Unlike the Big Ten, Big 12, Pacific-12 and (when its teams play special friend Notre Dame) the ACC, the Southeastern Conference will not be moving to a nine-game conference football schedule any time soon.
On Sunday, the conference’s school presidents and athletic directors voted to keep the eight-game conference schedule and format (six division games, one permanent crossover rival, one rotating crossover game) for the forseeable future. However, they did pass a requirement saying that, beginning in 2016, each SEC team must play at least one nonconference game per season against a team from the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 or ACC, or Notre Dame, something most of its teams already are doing.
Said Commissioner Mike Slive in a statement:
“This has been a thoughtful and deliberative process that has resulted in maintaining the current format and adds a provision that will bolster our collective annual non-conference schedule. Critical to maintaining this format is the non-conference opponent factor which gives us the added strength-of-schedule we were seeking while allowing continued scheduling flexibility for institutional preferences, and acknowledges that many of our institutions already play these opponents.
“The concept of strength-of-schedule is based on an entire 12-game schedule, a combination of both conference games together with non-conference games. Given the strength of our conference schedule supplemented by at least one major non-conference game, our teams will boast of a strong resume’ of opponents each and every year.”
The decision to keep mostly the status quo did not sit well with LSU Athletic Director Joe Aleva, who said the current set-up gives certain teams a competitive advantage. The Tigers, who compete in the SEC West Division, will continue to have Florida as their cross-division rival. Aleva pointed out to the New Orleans Times-Picayune that LSU has played Florida and Georgia, another perennially strong program, 19 times since 2000, which Alabama has played those teams only eight times.
“I’m disappointed in the fact that the leadership of our conference doesn’t understand the competitive advantage permanent partners give to certain institutions,” Alleva said. “I tried to bring that up very strongly at the meeting today. In our league we share the money and expenses equally but we don’t share our opponents equally.”
Aleva said a proposal to keep the two traditional cross-division rivalries — Alabama-Tennessee and Auburn-Georgia — while rotating through the others was defeated.
Here are the permanent cross-division rivals:
• Alabama (west) vs. Tennessee (east)
• Arkansas (west) vs. Missouri (east)
• Auburn (west) vs. Georgia (east)
• LSU (west) vs. Florida (east)
• Ole Miss (west) vs. Vanderbilt (east)
• Mississippi State (west) vs. Kentucky (east)
• Texas A&M (west) vs. South Carolina (east)