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UF President: SEC Could Expand If An “Ace Jewel” Came Calling

The SEC and Big Ten appear to be playing cowboy these days.  Jim Delany and Mike Slive seem to be locked in a showdown, both men with hands on their holsters just waiting for the other guy to twitch and try to draw first.

And this showdown seems to be just as tense (and slow) as the famous climactic gunfight scene from “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.”  (Pencil Big XII commish Bob Bowlsby into the third gunman’s role.)

 

The Good The Bad and the Ugly Finale

 

While Slive has been quick to say that he’s simply keeping tabs on the situation, most believe he’s secretly working the phones and using back channels to communicate with other schools who might be on the SEC’s wish list.  An ACC source told The Sporting News months ago that the SEC has been chasing North Carolina and Duke for three years.

Well today, Florida president Bernie Machen has revealed that, yes, that SEC might expand again if “some ace jewel called us and said, ‘Can you help us?’”  But in a conversation with CBSSports.com’s Jeremy Fowler he added: “We haven’t had any calls like that.  We haven’t made any calls.”

As we’ve stated previously, most of the folks we’ve spoken to at SEC schools say they would prefer the league finish digesting Missouri and Texas A&M before it bellies back up to the realignment buffet.  For that reason, we at MrSEC.com continue to believe that the next domino to fall will have to be knocked over by the Big Ten and Delany rather than by the SEC and Slive.

Earlier this year, Ohio State president Gordon Gee let it be known that the Big Ten is still considering expanding further.  We’ve been saying for several months that Virginia and Georgia Tech have been in contact with the Big Ten.  It’s also been reported that North Carolina has spoken with the Big Ten at some level.  Other rumors have connected Duke, Pittsburgh, Florida State and Kansas to Delany’s conference.

Fowler, in addition to speaking with Machen, also talked with outgoing Nebraska AD Tom Osborne and he, too, seems to think the Big Ten will keep adding schools:

 

“From the way things are going, I would assume there may be some desire to add a couple more schools.  This is strictly opinion, no hard data or anything like that.  Where exactly they would go, I don’t know.  I’d imagine there would be some interest to the East.  I think the Big Ten’s wide open to looking to other places, too.”

 

Stay tuned.  Especially if an “ace jewel” decides to dial up the SEC office in Birmingham.

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UF’s Machen Says SEC Having “Digestion Issues” With New Additions

Southeastern Conference officials aren’t on the market to add any new teams to the league anytime soon.  But with the current landscape teetering, they can’t completely rule out being forced to move in that direction, either.

From the people we’ve spoken to at various SEC schools, it’s been clear for a while that most presidents prefer to see how this latest round of expansion helps or hurts the league before they head back to the buffet line for a second helping.  Well, judging by what Florida president Bernie Machen said yesterday, those presidents’ stomachs might even be a bit more queasy after a rough week in Destin:

 

“I don’t see any reason to expand right now.  I think we’ve got some digestion issues with going from 12 to 14.  The contracts for media are already set.  We’re negotiating with CBS to expand from 12 to 14.  There just seems to be no logistical reason why we would expand right now.  We want to see how 14 works, sort of.

I don’t see any noise.  What’s going on in other parts of the country is really not affecting us. If the whole world turned upside down tomorrow, we’d probably get back in that mode.  We think it’s pretty calm right now as far as where we are.  We’re tickled to death with the way expansion has worked so far.”

 

Yes, “tickled to death.”  After a week of “digestion issues.”

If the SEC expands again for any reason other than pure necessity, we at MrSEC.com will be shocked.  (Which means the North Florida Ospreys will be announced as School #15 by sunset.)

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It’s Official – Missouri To SEC

1. The official announcement from the SEC  - Mizzou will join July 1, 2012.   Division affiliation was not addressed in the release.

2. Pat Dooley: “High-ranking source in SEC tells me Mizzou definitely going to the East. Gators have a new rival. Bama didn’t want to lose UT.”  Update: Official – Mizzou to East.

3. Mizzou “celebration” this afternoon.  SEC Commisioner Mike Slive and Florida president Bernie Machen will be in attendance in Columbia.

 

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UGA Alum Muschamp Says He’s Loyal To UF Now

First-year Florida coach Will Muschamp says the Georgia game is no big deal to him, even though he once wore the red and black:


“This profession is different than a lot of professions.  You do your job for the school that you’re working for.  It’s my job to do a great job for the University of Florida, and that’s what I’m trying to do.  Again, I talked about it earlier, I don’t mean disrespect to anybody, but I’m loyal to people, not places.  I work for Jeremy Foley and Dr. Bernie Machen, and those are the peole I need to do a good job for and this football team and staff.  That’s how I view things.  I’ve worked at Auburn, LSU and Texas — I’ve worked a lot of different places, and this isn’t the first time I’ve played against Georgia.”


And what if Muschamp did have feelings for UGA on Saturday?  Would he be more emotional on the sideline?  I understand why this is an ongoing story, but I don’t see how it could manifest itself during the game in such a way that it would impact the game.

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SEC Nixes A&M… For Now

And still there are 12.

The SEC’s presidents have elected today not to extend an invitation to Texas A&M at this time, forcing the Aggies to return to the Big 12.

To those who have insisted that we were wrong to suggest that:


A) A&M had put itself into a corner just as Missouri did last year

B) A&M had forced Mike Slive and the SEC into acting more quickly than they wanted to

and C) That the SEC might turn down A&M now and wait instead for a later date when they can take their own sweet time in finding a 14th member…


We say, maybe you shouldn’t have been so ugly with your comments and emails.  Then again, I’m sure those who called us “idiots” will return to apologize.  (Holding breath… now.)

At any rate, Florida president Bernie Machen said today that the league’s presidents and chancellors “reaffirmed our satisfaction with the present 12 institution alignment.”

He went on to say: “We recognize, however, that future conditions may make it advantageous to expand the number of institutions in the league.  We discussed criteria and process associated with expansion.  No action was taken with respect to any institution including Texas A&M.”

In other words, the SEC would still like A&M someday, but it does not want to bring down other conferences (and possibly open itself up to lawsuits) and it also does not want to move forward with 13 schools for the time being.

So let’s recap:


1.  Initial reports suggested there would be a meeting of presidents and chancellors on Saturday, but we were the first to report that the meeting would actually be held today.  Despite later reports from other sites saying that there would be no meeting at all, indeed there was… and t was today.

2.  As we reported first, today’s meeting indeed dealt with whether or not the SEC would even extend A&M a bid.  And as we suggested last night, the timeline made it difficult for the SEC to extend such an invite.

3.  As we noted on Friday, we never thought there was any chance of the SEC taking on a 13th school without first identifying and having a handshake agreement in place with a 14th school as well.  Clearly that was the case.

4.  And despite rumors of done deals and A&M acting with some sort of “nudge-nudge, wink-wink” assurances from the SEC, it turns out that the school’s brass had no such go ahead.  Also as we had written.


Now the waiting game begins to see how Texas A&M officials respond.  Remember that their board of regents is meeting this week and that the Texas legislature has summoned A&M reps to the state capitol as well.

If A&M jumps from the Big 12, then the clock can restart on a partnership… giving the SEC more time to find a 14th member. 

Bottom line: Texas A&M got ahead of itself and lawsuits are now being discussed — if A&M lands in the SEC.  The SEC wants no part of lawsuits, so the ball is back in A&M’s court.  Expect SEC representatives to start quietly reaching out to other schools this week just in case A&M goes ahead and leaps from the Big 12.

But with the Big 12 offering up a “please stay” message this weekend, it’s possible the Aggies crawl back home and simply bide their time for a later date.


We’ll have more coverage tomorrow.  And we’ll try to be just as accurate in the days ahead as we have been this past week.  (No promises… we’re human.)

Thanks for reading the site… and enjoy the rest of your weekend!

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SEC Source Confirms To New York Times Much Of What We’ve Been Saying About Expansion

For the better part of a week, the internet has been thick with rumors that the SEC is zipping speedily toward expansion.  At MrSEC.com we’ve remained a bit more cautious.  We know how our own industry works — someone posts a rumor… someone else reads it as fact… that someone then uses the rumor in a story… and other someones see and quote that story as fact… etc, etc, etc.

Well, today Pete Thamel of The New York Times quotes “a high-ranking SEC official with first-hand knowledge” of the SEC’s expansion talks.  That “high-ranking SEC official” has confirmed much of what we’ve reported over the last couple of days, proving that the more cautious approach is probably the best approach.  (Take that Twitter.)


1.  The New York Times’ source says 11 of the SEC’s 12 presidents and chancellors will meet Sunday to discuss the admission of Texas A&M into the league.  Multiple internet reports have claimed for two days that such a meeting would take place today, but we posted word yesterday – via our own high-ranking SEC source — that the meeting would indeed be held on Sunday and that at least one president/chancellor would be unavailable to meet. 

2.  Thamel’s source said that “there was a 30 to 40 percent chance that the presidents could vote against Texas A&M’s membership.”  Last evening, we shared our views that no official offer had been made and that this weekend’s SEC meeting might have been called to decide whether or not to even extend an invitation to the Aggies.  That appears to be exactly the case.  Looks like A&M has — as we speculated — done exactly what Missouri did last summer.  The Tigers let word get out that they were all packed and waiting for a Big Ten invitation that never came.  Now it appears that A&M has packed its bags even though an SEC invitation has yet to be extended.

3.  “We realize if we do this, we have to have the 14th,” the SEC official told Thamel regarding further expansion.  Shortly after midnight on Friday morning we shot down the idea that the SEC might be willing to sit at 13 schools in order to land A&M.  That idea had gained some legs earlier in the week on multiple websites. 

4.  Thamel’s source said that no name “has been thrown out” regarding a possible 14th team.  “This thing is much slower out of the chute than the media and blogs have made it.”  We have stated on numerous occasions that this process is far from over and that these things take time.  WE noted that no real noise was leaking from the SEC side of things until late in the week, a sign that much of the talk heating up the internet was simply rumor and innuendo.  Again, it appears we were correct.  Also, it does look like A&M’s actions are forcing the SEC’s hand, as we wrote yesterday. 

In addition, we have stated that the SEC would likely have a 14th member lined up before it ever decided to announce a 13th school.  We still believe that to be the case.  If the SEC can’t get quick assurances from a 14th school today, we feel there’s a good chance the SEC presidents will vote “no” on A&M for now… and wait until a later date to bring them and another school onboard.  And if the SEC does vote A&M into the fold tomorrow, we think that will be a clear signal that Mike Slive has had very positive conversations with some other school. 

Try working out a schedule for a 7-team SEC West and a 6-team SEC East.  It’s impossible.  The SEC’s presidents probably won’t risk starting a football season with 13 teams.  In fact, we think it’s more likely that they would tell A&M to suffer through two more seasons in the Big 12 and join the SEC in 2013 rather than risk a year of 13 teams.

5.  This week, we have repeatedly stated our belief that the SEC would want to go to 14, not 16 as so many media members have suggested.  Even today, ESPN’s Doug Gottlieb tweeted that the SEC was aiming for 16.  But from the sounds of Thamel’s source — not to mention our own — 14 is indeed the SEC’s magic number.

6.  We have also reminded our readers in recent days that Slive made it clear last summer that he did not want to be the man to bring about widespread realignment.  Last year, he was willing to chase A&M and Oklahoma because it appeared the Big 12 was on the verge of destruction.  Now, he’s having to deal with A&M — and because of A&M’s actions, other schools in stable leagues — and that cannot please him.  According to Thamel’s source, A&M president R. Bowen Loftin called Slive three weeks ago and told him that he regretted not joining the league last summer.  A week later, Slive asked A&M to look at the legal viability of breaking the Big 12 contract the school signed last summer. 

Thamel’s source: “They have a contract now.  We’re very sensitive about being part of breaking a contract.  What we asked them to do was to go settle their issues and not have us be on the table as the agent of causing them to leave.” 

What we wrote yesterday: “… if Slive and the SEC do extend and invitation to A&M, they’ll want to make it look as though the Aggies came to them.”

7.  Thamel’s source also said that there is a possibility that one or more SEC presidents/chancellors might vote “no” to A&M unless they received assurances that no school in their own states would be added to the league — meaning Florida and Florida State, Georgia and Georgia Tech and South Carolina and Clemson.  We still feel, however, that if the SEC gets a positive response from FSU (and some in the Sunshine State report they would), Slive will be able to sell such a “get” to the league’s other presidents as well as to UF president Bernie Machen.  Money, power and branding are at stake… Florida State would help put more money in Florida’s pocket and they would aide the SEC’s brand and national drawing power.


The bottom line?  We at MrSEC.com have been told by multiple BCS college administrators that our take on expansion and the issues involved with conference realignment are spot on.  Though we have consistently gone out on our own in opposition of mainstream opinion, at least for now it appears that many of our views have indeed been correct.

That’s been the case through much of the expansion madness that began last May, too.

Going all the way back to June 6th of 2010 and the 24-hour period following the salvation of the Big 12, we wrote that that league would eventually blow up anyway and that “Texas A&M will one day be a member of the Southeastern Conference.”  No maybe, no “it might happen.”  We said it was going to happen.  And even if the SEC’s presidents vote no to A&M tomorrow, eventually, the timing will be right and the school will join the league.  As we’ve written for more than a year now, the fit between the two parties is too perfect.

For 15 months we’ve tried to bring you calm coverage of a topic that seems to bring nothing but frenzy from most.  Perhaps that’s why we got such a nice plug from the fine folks at NBC Sports’ CollegeFootballTalk.com yesterday when they referred to MrSEC.com as “as rock-solid a source for football news in that conference (as) you’ll find anywhere.”

Oh sure, we make mistakes.  And our opinions aren’t always going to be correct.  We’re human.  But our goal is to bring you accurate information… not to simply drive up pageviews.  We hope that providing credible information and well-reasoned opinions will be enough to spike our readership.

So if you want timely SEC news delivered with rational, measured, objective opinion, this is the site to come to.  And we thank you for coming to us so much yesterday that you crashed our site for about an hour.  What a good problem to have.

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Richt Rips “Winning At All Costs” Mentality

At the SEC meetings in Destin in a couple of weeks, the topic of oversigning is guaranteed to come up.  The SEC has already put a few ADs to work studying the entire process of roster-building and it’s expected that more than a few athletic directors and presidents — Bernie Machen of Florida, for one — will push the SEC to stop the practice of oversigning altogether.

Mark Richt was asked about oversigning at a Georgia booster function over the weekend.  According to Seth Emerson of both The Macon Telegraph and the The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Richt drew a clear line between oversigning and grayshirting:


“If you bring them in in the summer, and you work them and you let your strength staff work with them, and you kind of decide which ones you like best, and you tell five of them, ‘Hey we know we signed you, and we expected you to be able to come in, we don’t have the space for you, we’re really sorry about that but we don’t have space for you — you’re gonna have to leave and come back in January.’

“I think that’s an awful thing to do, I think that’s the wrong things to do.  And it’s nothing that we’ve done since I’ve been at Georgia.”

This was met by a loud round of applause.

“Not that we haven’t grayshirted, or talked to guys about grayshirting,” Richt added.  “If you tell five of those guys, ‘Hey we’ve got 20 spaces.  I can sign 25.  There’s a good chance that by (the time) school starts there’ll be room for you, because of attrition that happens every year everywhere you go.  If there’s space for you, you come in with your class.  If there’s not space for you, are you willing to come in in January? …

“If you tell them on the front end and they know that, everyone understands that, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.  And that’s how we go about it if we’re going to talk to a guy about grayshirting.”


This is all a matter of perspective, of course.  One group brings in freshmen, decides who can and can’t play, and then forces a few to grayshirt or leave.  The other group — which would include Richt — brings in freshmen and tells them that they’ll probably have a roster slot due to “attrition,” which is often just code for a coach running off an underperforming veteran.

So, is it better to mislead freshmen?  Or better to mislead veterans?  (Arkansas’ Bobby Petrino, for example, has been handing veteran players their walking players left and right over the past week.)

Richt certainly believes that his way is more honest and — in Richt’s case — it may well be.  The guy has earned his choir boy reputation. 

“These other coaches have been oversigning, trying to grayshirt, trying to make sure they never come up short of that 85 (scholarship limit) number,” Richt said.  “But in doing so, have they done it in an ethical way, which is what you’re asking.  And I’d say not.  That’s why the NCAA is trying to change its rules.”

Richt wasn’t finished.  “There’s been a bit too much of the winning at all costs in college football.  And I hope the tide turns in the other direction.”

(Readers will start wondering if Richt slipped in the word “tide” on purpose in three… two… one…)


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UF In Top 5 Of Elite LB

Florida is “definitely going to be in my top five.”  So says top linebacker prospect Noor Davis of Ocala, Florida who visited Gainesville last Saturday.

“They treated me outstanding.  Not only did I meet with all of the coaches, but I met with the president of the university, Bernie Machen, and the athletic director, Jeremy Foley.  So ti was a great trip just because they organized it so well.  They just expressed how much interest they have in me.”

Davis is 6-4, 225 pounds and sports a 4.3 GPA.

He also happens to be the nephew of Hall of Fame linebacker Andre Tippett.  So as a Pats fan, here’s hoping Davis winds up at Florida or at least somewhere in the SEC.

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SEC Headlines – 2/2/11

Just a few more non-signing day-related notes as we start the day:

1.  LSU will be trying to snap a four-game losing skid when they host South Carolina tonight.

2.  Winter weather in Arkansas has caused travel woes for Georgia… who is scheduled to face the Hogs tonight.

3.  Mississippi State’s recruiting class has taken some hits in the past month.

4.  Florida president Bernie Machen calls the practice of grayshirting and oversigning morally reprehensible.

5.  Georgia quarterback-turned-receiver Logan Gray is planning to transfer.

6.  Kentucky’s veterans failed to come through in Oxford last night.

7.  Tennessee’s top two players are trying to overcome ankle injuries before tomorrow’s game at Auburn.

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The SEC Will Look At The Issue Of Oversigning (Again)

SEC associate commissioner Greg Sankey says a group of conference athletic directors will study the issue of oversigning and present possible solutions at the SEC’s spring meetings in Destin (which actually take place in early June this year). 

The SEC has caught a lot of heat over the issue of oversigning in recent weeks.  Most leagues allow it, but being the home to five national champs in a row — and the numeric leaders on the oversigning front — the chickens are coming home to roost in the SEC’s coops.  Florida president Bernie Machen (photo at left) isn’t happy about that fact, either.

“I don’t think the rule we passed is going to solve the problem,” Machen told USA Today.  He was referring to the “no more than 28 signees” rule that the league put in place last year.  The rule has since been copied by the NCAA.  But schools are still able to get around that 28-man decree.

“There are still universities that will oversign and it’s going to end up with a student-athlete being left out.  I think we either have to get the universities to be more serious about it, or the league and the NCAA are going to have to pass more stringent punishments for those who do oversign.”

Machen laid the blame for the continuing problem at the feet of his fellow SEC presidents.  “Every president sat at the table when we had that discussion (about the 28-man rule).  For some reason, some of them are not stepping up and stopping it.  Imagine what would happen if in the general student body admission process, the same thing happened.  If you admit a student in early February then you tell them in early July that we’re not going to have a spot for you.  The public wouldn’t stand for it, and I don’t believe, if we put enough sunshine on this, the public will allow this to happen, in intercollegiate athletics.”

Get ready to see the SEC stamp out oversigning completely before next February.  Machen, commissioner Mike Slive and most other league presidents can’t like the fact that their league has become a punching bag over this issue.  Especially — as we pointed out today — when the league doesn’t need to oversign to win.

The guess around here at MrSEC Headquarters is this: You’re about to see your last 30-man signing classes in the Southeastern Conference.

And Big Ten fans will have to find something else to complain about as the SEC goes right on winning.

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