SEC meetings: Five things to watch

semerson@macon.comMay 30, 2011 

The coaches, athletics directors and presidents of each SEC school converge on Destin, Fla., this week for the annual conference meetings. As usual, there won’t be much time for the beach: Several major issues are on the agenda, as well as other legislation put forth by commissioner Mike Slive.

Here are five things to watch at the meetings:

1. Roster management

The so-called practice of over-signing by football programs has become the dominant topic heading into Destin, at least among fans and media. Slive has prepared legislation on the topic, and the coaches are likely to discuss it Tuesday. Those meetings would be entertaining, with Georgia head coach Mark Richt among those being vocally against over-signing and Alabama’s Nick Saban, Houston Nutt and Steve Spurrier being vocally for it.

While Slive won’t achieve any consensus among the coaches, he will try to get the administrators to agree on an overall plan. The easier task will be getting an agreement on the SEC overseeing medical exemptions, but further limiting signing classes and gray-shirting will be a tougher task.

2. Coaching tension

The over-signing issue is the cause of, but also the result of, a bit of the rivalries between coaches. Richt and Spurrier are buddies, but Richt and Saban have a pretty healthy dislike, which grows out of plenty of head-to-head recruiting battles.

The basketball side is at least free of some of the tension caused by former Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl. But John Calipari is still around at Kentucky.

It’s nothing like the Lane Kiffin days. But any sign of conflict will be pointed out by the media, so Slive will probably take the time to gently remind his coaches how much he hates a public airing out of grievances.

3. Basketball realignment

Slive is moving the conference toward some fairly significant changes to the men’s basketball schedule. The question is whether the coaches will go with him.

Last year, the Western coaches blocked an attempt to re-seed the tournament according to record and not division finish. There may be more votes for that this year, but Slive is pushing for more drastic changes.

There will be discussion about doing away with divisions entirely, as in women’s basketball. There will also be talk about adding two more conference games and altering the yearly conference schedule.

4. NCAA issues

There are a lot that fall under this umbrella: regulating non-coaching personnel in football and men’s basketball, third-party basketball recruiting and the basketball recruiting schedule.

Most of these decisions are made at the national level by the NCAA, but Slive will take the pulse of his coaches and take that to the NCAA later. Or other decisions could be more top-down, and Slive might simply be preparing his coaches for what’s about to happen.

5. Dollars and sense

This shouldn’t be a problem for a conference that already has a lucrative, long-term contract with CBS and ESPN. But the Big 12 and Pac-12 have just inked big deals too.

Slive reiterated that he’s happy with the SEC’s television deals but added that “we’ve been known to be creative. We have (been) known to do things that other people haven’t done.” He didn’t elaborate, but behind closed doors he might meet with school decision-makers.

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