It’s early May, and that means it’s that lovely time of the year when athletic directors and head football coaches begin to discuss the immediate future of and the long-term outcome of scheduling.

For the past few days, SEC athletic directors have been meeting in Jacksonville, and the item foremost on the agenda is whether the conference will move from an eight- to a nine-game league schedule. All this discussion is just a primer for the big show in Destin at the SEC spring meetings, where the nine-game schedule debate will be the most pressing issue among the coaches.

“One thing about the SEC is the First Amendment is alive and well,” SEC commissioner Mike Slive said at last week’s announcement of the SEC Network. “So, we have a lot of discussion about scheduling, and as you know last year in the spring, we voted to do the 6-1-1, but I do anticipate additional discussion about scheduling. I expect that our coaches, our athletic directors and our presidents will engage in a significant conversations about future scheduling in the months ahead.”

Nine games for 2014 and 2015 seem to be out of the picture, for now. But it’s more of a long-term debate and issue for the conference moving forward. Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said several weeks ago that an eight-game schedule for 2014 and the next couple years should be approved soon. CBSSports’ Tony Barnhart also reported that the SEC will stick to an eight-game slate for the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

In the short term it looks like the eight-game schedule will stay in place. has been told that the scheduling formats for 2014 and 2015 will be presented in Destin and both seasons call for an eight-game model.

Mike Slive also alluded to revealing the immediate future schedule in Destin later this month, or perhaps even sooner.

Since 1992, when the SEC expanded to 12 teams, they started playing eight conference games. The current 6-1-1 format has received some opposition from coaches, especially regarding permanent cross-divisional rivalries. LSU’s Les Miles has been the most outspoken about finding another system to pick the cross-divisional games.

Whether or not the SEC should move to nine games has been highly contested and continually debated. One obvious hurdle to a nine-game schedule is keeping in-state rivalries (Georgia-Georgia Tech, South Carolina-Clemson, Kentucky-Louisville, Florida-Florida State) intact. And most think the new network will be the main decision maker for eventually going to a nine-game slate, but I think it will be based more on playoff positioning.

With the new College Football Playoff coming the same year as the SEC Network, it’s not out of the question the 2014 schedule, which should be announced in the immediate future, could be ripped up and the conference move into the direction of a nine-game conference slate the very first year of the playoff. Strength of schedule will play a part in the playoff committee’s eyes, and if it’s deemed the best route for future playoff positioning, the SEC will absolutely go that route.

However, for now, it seems the SEC will stick to an eight-game conference schedule through 2015.

Photo Credit: Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports