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June 2, 2012

SEC agrees to 6-1-1 schedule

SANDESTIN, Fla. | After a week of wrangling, posturing and positioning, the Southeastern Conference Spring Meetings wrapped up Friday bringing change to a league spoiled with great history, while at the same time preserving (at least for the time being) the traditions it holds dear.

League athletic directors and presidents voted to adopt the 6-1-1 football schedule format, meaning Alabama-Tennessee and Auburn-Georgia will continue their respective series for the foreseeable future. The SEC also distributed a record $241.5 million to its 12 member institutions for the 2011-12 year, approximately $20 million per school.

In other news, the league set an 18-game conference schedule for men's basketball, approved a 14-team, five-day men's basketball tournament and announced the formation of a task force charged with examining the effects of concussions on student-athletes in all sports. The women's basketball schedule remains at 16 league games.

But the majority of conversation centered around the preservation of two of the league's more storied rivalries and how long it is before the topic comes up again.

"I'm very excited personally about that game being saved," Tennessee Athletic Director Dave Hart said. "Just that game, the tradition in that game, it's woven into the fabric of who we are as a conference. And one man's opinion, I'm really pleased with where we ended. Now again, way down the road we'll see what college football looks like and whether or not we're continuing to have those conversations."

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said the 6-1-1 format passed with an almost "super majority."

"It was a healthy debate but it was an overwhelming majority that voted for the 6-1-1. Even beyond a super majority," Slive said. "My sense was that the athletic directors had labored hard for 3 or 4 months looking at all these options, fully understanding that each and every one had certain advantages and certain disadvantages. And there's been a lot of different discussion. Their recommendation to the presidents and chancellors was 6-1-1."

The strongest opposition came from LSU, which plays Florida as its permanent Eastern division opponent.

"The majority spoke, and I suspect that's going to be the issue for a while," LSU Chancellor Mike Martin said. "You lose some and you win some. I think there's going to have to be some reconsideration of it in a year or two. I don't think anyone put a sunset on it."

Auburn Athletic Director Jay Jacobs said the rivalries must be preserved.

"They're so deeply rooted," Jacobs said. "It's important for us to be able to continue to play Georgia. It just shows the commitment that our ADs and presidents have to what's best for the Southeastern Conference. For us to be able to hold on to those rivalries when in a lot of cases it's not better for everybody else just shows the wisdom in the room and the leadership of Mike Slive."

As expected, the league voiced its support for a four-team college football playoff with no conditions placed upon the participants.

"One-two-three-four, one-two-three-four,'" Slive said. "Right now we are interested in, and I really haven't deviated from this position, if we're going to go to a four-team playoff, which I anticipate we are, that it needs to be and I think the fans would expect us to provide the four best teams in the country, one-two-three-four."

Slive also announced the conference is close to finalizing another bowl tie-in to accommodate the league's expansion to include Missouri and Texas A&M.

Reach Aaron Suttles at Aaron@TideSports.com or at 205-722-0229.

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