It appears fans of the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry and Third Saturday in October can finally breathe easy.
Speaking with the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer Monday, SEC official Larry Templeton said that the league's permanent cross-divisional rivalries were the one aspect of the conference's protracted scheduling discussions that aren't actually up for discussion.
"I would say that the permanent games are probably as safe as anything that's on the table," he said. "I think there is a strong commitment to keep the traditional games in this league. And to do that you have to keep the permanent opponents."
This isn't a surprise, of course; the confirmation from both sides of the new South Carolina Gamecocks-Texas A&M Aggies annual rivalry suggested that permanent cross-division games were safe and dry weeks ago, since the idea that Carolina and A&M playing each year while Georgia and Auburn didn't lands somewhere between laughable and flat-out impossible. Bulldog athletic director Greg McGarity's February comments that the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry might go by the wayside have, fortunately, seemed more and more alarmist ever since.
But as this space has documented before, every decision the SEC makes in putting together its future football schedule is going to come with some kind of cost. In this case, it likely means teams in opposite divisions who aren't rivals facing each other just twice in a 12-year span as they rotate through a single slot in a "6-1-1" scheduling format. Though Templeton said a nine-game schedule "was on the table and is still technically on the table," like every other SEC official who's commented on the issue, he didn't sound enthusiastic about its adoption.
"You go to nine games, there's seven winners and seven losers," he said--seven mandatory losers that could see that loss become the difference in a bowl berth or not.
To offset the looooooooong wait between rotating cross-divisional opponents, Templeton said the league would likely adopt a compromise in which each half of a home-and-home rotation was split up and played years apart, rather than in back-to-back seasons.
That still might not be compromise enough for East division A.D.'s who want, say, LSU to visit more often than once every 12 years or television executives who'd like to avoid going five years without Alabama facing Florida. We've said (and we're not the only ones) that that push will eventually come -- we hope -- to the shove of a nine-game schedule.
But until that happens, we'll deal with the league officially recognizing the value in several of its oldest and most cherished rivalries.Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the opening kick of the year all the way through the offseason, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. View a preview.
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