In recent years, the topic of the Southeastern Conference expanding to a nine-game conference schedule for football has dominated conversation at meetings and offseason press conferences. As recently as April 17, Will Muschamp said he was sure the league would move toward a nine-game schedule because of television revenue possibilities.
That will not be the case for the foreseeable future. Sunday, the SEC announced its scheduling plan that will begin with the 2016 season. The conference will maintain an eight-game slate with commissioner Mike Slive saying the current format is best for putting together a balanced conference schedule that also allows for marquee non-conference games.
Scheduling at least one marquee non-conference game will now become mandatory. The SEC's new schedule forces teams to schedule one game against an Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12 Conference, Big 10 Conference or Pac-12 Conference team on an annual basis. Florida is one of the SEC teams that already has a fixed rivalry with a Big Five team given its annual meeting with Florida State.
"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," Slive said in an official 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."
League play will continue to include six games within a team's division as well as two cross-division games, one against a fixed "traditional" rival. The Gators will continue to play LSU on an annual basis, something that continues to not go over well in Baton Rouge.
LSU athletic director Joe Alleva spoke out against the SEC's scheduling announcement Sunday. Florida has stood its ground in defending the series in recent years when LSU has pushed to abandon the commitment.
"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 told the The Times-Picayune. "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."
The Tigers are 6-4 against the Gators in the last 10 meetings between the two teams. Alleva said the 10-4 vote that passed the announced scheduling plan was done out of "self interest" by schools instead of competitive fairness.