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SEC leaning toward nine-game football league schedule, which 'not only adds value for TV, but protects season-ticket sales'

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There is mounting momentum among SEC schools to go from eight conference games to nine in football once Oklahoma and Texas join the league, sources told ESPN.

The league's athletic directors held their regularly scheduled meeting earlier this week. Administrators and coaches from multiple schools in the league said the feeling now is that the SEC will ultimately land at nine conference games with a 3-6 format when the new scheduling model is announced.

"Going to nine games not only adds value for TV, but protects season-ticket sales, donations and College Football Playoff access for more teams," one SEC athletic director told ESPN.

Another league source said there were a few schools on the fence between eight and nine games back in May during the SEC spring meetings, but added, "I think there's ample support now to get to nine. More rivalries can be played on an annual basis, and the content that an extra league game would provide for TV would mean a lot more money."

Oklahoma and Texas are set to join the SEC in 2025 and possibly a year earlier. The proposed nine-game model would include three permanent opponents each year and then a rotation of six other opponents.

For instance, Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork told ESPN this week that the Aggies would be in favor of playing Texas and LSU every year and then one other permanent opponent.

One of the frustrations for many around the league with the current schedule is how long teams go without playing each other. For example, Georgia has never played in College Station against Texas A&M, which joined the league in 2012.

"If the vote were taken today, it would be nine games," an SEC athletic director told ESPN. "I thought we were there in May, too, but there was some flip-flopping. I think most of those schools have crossed over and will probably vote with the room."

Some coaches have voiced support for nine games. Alabama's Nick Saban has long been a proponent and said schools "owed it to the fans to play more good games. If we don't, they're going to quit coming."

Missouri's Eliah Drinkwitz said this summer "to me, it has to be a 3-6 model."

Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher told ESPN this week he thinks nine games is "probably the best scenario. That way, you can keep alive the rivalries and the secondary rivalries, because in this league the secondary rivalries are almost as important as the primary rivalries."

Texas coach Steve Sarkisian has said it was important that the Longhorns be able to play Oklahoma and Texas A&M every year once his school begins play in the SEC. The only way to do that would be to play nine games with a 3-6 model.

Several ADs said they are hopeful the schedule plan will be finalized sometime this fall before the 2022 season is complete.

The ACC announced a similar eight-game scheduling model in June, a one-divisional format that will be used from 2023-26. Each team will play three primary opponents every year and face the other 10 league teams twice during a four-year cycle (one home and one away).