LITTLE ROCK — Building on the new bowl game between the leagues, the Southeastern Conference and Big 12 should consider a long-range agreement that would remove scheduling stress for both.

LITTLE ROCK — Building on the new bowl game between the leagues, the Southeastern Conference and Big 12 should consider a long-range agreement that would remove scheduling stress for both.

To avoid the copycat label, the leagues could say they were working on playing one another long before the Pac-12 and the Big Ten, partners in the Rose Bowl, announced that each Big Ten school will play a team from the other conference, beginning in 2017. By that time, the 10-member Big 12 — focused immediately on getting comfortable with new members TCU and West Virginia — is almost certain to add anywhere from two to six teams.

The Big 12 is currently committed to a round-robin schedule and the league’s nine conference games fit with the general approach of most other major conferences. Playing every team in the conference is out the window when there are 12 or more schools in the league, but the demand for nine quality games will continue after Florida State or Georgia Tech or Clemson or somebody else joins up

Meanwhile, the SEC has remained steadfast about playing only eight conference games, a position the league is expected to reinforce this week in Florida. If every SEC team played a Big 12 opponent, critics of the SEC schedule would back down. The best football conferences have addressed the topic in a variety of ways:

—The Pac-12 plays nine league games, five against teams within the division and four against teams from the other division. Creatively, the league maintained certain rivalries.

—Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford says his league will go to a nine-game conference schedule when Pitt and Syracuse depart the Big East and join the ACC.

—The Big Ten’s plan to expand from eight conference games to nine in 2017 was derailed when the agreement with the Pac-12 was worked out. Originally, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany lauded the nine-game conference schedule as having greater value for fans and being a better way to determine a true conference champion. Later, he said nine league games vs. the agreement with the Pac-12 was a close call.

“If you can create a situation where you improve your schedules, you improve the fan experience, you improve the games that are going on television without affecting the home-away segment inside of the conference, (it) was the preferred method,” he said. With CBS being asked to pay more for SEC football, the league’s Larry Templeton recently told the Birmingham News that television “is interested in how many quality games we’re going to have every Saturday.”

Particularly early in the season, the pickings are slim. There is only one conference game on opening weekend this year and two on Sept. 15. Alabama vs. Michigan in Arlington is the non-conference headliner on Sept. 1, but the non-conference schedule is weak two weeks later and the eight non-conference games on Nov. 17 are dreadful. Generally, one “name” opponent is the limit for an SEC school and often, it is an old rival — Clemson for South Carolina, Florida State for Florida, Georgia Tech for Georgia, Louisville for Kentucky, for example.

LSU’s non-conference schedule is below Tiger standards with North Texas, Washington, Idaho, and Towson. Arkansas has Jacksonville State, Louisiana-Monroe, Rutgers, and Tulsa. Mississippi State lined up Jackson State, Troy, South Alabama, and Middle Tennessee.

Buying season tickets for the Fayetteville games, Razorback fans would be more enthusiastic if Oklahoma State was in town on Sept. 22 instead of Rutgers. How about LSU vs. Oklahoma or Mississippi State vs. TCU or most any other match-up that can be imagined. Pairing of opponents is one of many details to be hashed out by the Big Ten and the Pac-12. The SEC and Big 12 should begin talking now with conference expansion in mind.


Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is