For the past two seasons, the talk around the SEC acquiring Oklahoma and Texas from the Big 12 has opened conversations on the layout of the SEC. After a nightmare of a week for Kentucky fans across the Bluegrass, this could be the sour cherry on top; first reported by Marc Ryan of CBS Sports, the SEC is considering ending divisions:
What does this mean for Kentucky Football? For starters, we can say goodbye to our yearly rivalries. Without any announcement of a structure, other than an indifference of the fairly well discussed 'pod' system, the likelihood of keeping the SEC East foes such as Florida, Georgia, Missouri, South Carolina and Vanderbilt are slim to none. It is also worth noting that the SEC schedule is laid out years in advance, so it is important as ever to have a plan ready, specifically one that is the most beneficial for everyone. It is no secret that Coach Stoops was disgruntled about the comments made by Calipari just a week before the start of the 2022 season (please don't let this be the case), and the inability to get NIL plans set in place, this could just be the tip of the iceberg.
Is this announcement adding fuel to the fire for Stoops to go a separate ways?
Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops has expressed on multiple instances that he is not a fan of a proposed 9 SEC team schedule. As the toughest conference in all of college football, a 9 team SEC schedule would not only bring in the increased chance of playing schools currently in the west division, Kentucky could be in a position where getting rid of the Governors Cup would be most beneficial to the program, and allowing the Cats to keep a 3 FCS team rotation.
How does this pique fan interest?
With the current system having Kentucky playing 7 home games (8 every other), consistently having LSU, Alabama or Texas in Lexington would be huge for ratings and fan hype. If Kentucky can create some kind of momentum going into this offseason and hold onto the young stars on the roster, as well as take control of the ever-evolving NIL situation, Kentucky has the opportunity to salvage what was lost this season and build for the future, as well as to prepare for the wackiness of 2025, the year Oklahoma and Texas are proposed to join.
The next year and a half will be the most important stretch for the future of UK Football and, with the SEC leaning towards banning divisions due to the expansion, the odds seem to be against Kentucky's favor. If the program wants to continue to be respected as a national brand, it starts now.