DESTIN, Fla. – There was plenty of discussion Wednesday at the Southeastern Conference Spring Meeting about what sort of football scheduling format the SEC will put in place starting with the 2013 season.
Everything from nine conference games to games against six division opponents and two rotating opponents to some schools having permanent cross-divisional opponents and others not have been discussed.
But there is no question, as SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said, which format is “the leader in the clubhouse.”
And it’s a leader with a score that even detractors like LSU athletic director Joe Alleva know will be mighty tough to beat.
The favored format is known as the 6-1-1. In it, teams would play the six teams in their division, one permanent cross-division opponent and one rotating team from the other division.
That format would preserve traditional rivalries such as Alabama-Tennessee and Auburn-Georgia, longstanding rivalries that had to be protected in a way when the SEC expanded from 10 to 12 teams and split up into Eastern and Western divisions in 1992.
The format also forces some schools together, such as LSU and Florida, which have played each other annually since 1971.
Florida coach Will Muschamp, LSU’s former defensive coordinator at LSU, has said that he would like the Tigers to remain as the Gators’ permanent SEC West opponent.
Alleva and LSU coach Les Miles have argued the permanent opponent sets up competitive imbalances.
“The non-divisional opponents should just be rotated,” Alleva said. “It’s the fairest and most equitable way to do it. Anybody who doesn’t vote that way is simply voting in the best interests of their institution, not the best interests of the conference. That’s my opinion.”
“If Mississippi State is going to play Kentucky every year, I think that’s disproportionate,” Miles said. “I’m not for Auburn playing Georgia every year. I think there should be an opportunity to see a greater segment of the conference, the opportunity to rotate two games as opposed to one game.
“I would say a majority (of coaches) would be for that.”
Georgia coach Mark Richt, whose SEC East school plays Auburn of the SEC West in one of the annual rivalries at the heart of the debate, disagrees.
“It was a situation where everybody had a good reason for why some format worked for them,” Richt said of the football coaches’ meeting. “There was no consensus.
“My sentiment, to be real clear, is we should play Auburn.”
Projected SEC permanent opponents
If the 6-1-1 football scheduling format is adopted, here are the projected permanent cross-divisional opponents:
LSU (West)-Florida (East)
Alabama (West)-Tennessee (East)
Arkansas (West)-Missouri (East)
Auburn (West)-Georgia (East)
Ole Miss (West)-Vanderbilt (East)
Miss. State (West)-Kentucky (East)
Texas A&M (West)-South Carolina (East)