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What To Look For At This Week’s SEC Meetings

With the SEC’s spring meetings kicking off in Destin tomorrow, we thought we’d give you a quick primer on what might pop up during those discussions.  And remember, while the league’s coaches will be on hand, it’s the administrators and lead muckety-mucks from all 12 schools who will be casting final votes on the league’s top issues (which is exactly how it should be, by the way).

Some of the topics that should/might get some attention (in no particular order):


1.  Cheating

When Mike Slive took over as the SEC’s commissioner he made it clear that he wanted to clean up the league’s reputation and get every conference program off NCAA probation within five years.  He came darn near close to doing just that, too.

But unfortunately, all the good work done in the mid-2000s has now been flushed away.  In the past few months the national spotlight has fallen on the SEC for negative reasons.  Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl and Lane Kiffin, Auburn’s Cam Newton and Cecil Newton, Columbia’s The Whitney Hotel.  Akiem Hicks at LSU, Brent Calloway at Alabama, the HBO Four down on The Plains.  Eric Bledsoe’s pre-Kentucky transcript.  AJ Green’s sold Georgia jersey.  Scott Moore’s alleged audio tapes.  FBI wiretaps.  Street agents and runners and recruiting services. 

Bad, bad, bad and bad. 

Expect Slive — who worked in the legal profession before moving to sports — to read the proverbial riot act to the coaches and ADs and presidents attending this week’s meeting.  In the past he has said that only the SEC can stop the SEC.  Expect him to remind his troops of that very loudly in Destin.


2.  The Cam Newton Loophole

Shortly after the NCAA ruled that Newton could play in the SEC and BCS championship games, a spokesperson for the governing body said that Newton’s lack of knowledge of his father’s actions had had a bearing on the NCAA’s decision.  The NCAA then kiboshed that statement saying that Newton was not ruled ineligible because no money had changed hands between Auburn, Mississippi State or his father.

Slive and NCAA president Mark Emmert have since admitted that a loophole now exists and it needs to be closed.  By the letter of the law — at least in the NCAA’s interpretation — it’s okay to ask for money as long as you don’t actually take money.  Obviously, that’s ridiculous.

Don’t be surprised if the SEC tries to clarify its own rulebook and bylaws in this area.


3.  Playing The Rat

Sticking with L’affaire Newton, Slive reportedly was not happy that some people close to the Newton issue at MSU leaked the pay-for-play story to the press.

The SEC expects its schools to turn over information regarding cheating to the league office and then await the league’s decision.  Some folks in Starkville — apparently — felt that the SEC wasn’t acting quickly enough so they took matters into their own hands.  The next thing ya know, ESPN’s Joe Schad is quoting a source as saying that Newton had told an MSU representative — allegedly Dan Mullen’s wife — that the money offered by Auburn was just too much to turn down.

We expect Slive to remind the folks attending this week’s meetings that rats will not be viewed kindly at the league offices.


4.  Recruiting Dirt

While we’re on it, the SEC will likely discuss a number of issues that are threatening to make football recruiting just as dirty as basketball recruiting: 7-on-7 camps (which are thisclose to those shady AAU camps in hoops), street agents and runners and other third parties who have their hands out, and recruiting services (who charge thousands of dollars just to provide DVDs and phone numbers to schools… or so they claim).

This area bears watching.


5.  Cost Of Attendance Scholarships

The SEC — like all other BCS leagues — will definitely take this one up at its meetings.  The idea is that student-athletes need more than just tuition, room and board to survive.  The BCS leagues are interested in taking some of their millions of dollars of television revenue and adding to the value of players’ scholarships to make up the difference.

If you’re a realist, you know that the goal here is for the BCS leagues to create an even greater talent gulf between themselves and the non-BCS leagues.  If you’re a hotshot quarterback, for example, would you sign to play at Boise State for a scholarship or would you sign to play at Kentucky for some kind of newfangled scholarship-plus?

But there’s a lot to be worked out in this area.  What are the tax ramifications on the schools and players?  What about cost of living differences (it costs more to go to school in New York or LA than it does Auburn or Athens)?  Would players form a union and strike for more cash?  Would the NCAA okay any of this in the first place?

We expect talk, but we don’t expect any conclusions.


6.  Oversigning

This is the A-1, top-drawer, biggie of the week.  Amazingly, in defending the practice of oversigning — which the league office is covering under the banner of “roster management” — league coaches have gone so far as to say that the SEC’s level of play would be hurt if its oversigning rules were changed.  In doing so, coaches like Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier and Houston Nutt have verified the loudest claim made by rival conferences and rival fans: The SEC wins because it uses a loophole that other conferences — for the most part — do not.

Slive wants to make changes.  And while football coaches will kick and scream, the final say will go to people on the academic side of things.  That fact — as well as the fact that Slive is trotting out a proposal in the first place — makes it likely in our view that some changes will come about in Destin.

That is a good thing. 

For those ready to bark about that last statement, ask yourself this: Would you be lighting torches and grabbing pitchforks if the Big Ten had just won five straight BCS titles by taking advantage of a loophole that the SEC did not?  In a word — Oh-hell-yes-you-would-and-you-know-it! 

The SEC has the richest/sharpest coaches in the country.  The SEC has the best facilities in the country.  The SEC has the deepest talent pool in the country.  There is no reason to think that the SEC would wither away should some form of “roster management” plan be put in place to protect teenage student-athletes.

The coaches like having the ability to oversign.  They’re overstating its value in an effort to keep it.  As we’ve noted before, if oversigning was a sure-fire path to national crowns, Ole Miss’ Nutt would be the most decorated coach in the country.


7.  Cowbells

MSU got a warning at last year’s meetings.  “If your fans use their cowbells during plays, you’ll be fined and we’ll take ‘em away next year.”  Bulldog fans rang their bells as usual for the first half of the season… until Slive put his boot on the neck of MSU AD Scott Stricklin.  At that point, the MSU administration made an extra push to warn its fanbase that the bells could really/actually/we-mean-it go away if they weren’t rung “responsibly.”

During the final stretch of State’s season, fans did a better job of using their bells appropriately. 

We at MrSEC.com hope the league allows State to keep its tradition.  However, it wouldn’t hurt for the league to up the fines in order to properly motivate Stricklin and the MSU athletic department to stay on top of Bulldog fans.


8.  Basketball Divisions And Tournament Seeding

Last year, there was no strong drive to re-seed the SEC’s basketball tournament or do away with divisional play.  This year that might change.  There is a view that by showing the divisional standings each week, the SEC might be hurting itself in terms of NCAA Tournament bids.  (Ask Alabama if playing in the West helped or hurt its chances for a bid last year.)

We believe the current SEC scheduling set-up is a good one.  If division standings were dropped, all 12 teams were lumped together, and the league tourney were seeded 1-12 next March, there’s no reason to completely scrap divisional play.  Let the East play the East and the West play the West — where rivalries already exist — in home-and-home series each year.  And allow each school to face non-divisional teams once each as is currently the plan.  That’s 16 games.

We suggest the league simply add two more games to the conference schedule which would allow each East team to face two West teams (and vice versa) on a home-and-home basis each season.  Those opponents would rotate each year.  In effect, an SEC West squad would play the five other West teams at home and away, two SEC East teams at home and away, and then four other SEC teams once each.  (While not technically using the East/West labels.)

Such a plan would: only take away two non-conference games, create a more balanced league schedule (for NCAA purposes), and allow those schools who’ve already developed strong divisional rivals to continue to play those rivals twice-each on a yearly basis.

We’ll see what — if anything — the league comes up with this week.


9.  Television Contracts

While the SEC set the bar on television contracts several summers ago and therefore had to know that eventually it would be caught, we believe it likely that Slive will give the league’s presidents an overview of which leagues are making what dollars from which television partners in today’s market.  That’s simply good business.  You always keep an eye on what the competition is doing, how they’re doing it, and how it affects your own bottom line.


10.  League Expansion

If the league takes a look at what other conferences are making — and why they’re making it — it’s likely then that the subject of possible league expansion might come up again.  Don’t forget, this will be the first SEC meeting since Slive had conversations with Texas A&M and Oklahoma representatives last June.

While we don’t expect the SEC to kickstart Expansionpalooza this summer, we again say that it’s good business to prepare for potential future shifts in the college landscape.  So you shouldn’t be surprised if some word leaks out this week that the SEC kicked around some names regarding potential dance partners should the college sports world get all froggy again sometime in the near future.

 


3 comments
johnmrsec
johnmrsec

gbob...

I look at this post and my mouth drops. What in the hell in this piece is anti-Alabama?

Wow.

Once again, there's what the writer writes... and there's what the biased reader reads.

Anti-Alabama?

John

David
David

If the NCAA had "gold standard" schools on compliance, UNC and OSU would belong to that club. Look at them now.

The NCAA's going to have to blast some programs. The conferences can pass rules and shake fingers all day long.

gbob
gbob

It is so obvious that u r negatively biased towards Alabama....but I will tell u and I know u will remember in the coming years, the Tide is the creame of the crop in the SEC TODAY and YESTERDAY...with that I wish u a good day remembering/living TODAY and YESTERDAY!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Read more of “What to look for at this week’s SEC meetings” on MrSEC.com 5.31.11 [...]

  2. [...] By John Pennington, Mr. SEC We thought we’d give you a quick primer on what might pop up during those discussions. And remember, while the league’s coaches will be on hand, it’s the administrators and lead muckety-mucks from all 12 schools who will be casting final votes on the league’s top issues (which is exactly how it should be, by the way). Some of the topics that should/might get some attention (in no particular order): 1. Cheating When Mike Slive took over as the SEC’s commissioner he made it clear that he wanted to clean up the league’s reputation and get every conference program off NCAA probation within five years. He came darn near close to doing just that, too. In the past few months the national spotlight has fallen on the SEC for negative reasons. Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl and Lane Kiffin, Auburn’s Cam Newton and Cecil Newton, Columbia’s The Whitney Hotel. 6. Oversigning This is the A-1, top-drawer, biggie of the week. Coaches say that the SEC’s level of play would be hurt if its oversigning rules were changed. [More] [...]

  3. [...] By John Pennington, Mr. SEC We thought we’d give you a quick primer on what might pop up during those discussions. And remember, while the league’s coaches will be on hand, it’s the administrators and lead muckety-mucks from all 12 schools who will be casting final votes on the league’s top issues (which is exactly how it should be, by the way). Some of the topics that should/might get some attention (in no particular order): 1. Cheating When Mike Slive took over as the SEC’s commissioner he made it clear that he wanted to clean up the league’s reputation and get every conference program off NCAA probation within five years. He came darn near close to doing just that, too. In the past few months the national spotlight has fallen on the SEC for negative reasons. Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl and Lane Kiffin, Auburn’s Cam Newton and Cecil Newton, Columbia’s The Whitney Hotel. 6. Oversigning This is the A-1, top-drawer, biggie of the week. Coaches say that the SEC’s level of play would be hurt if its oversigning rules were changed. [See More] [...]

  4. [...] By John Pennington, Mr. SEC We thought we’d give you a quick primer on what might pop up during those discussions. And remember, while the league’s coaches will be on hand, it’s the administrators and lead muckety-mucks from all 12 schools who will be casting final votes on the league’s top issues (which is exactly how it should be, by the way). Some of the topics that should/might get some attention (in no particular order): 1. Cheating When Mike Slive took over as the SEC’s commissioner he made it clear that he wanted to clean up the league’s reputation and get every conference program off NCAA probation within five years. He came darn near close to doing just that, too. In the past few months the national spotlight has fallen on the SEC for negative reasons. Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl and Lane Kiffin, Auburn’s Cam Newton and Cecil Newton, Columbia’s The Whitney Hotel. 6. Oversigning This is the A-1, top-drawer, biggie of the week. Coaches say that the SEC’s level of play would be hurt if its oversigning rules were changed. [Read More] [...]



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