BIRMINGHAM | The future of the Alabama-Tennessee football game and other yearly rivalry games is in the hands of university presidents and chancellors and will be decided before the late-May annual Southeastern Conference spring meetings in Destin, Fla.
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said the decision on whether to keep the existing eight-game schedule with a permanent cross-division rival or move to a nine-game conference schedule beginning with the 2016 season will be made by a "vote of the institution(s)," before the spring meetings, where conference legislative agendas are usually discussed and voted upon by university presidents and chancellors.
If the league does away with permanent cross-division games, Alabama loses its annual game with Tennessee and Auburn would drop Georgia from its yearly schedule.
There are four main options currently being discussed.
"We're looking at eight games with or without permanents, nine games with or without permanents and maybe one off-shoot of that, " Slive said while speaking to reporters during the Associated Press Sports Editors' Southeast Regional meeting Monday afternoon.
Slive said all 14 schools in the conference have been shown the different options.
"Of all the formats, everyone has a series of advantages and disadvantages," Slive said. "So people are going to have to make a decision knowing that whatever decision they make, they're going to have some advantages and disadvantages."
The spring meetings are schedule to start May 27, so a decision on the issue would be made before that date.
The permanent cross-division game is popular with Alabama and Tennessee fans, but other schools, such as LSU and Florida, and coaches, like Steve Spurrier, have previously voiced opposition.
Slive also addressed the hot-button topic of granting student-athletes the "full cost of attendance," and several other issues that could enhance the student-athlete experience.
The SEC along with the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12, comprised of a total of 65 institutions, also known as what Slive termed the "Big Five," collectively backed a proposal that calls for the NCAA to grant autonomy to those conferences on certain issues.
If passed by the NCAA Board of Directors, which meets Thursday, changes would take effect in August.
"The issue of the day, as it should be, is the upcoming meeting of the NCAA Board of Directors," Slive said. "The backdrop to that in part is the fact that the five conferences have put forth a proposal, as part of the restructuring process, to create autonomy in certain areas for the five conferences," Slive said. "The nexus for the autonomy is what we believe, what we call a vision for the 21st century as it relates to our relationship with student-athletes."
Slive went further, listing seven key areas in which the "Big Five" would like change.
* "Ensuring our student-athletes are covered for the full cost of college attendance."
* "Fulfilling the health, safety and nutrition needs of our student-athletes."
* "Creating more opportunities for student-athletes to complete their undergraduate degree, if their education is interrupted, cost-free."
* "Updating rules governing agents and advisors, to better assist student-athletes during their transition from the collegiate setting to professional sports, including those outside of athletics."
* "Readdressing the time commitment of the student-athletes to ensure a balanced collegiate experience."
* "Providing comprehensive support for the cost of the educational success of academically-active student-athletes."
* "Giving the student-athletes a voice and vote in NCAA decisions affecting college athletics."
Reach Aaron Suttles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0229.