SEC announces schedule format

The Gators already play the ACC's Seminoles every year. (The Associated Press)

Published: Sunday, April 27, 2014 at 7:51 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, April 27, 2014 at 7:51 p.m.

After all kinds of debate and controversy over the SEC's future schedule format for football, the league has decided to stick with what is already in place, with a little bit of a twist.

The SEC announced Sunday that it is sticking with its eight-game league schedule with one permanent non-division opponent instead of increasing to a nine-game league schedule. The league, however, has added a strength-of-schedule component that requires all schools to play an ACC, Big 12, Big Ten or Pac-12 opponent on an annual basis.

Sunday's announcement came after a vote of the SEC's 14 schools.

For Florida, it means nothing changes. The Gators will play eight SEC games a year, including a permanent opponent from the West (LSU). Additionally, UF already plays FSU, from the ACC, on an annual basis, and that will continue. UF's other non-division opponent will rotate each year.

“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,” SEC commissioner Mike Slive said. “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 a strong resume of opponents each and every year.”

The SEC has been weighing schedule options since last spring, when the league president and chancellors committed to a review of football scheduling to be completed in time for the 2016 season.

Many SEC coaches expressed their desire to stay with an eight-game league schedule due to the overall toughness of the league.

“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.”

Over the past several years, there has also been a great deal of debate about possibly ending the permanent non-division game each school plays yearly.

That aspect of the schedule remains in place.

“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,” Slive said. “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.”

Here are the permanent non-division opponents: Alabama vs. Tennessee; Arkansas vs. Missouri; Auburn vs. Georgia; LSU vs. Florida; Ole Miss vs. Vanderbilt; Mississippi State vs. Kentucky; Texas A&M vs. South Carolina.

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