Alabama Football: It could get hot this week in Destin

Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports
Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports /

Many fans and certainly Alabama football fans are paying close attention to the SEC Spring Meeting. Most attention has been given to a decision on whether the SEC football schedule will go to nine games in 2024.

Nick Saban, long a proponent of a nine-game, SEC regular-season schedule might decide to support staying at eight games. Saban is concerned about a lack of equity in the designation of the three permanent opponents.

There are strong opinions on either side of the schedule issue, but it is likely a consensus can be reached. As recently as a couple of weeks ago, most believed a decision would be made this week in Destin. In recent days, the odds have begun to favor a partial decision instead.

The main sticking point is not scheduling equity; it is money. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey is determined money will not be the deciding factor, saying before the meeting started,

"Money follows, it doesn’t lead. When all you do is chase money, you make a lot of bad decisions."

Sankey may not have eight schools that agree with him. The number is eight even though the 2024, SEC schedule will be for 16 teams. Texas and Oklahoma officials are at the Spring Meeting but have no vote until after the 2023 season.

According to Ross Dellenger, ESPN is not obligated to add any payments to its current contractual commitment. Given the ‘layoff’ environment at ESPN, it is expected any negotiations of an additional fee to the SEC will be delayed for months. The added value is no small number, with some believing it could amount to as much as $5M per SEC school.

Given the situation, many believe the decision this week will be for the SEC schedule to remain at eight games for the 2024 season. The most often discussed format has been a 1-7, with only one designated, permanent opponent. Some Alabama football fans believe continuing with two divisions would be best. Aligning the divisions would never satisfy every fanbase.

Alabama Football and Heated Debate

What can truly bring the heat to Destin is disagreement over the current and future use of NIL. Debate will focus on many points, but the summary below, provided by Ross Dellenger explains current disagreement across the SEC.

"Within the 11-state footprint of the country’s most dominant college football league, fairness is fading, swallowed by the greed of competition from the conference’s very own members. Through lobbying efforts, schools have engineered their state lawmakers to feverishly rewrite statutes to give them an advantage over neighboring programs.New state laws adopted in Arkansas, Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma clear a path for their schools to bring NIL programs more under their proverbial roof while also prohibiting enforcement from the NCAA and others. This new evolution of NIL collectives tests NCAA and SEC governorship, risks federal rules violations …"

The SEC Spring Meeting is unlikely to resolve any NIL issues. Perhaps it will build a collaborative process that at some point finds an NIL consensus. The complexity and seriousness of NIL issues dwarf any scheduling debate. Even if the SEC ever agrees to a sustainable and equitable NIL model, there are no guarantees that state legislatures or the federal government will cooperate.

Saban will be blamed if SEC stays at 8 games. dark. Next

There is a clear solution, but it is the one schools fear the most. Maybe the risk of athletes becoming employees will get the conversations in Destin past heated debate.