There are lots of things about the future of the SEC that aren't exactly state secrets: that the league will angle for its own TV network in its ongoing negotiations and likely be forced to build Mike Slive his own Scrooge McDuck money bin to swim in once it's in place; that its still-to-be-determined-after-more-than-a-year-of-speculation future scheduling rotations give the SEC as much chance of making everybody happy as it does conquering Mongolia; that most of the conference's coaches (Nick Saban excepted) would rather contract hangnail fungus than play a nine-game league schedule.
But despite those objections, the whispers about the SEC moving to a nine-game schedule have only grown louder as the SEC network seems more and more likely and the league's television partners presumably press harder for both more SEC-on-SEC inventory -- and better SEC-on-SEC inventory -- in exchange for their mega-millions. (Alabama and Florida, for instance, will play Kentucky and Arkansas in 2013 rather than each other.)
Those whispers won't get any quieter after Slive himself said Tuesday that he doesn't want to be "married" to an eight-game schedule that may not be in the league's best interests in a playoff-dominated future. From an al.com Q&A:
Q: Do you see the SEC going to nine conference football games at some point?
A: "We vetted that out in Destin. We spent a lot of time on it, and there was an overwhelming majority (against it). The only thing I would say about that is in '14-'15, when the new playoff comes and the selection committee comes, we have to at least be sensitive and alert to make sure that our model, our formula, works for us in the way in which we want it to work. You can never be married to one thing if facts dictate that something else should be done."
Those expecting the SEC to stay at eight games will say Slive is simply covering his bases, that the only concrete detail in that answer is that the league as a whole remains opposed to nine, and that the SEC's "formula" is intended to work at eight.
But those expecting a change will note that Slive spends more time in this answer explaining why the league might go to nine than reasons it will stay at eight, that he offers no indication he's personally oppsed to going to nine, and that he even pinpoints a date at which the league might make the switch.
At the very least, Slive clearly doesn't believe that the league's 2012 stance on a nine-game schedule will prevent it from having a very different stance in 2014 or 2015. It's been on the table once, and it will no doubt be on the table in the future. And given all the SEC's reasons for making the switch -- ones that include the ever-rising cost of cupcakes and need to appeal to season ticket-buyers, as well as schedule-strength and TV concerns -- it seems likely it won't come back off the table nearly as quickly next time.