SEC announces schedule format

The Southeastern Conference came to an agreement about the future of the league's scheduling on Sunday. The conference will continue to use an eight-game league schedule but adds a new twist requiring all schools to play an ACC, Big 12, Big Ten or Pac-12 opponent on an annual basic.

The new rule doesn't change anything for Florida. With the Florida State rivalry solving the Gators' requirement of a major conference opponent, the future of Florida's schedule has a clearer look.

The SEC decided to maintain its eight-game conference schedule. Each team will play the six opponents in its division plus two from the opposite division. There will be one permanent opponent, continuing the annual Florida-LSU game for both schools, plus one rotation opponent from the opposite division.

The schedule of when rotating opponents will play each other was not announced on Sunday.

"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," said Commissioner Mike Slive. "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."

There was push from some league coaches to go to a nine-game conference schedule. Alabama coach Nick Saban led the charge for it, but the impact it would have on teams like Florida, Georgia and South Carolina that annually play rivals from outside the conference proved to be too much for the league to go to nine games.

The strength of schedule within SEC teams that play at least one tough out of conference opponent has remained high in recent years, and that isn't something Slive wants to change.

"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."

Keeping one permanent opponent from the opposite division was a split issue. Some programs like playing the same team every year while others want more balance in fair scheduling. The Florida-LSU rivalry will remain in tact, one that has meant a lot to both programs in recent years. Other rivalries like Alabama-Tennessee and Auburn-Georgia stay on the schedule.

"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."

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