College football fans – and members of other conferences – have been waiting with baited breath for the Southeastern Conference to announce its future football scheduling plans. When the league finally did so on Sunday evening, at least as far as the Florida Gators are concerned, not much has changed.
The SEC announced on Sunday that schools will continue to play eight league games – six against divisional opponents and two against cross-divisional opponents, one permanent and the other on a rotating basis.
The addition to the SEC’s scheduling mandate is that all 14 conference teams will be required to play at least one opponent from another “big five” conference – the ACC, Big 12, Big 10 or Pac-12 – beginning in 2016. Florida will not be forced to make any changes or major additions to its schedule due to its annual game against Florida State.
UF will continue its annual series against LSU, its designated permanent cross-divisional opponent, which dates back to 1971. The Gators have maintained that they welcome the adversity of facing one of the SEC West’s best teams each season, but the Tigers continue to believe the relationship creates an unfair disadvantage for the schools.
“I’m disappointed in the fact that the leadership of our conference doesn’t understand the competitive advantage permanent partners give to certain institutions,” LSU athletic director Joe Alleva told The Times-Picayune. “I tried to bring that up very strongly at the meeting [Sunday]. In our league we share the money and expenses equally but we don’t share our opponents equally.
“Since 2000 LSU has played Florida and Georgia 19 times and Alabama has played them eight times. That is a competitive disadvantage. There are a lot of other examples.”
SEC presidents voted 10-4 to keep the permanent cross-divisional opponent intact.
Indeed, the permanent game between the two teams does skew each school’s strength of schedule as being that much more difficult each season.
Florida will have faced Alabama and LSU a combined 15 times in the regular season from 2005-14, while its greatest rival in Georgia will square off against those teams just four times in the same span.
While UF has never given any indication that it wishes to end its series with LSU, the Gators do have other reasons to complain about their schedule, which has featured a cross-division rotation that has been quite unbalanced – and not much of a rotation – over the last 10 years.
Florida’s five games against Alabama from 2005-14 are two more than they’ve played against each Arkansas, Auburn and Mississippi State (three), three more than Ole Miss (two) and four more than Texas A&M (one), which did not join the league until 2012.
Neither athletic director Jeremy Foley nor head coach Will Muschamp have expressed any issues with either the Gators’ rotational schedule or keeping the Tigers as a permanent cross-divisional opponent. In fact, Muschamp has been vocally in favor of the latter scheduling feature.
OnlyGators.com inquired as to when details of the cross-division rotation would be released – such as when the rotation will begin, whether teams will play in consecutive seasons switching off as hosts or face each other once every six seasons, etc. – only to be told that information will be announced at a later date.