BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - The Southeastern Conference has decided to stick with its current football scheduling format of eight league games and a permanent non-division rival.
The conference's presidents and chancellors approved the schedule format Sunday at a special meeting in Atlanta.
The one change to the SEC's schedule format will affect nonconference scheduling. Starting in 2016, all SEC teams will be required to play at least one game against a team from one of the other Big 5 conferences. But even that rule shouldn't change much. Every SEC school routinely plays at least one team from those conferences per season.
The SEC had been considering adding a ninth conference game and doing away with permanent inter-division opponents such as Alabama-Tennessee and LSU-Florida.
THE EIGHT-GAME SCHEDULE
“The existing strength of the SEC was certainly a significant factor in the decision to play eight games,” Slive said. “In fact, just last year, five of our schools comprised the top five toughest schedules in the nation according to the NCAA and nine ranked in the top 20.
“A number of our schools play annual ACC opponents, and recent history shows our schools are already playing a significant number of strong non-conference opponents across the country on a home and home basis or in neutral site games.
From 2006 through games scheduled in 2015, SEC teams will have played 132 games against schools from the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12. More than half of the SEC schools have played two or more teams from those conferences in a single season at least once during that period and several schools have done it in multiple seasons.
The decision to maintain an eight-game conference schedule allows for a number of other advantages:
• A balanced league schedule for all teams – equal home and away conference games (four home and four away); a nine-game schedule would have resulted in some teams with five home games and others with four on an annual basis
• Accommodates varying institutional non-conference scheduling philosophies
• Allows for marquee neutral site games – the popularity of neutral site games has grown in recent years, as evidenced by large crowds and significant TV ratings for those games that feature major intersectional opponents
THE PERMANENT NON-DIVISION OPPONENT
“Tradition matters in the SEC, and there is no denying that tradition was a significant factor in this decision because it protects several long-standing cross-division conference rivalries,” said Slive. “It has been a hallmark of the SEC over our history to be able to make continued progress while also maintaining traditions important to our institutions.”
The decision to maintain a permanent non-division opponent also presents other advantages:
• Creates annual cross-division rivalries that otherwise would not be annual games
• Provides each team with a traditional opponent for the final weekend of the season
The permanent non-division opponents are as listed below:
• 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)