LSU and Florida will remain a yearly date, even if one of them isn’t happy about it.
The Southeastern Conference will continue to use its current eight-game football scheduling format for the foreseeable future, including the permanent cross-division game.
It leaves the Tigers playing their annual game against Florida — which LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva criticized Sunday night.
LSU, along with other schools in the conference, had pushed for the elimination of the permanent cross-divisional rivalry. LSU has played Florida every year since 1971.
SEC chancellors, presidents and athletic directors met Sunday in Atlanta and voted on the matter. They scrapped the idea of moving to a nine-game schedule, but school presidents voted 10-4 on keeping the permanent cross-division game.
“I am very disappointed that the leaders of the SEC disregard the competitive advantage that permanent partners award to certain schools. It is definitely an advantage that should not exist in such a great league,” Alleva told The Advocate on Sunday night.
“We share all the revenue and expenses yet we cannot have a balanced, fair, equitable schedule,” he continued. “LSU has played Florida and Georgia 19 times since 2000, and Bama has played them eight times. Is that fair?”
While the league schedule stays the same, the leaders voted to add a component: Starting in 2016, SEC teams must play at least one nonconference game per year against a team from the Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12 or ACC.
LSU has been actively scheduling major conference teams for the past few years. The Tigers have a team from one of those conferences already scheduled for 2014-17 and 2020-24.
LSU has played at least one game against a major conference team since 2009 and has ensured it will in the future with games scheduled against Arizona State, Syracuse, UCLA and N.C. State.
The SEC implemented the new component to keep the league’s strength of schedule strong, Commissioner Mike Slive said in a statement released by the league Sunday. Strength of schedule will be a key component in the selection for the four-team College Football Playoff, which starts this coming season.
Just four SEC teams don’t have a major conference team on the nonconference schedule next season: Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M.
Alleva said SEC leaders discussed nine games but “pretty much uniformly decided that eight was better for us at this time.”
LSU’s nonconference scheduling philosophy likely won’t change. The Tigers try to play one major conference team, two mid-majors and a Football Championship Subdivision squad each season.
Something else won’t change: playing the Gators. The teams became permanent opponents when the conference split into divisions in 1992.
LSU coach Les Miles and Alleva have been outspoken proponents of ditching the permanent opponent. They’ve called the philosophy unfair for some.
“If you’re Ole Miss and you’re playing Vanderbilt (every year), are you going to vote against permanent partners?” Alleva said. “People are not voting in the interest of the league but voting in the interest of themselves.”
The other permanent opponents are Alabama vs. Tennessee, Auburn vs. Georgia, Mississippi State vs. Kentucky, Ole Miss vs. Vanderbilt, Arkansas vs. Missouri, and Texas A&M vs. South Carolina. There is one change there: Missouri and Texas A&M had been linked in their first two years in the SEC, as were South Carolina and Arkansas.
The intense and historic rivalries between Auburn and Georgia and Alabama and Tennessee are part of why the league kept the permanent opponent system, Slive said.
“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.
The 6-1-1 (six divisional games, one permanent crossover rivalry game and one other game against a team from the other division) format is not likely to be up for discussion anytime soon, Alleva said. The model is locked in for the near future, likely until the mid-2020s.
“I don’t think anything’s going to change until then,” he said.
Florida President Bernie Machen voted to keep the permanent cross-division opponent. Alleva said he addressed the permanent-opponent matter in Atlanta, telling the ADs and presidents, “This is a great league. We share all of our revenues equally. We share our expenses equally, but we do not share our opponents equally.”