The Southeastern Conference hasn’t decided on a new scheduling model for when the conference expands to 16 teams with Texas and Oklahoma’s addition in 2025.
The SEC could expand its divisions to eight teams each or four quads of four-teams. However, the most likely option coming out of the SEC spring meeting was abolishing divisions all together like basketball did when the conference expanded to 14 teams ahead of the 2012-13 season.
The two popular scheduling options that came out of that scenario included an eight-game module with each program having another permanent opponent and playing seven teams every other season on a rotating calendar.
Another popular option includes a nine-game schedule where teams have three permanent opponents and a rotating six games where programs play every other team every two to three seasons.
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When asked about the proposals during a meeting with local media at SEC Media Days on Thursday, Heupel said he didn’t care which scheduling format the SEC went with. However, when pressed on who he’d like Tennessee’s three permanent opponents to be in a 6-3 scheduling model, the second year coach provided some thoughts.
“I think your historical rivalries,” Heupel said. “From the moment I’ve gotten here it’s been Alabama, it’s been Vandy, right? And I think Kentucky is in that same sense too geographically.”
While the second year head coach originally omitted a pair of large rivals for easier rivalry matchups against the instate Commodores and Kentucky, he quickly continued to add more rivals he would be happy to see the Vols play on a yearly basis.
“Georgia is a huge rivalry. Florida is a huge rivalry. There’s all those games that depending on which part, maybe which age, of our fanbase you talk to you’re going to get a different answer.”
Tennessee has struggled mightily against its “big three” rivals — Alabama, Florida and Georgia — since firing Phillip Fulmer in 2008. The Vols have won just four games against that group in the last 13 years.
Tennessee has been much better against the Commodores and Wildcats since, combining for 18 wins.
The Vols open up fall practice on Monday, Aug. 1.