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SEC’s New College Baseball Conference Schedule Misses Opportunity For More

SEC's New College Baseball Conference Schedule Misses Opportunity For More

The SEC on Tuesday announced its future conference schedule format to be enacted when Oklahoma and Texas join the league in July 2024.

The SEC will maintain a 30-game conference schedule, with teams playing 10 three-game series. Each team will have two permanent opponents, with the other eight conference weekends filled on a rotating basis. It will discontinue its divisions, which it has used since the conference expanded to 12 teams in 1992. The SEC has not yet determined what, if any, changes it will make to the format of its conference tournament.

Moving away from divisions was expected. A division-less format allows the schools to be more interconnected, produces fewer schedule inequalities and more flexibility. What it isn’t as good for is rivalries. Imagining a baseball season without a series between Mississippi and Mississippi State is absurd. But without divisions or a scheduling structure to ensure some teams always play each other, that’s what you get. Just ask the Big Ten, which every so often skips baseball’s edition of Michigan vs. Ohio State or Indiana vs. Purdue.

So, if the SEC was going to do away with divisions, it would have to create a structure to protect its rivalries. The biggest question was about how many permanent opponents the schedule would allow for.

The SEC landed on two, which I initially thought was fine. The conference was created in 1932 and in 90 years of playing each other, a fair number of rivalries have sprouted. But the conference has changed, expanding three times, and the rivalries can’t all be protected in this version of the league. Most schools don’t need more than two rivalries to be protected—some don’t even really need two.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that two permanent opponents isn’t enough. We don’t yet know what the permanent opponents will be and it’s not an easy puzzle to put together.

What I do know is that, starting in 2025, Texas will be in the same conference as Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M. Only two can be annual opponents. Georgia will be in a league with Auburn, Florida and South Carolina. Only two can be annual opponents. We’ll get Ole Miss and Mississippi State every year. But once you set that series aside, the Rebels and Bulldogs can only play one of Alabama, Arkansas, LSU or Vanderbilt annually. Florida will play Georgia, but it can only annually play one of Auburn, South Carolina and Vanderbilt.

That’s a lot of premium series that will be…

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