SEC football adopts strength-of-schedule mandate for ’16

Commissioner Mike Slive (middle) and the SEC presidents have settled on a permanent cross-division-rivalry schedule involving all 14 teams -- like Alabama (West) vs. Tennessee (East).

The SEC presidents carved out two significant pieces of new football business on Sunday — even if only one aspect counts as change.

Regarding the status quo, the in-conference schedule grid will remain at eight regular-season games apiece for the 14 SEC members — despite the campaigns from SEC commish Mike Slive and Alabama head coach Nick Saban to boost the conference slate to nine games.

From a radical-change standpoint, as a means of becoming more viable for College Football Playoff consideration, the SEC has adopted an unprecedented strength-of-schedule component, mandating that, starting in 2016, all 14 teams must schedule at least one power-conference program per season.

The other so-called "Big Four" leagues, as currently constituted, involve the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC.

A lot of time, money and consideration went into Sunday’s announcement, with the SEC concluding an extensive study on the likely prerequisities for making the College Football Playoff.

"This has been a thoughtful and deliberative process that has resulted in maintaining the current format and adds a provision that will bolster our collective annual non-conference schedule," said Commissioner Slive in a statement.

"Critical to maintaining this format is the non-conference opponent factor which gives us the added strength-of-schedule we were seeking while allowing continued scheduling flexibility for institutional preferences, and acknowledges that many of our institutions already play these opponents."

The Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12 all have nine-game conference schedules; and the 14-member ACC has the twist of welcoming Notre Dame (a full-time basketball member) for five "league" games every year.

In other SEC news … the conference has settled on a permanent arrangement with cross-divisional football rivalries:

"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.

"It has been a hallmark of the SEC over our history to be able to make continued progress while also maintaining traditions important to our institutions."