will end. Historically, the Bulldogs are the Tide’s most frequent opponent, with 107 games, going back to 1896.

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Alabama fans are also concerned about certain teams gaining an easier trio of annual opponents. If Tennessee ends up with Vanderbilt, Kentucky and South Carolina (and not Alabama), an edge for the Vols would displease Alabama, Georgia and Florida fans.

While debates will continue about structure and competition, business considerations garner even more attention. It is widely known Texas and Oklahoma would like to join the SEC for the 2024 season. Only money stands in the way. For the two Big 12 programs, buying out of their current grant of media rights deal could cost up to a projected $80M price tag.

It is expected Greg Sankey would welcome an earlier arrival by the Big 12 teams, but in this case, he is not a decision-maker. Given the current and future media deals ESPN has with the two conferences, the media giant (Disney) has the greatest influence over whether the Longhorns and Sooners can negotiate buyouts down to an acceptable amount.

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Whether it is 2024 or 2025, the new SEC will be very different from the current one.