By Parrish Alford
The Southeastern Conference will not move to a football schedule with nine league games, but member schools will face a requirement in future scheduling that could make six wins for bowl eligibility more difficult.
SEC schools will continue to play an eight-game schedule comprised of six division games and two games against teams from the other division, one of which will be a permanent opponent.
The change, effective in 2016, requires SEC teams to schedule one opponent from the ACC, Big 12, Big 10 or Pac 12 on an annual basis.
The changes were approved at a meeting of the league’s presidents and chancellors Sunday afternoon in Atlanta.
“The existing strength of the SEC was certainly a significant factor in the decision to play eight games,” commissioner Mike Slive said in a news release.
Both Ole Miss and MSU fall short of the new strength of schedule component for the 2014 season.
The Ole Miss schedule includes a neutral-site game against Boise State, but remaining non-conference opponents are Louisiana-Lafayette, Memphis and Presbyterian.
The MSU schedule includes Southern Miss, UAB, South Alabama and Tennessee-Martin.
Ole Miss won at Texas last year, the second game in a two-year contract. MSU played Oklahoma State at a neutral site.
As for cross-division games, Ole Miss and MSU keep their permanent opponents, Vanderbilt for the Rebels and Kentucky for the Bulldogs.
Twitter was ablaze with comments from LSU athletics director Joe Alleva as Louisiana media outlets reported his stand against permanent cross-division foes.
The Baton Rouge Advocate quoted Alleva as saying, “If you’re Ole Miss, and you’re playing Vanderbilt (every year), are you going to vote against permanent partners?”
LSU’s permanent Eastern Division opponent is Florida.
The decision to maintain permanent opponents was motivated by the desire to protect traditional rivalries, 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 commissioner had promised the issue would be settled ahead of the league’s annual spring meetings late next month in Destin, Fla.
PERMANENT NON-DIVISION FOOTBALL OPPONENTS
Alabama (SEC Western) vs.Tennessee (SEC Eastern)
Arkansas (SEC Western) vs. Missouri (SEC Eastern)
Auburn (SEC Western) vs. Georgia (SEC Eastern)
LSU (SEC Western) vs. Florida (SEC Eastern)
Ole Miss (SEC Western) vs.Vanderbilt (SEC Eastern)
Mississippi State (SEC Western) vs. Kentucky (SEC Eastern)
Texas A&M (SEC Western) vs.South Carolina (SEC Eastern)