Birmingham, AL, United States (4E Sports) – The SEC has voted to keep its eight-game conference schedule, sticking with its long tradition of keeping non-divisional rivalries a fixture in its calendar.
However, the SEC will begin mandating that each program incorporate an annual nonconference game against a power conference starting in 2016.
Historical rivalries such as Alabama-Tennessee and Auburn-Georgia will remain as the SEC voted to keep the eight-game conference schedule that will include six games against division opponents and two games against non-division opponents.
One of the non-division opponents will be a permanent annual rivalry game. Others include: Arkansas-Missouri, LSU-Florida, Ole Miss-Vanderbilt, Mississippi State-Kentucky and Texas A&M-South Carolina.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive said that, beginning in 2016, all schools will be mandated to play one opponent per season from either the Big 12, Pac-12, Big Ten or ACC.
“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,” commissioner Mike Slive said in a statement.
“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,” he added.
Slive, of course, was referring to previously established rivalries like Florida-Florida State, South Carolina-Clemson, Georgia-Georgia Tech and Kentucky-Louisville.
The SEC opted not to move forward with a nine-game conference schedule, which had been discussed but lacked sufficient backing.
Alabama coach Nick Saban seemed to be one of the few vocal proponents of the nine-game format.
“I think there’s a little bit more support for staying with an eight-game schedule and everybody playing a ninth opponent that’s in the five major conferences,” Saban said.
“My thing is I’m for playing nine conference games and still playing another team in the major conferences, so you play 10 games because of fan interest, people coming to games looking forward to seeing more good games,” he added.