So what should we take away from today’s voting in Destin? Here’s are just a few observations:
* As we noted last week, Mike Slive would not have prepared a proposal to limit oversigning and publicized the fact that he had a proposal if he didn’t think he had the votes to pass said proposal. While the unanimous vote certainly shows Slive’s ability to build a consensus (ie: his power), it also shows that he has a good grasp on the attitudes and moods of his presidents.
* Think the SEC’s presidents are tired of hearing how they’re a football factory first and foremost? During Expansionpalooza last year it was often stated that the Big Ten, Pac-10 and Texas were all considering academics, entrance requirements, and membership in the esteemed Association of American Universities in their decisions. Meanwhile the SEC was continually referred to as a “lesser” academic league. Making matters worse, over the past year the oversigning issue has been used like a hammer on the league’s head… and last fall the SEC made news again for bringing in controversial transfer Jeremiah Masoli. Today’s votes nuked the Masoli exception and placed the SEC at the front of the pack (just behind the Big Ten) in terms of oversigning. Score one for the folks who want the SEC to be about more than just football.
* All those people in the media who like to talk about football coaches having the most power on college campuses will have to find a new drum to beat. In the SEC at least, the coaches just took a drum-like beating. After the coaches voted 12-0 to keep the oversigning rules as they were, the coaches’ bosses got together and voted 12-0 the other way… not only approving changes but approving major changes. Changes so big that no one really expected them to even get serious consideration this week. Here’s guessing a few presidents enjoyed flexing their muscles and making it clear to the world that they are not the puppets of their football coaches.
* Expect the Big Ten’ers to continue to whine about SEC advantages. The argument will now have to shift, but you can expect the SEC to be taken to task for not capping its rosters at 85, period. But Big Ten backers need to take it up with the Big 12 and Pac-10 and ACC, etc. For now the SEC is second only to the Big Ten in terms of roster management. Best whine about someone else, Yanks.
* The SEC’s coaches have to be absolutely livid. They lost on almost every front this week. Medical exemptions, grad student transfers, a 25-man cap on signees. To put things in political terms, this was Reagan-Mondale and the coaches were Mondale.
* Last year during the expansion frenzy, we spent a lot of time breaking down the academic side of several potential moves and mergers (as well as the athletic and budgetary sides). As a result, we took more than a little criticism from folks who claimed that football would trump all and that academics would play no role whatsoever. At the time, we tried to remind those critics that while money makes the world go ’round, the men making the final decisions on conference shifts were — at heart — academicians. We feel today’s vote in the football-crazy SEC validates our opinion. Football matters. A lot. But even in the SEC, the schools are bigger than the football programs. At least that’s the message the league’s presidents sent today.
* How much of today’s voting was a result of bad publicity? How much of it was a reaction to a year’s worth of stories that put the SEC in a negative light? If not for Cam Newton, Bruce Pearl, the HBO Four, Masoli and others, would the presidents have voted to take such drastic measures across the board in terms of roster management? We seriously doubt it. The league’s presidents wanted America to know that the SEC is not Delta House.
* How would you like to be Houston Nutt today? It was his 37-man signing class two years ago that first drew national attention to the SEC’s oversigning ways. His rush to snap up the troubled Masoli from Oregon last summer then created even more scrutiny for himself, his program and his conference. In many ways, today’s voting can be viewed as a rebuke of Nutt and his methods of roster-building. And don’t think several other SEC coaches aren’t quietly blaming him — at least in part — for creating a mess that they are now being held responsible for.
* How much of an impact will today’s moves have on the SEC’s future football success? That depends on who else follows the league’s moves. The commissioner noted today that the NCAA “should and will” follow the SEC’s lead. If it does — and all other leagues move to a 25-man cap — then the resulting impact of these changes should not be too great. As we’ve said time and again, the SEC has an enormous talent advantage over other leagues from other parts of the country. But if the SEC is left out on an island with the Big Ten for several years — and we don’t see that happening — then the impact could be very big and very bad. But again, we don’t see that happening and we certainly don’t see this as a time for football fans to start panicking. Over the decades, rules have come and rules have gone and still the SEC has played America’s best brand of football. We don’t believe today’s vote will change that.