Changes may have to wait for basketball

semerson@macon.comMay 31, 2011 

DESTIN, Fla. -- There could be a drastic change in how SEC men’s basketball is structured and scheduled. It just may not happen until later.

If Georgia’s Mark Fox is to be believed, the movement is toward change.

Fox said before the SEC meetings that he believed there was “momentum for change” among the coaches. That includes possibly eliminating divisions, adding two games to the conference schedule and changes to tournament seeding.

But SEC commissioner Mike Slive said he didn’t think eliminating divisions would be voted on this week.

“There’s no need to make a decision about how we do it in the future here,” Slive said. “What we wanted to get done was to get some significant dialogue about (divisions). … In basketball, almost all the conferences don’t have divisions, so we oughta be asking ourselves the question, rather than just going brightly on, ‘Should we take a look and see if we like it?’ ”

Fox, entering his third year at Georgia, said the conference should “look very hard at going away from being in divisions.”

“I support change. Until we hammer it out in that room, I don’t know if I can tell you which one I’m leaning towards,” he said. “I do feel like we have to do what’s best for the league.”

The basketball coaches were expected to discuss the proposed changes when they met for five hours Tuesday afternoon. An official vote would come Wednesday, after the coaches hold a joint meeting with their athletics directors.

Florida head coach Billy Donovan threw out a pretty radical idea -- seeding the tournament by RPI rank. Donovan indicated an 18-game schedule also had a good chance of becoming reality. Slive grinned and laughed when told of that idea.

The possible changes would be a sea change compared to last year, when re-seeding the league tournament -- using overall, not division finish -- was voted down. The vote then was 6-6, with the West coaches blocking any change.

“Some coaches have changed,” Fox said, smiling. “So there’s a couple changes that might happen. It wasn’t something that we could come to a consensus on last year. And there were good arguments for both sides. But I think there’s a lot more attention to this issue this year.”

Thoughts on Tressel and Pearl

A day after the forced resignation of Ohio State’s Jim Tressel, two of his fellow SEC coaches spoke warmly about Tressel.

“I guess if we were in the military, you’d say we lost a fine comrade,” said Alabama’s Nick Saban, who like Tressel has won a BCS championship. “Our paths crossed quite a bit, and I always had a tremendous amount of respect for Jim Tressel as a coach, a professional and a person, the way he sort of handled his business with a lot of class and character.”

Mississippi’s Houston Nutt got to know Tressel during a nine-day trip they took to Iraq several years ago.

“He’s one of the finest men I know,” Nutt said. “I just know at his core what he’s about. He’s a good man.”

Meanwhile, Donovan said he has spoken several times to former Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl, who was fired in March amid NCAA violations.

“Bruce to me has always been a guy that always looks at things as the glass being half full. I think he’s trying to move on from it,” Donovan said. “I think when things like that happen, whether it be Bruce Pearl or Jim Tressel, people want to push back or stay away. I’ve been in this league a long time. I don’t know the whole facts about that situation. But I just felt the right thing was to reach out and talk (to him).”

Not changing Chizik

Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said applications to Auburn are up 20 percent since the Tigers won the BCS championship. Other than that, he wasn’t making a big deal of being a defending champion.

“My life in particular has not changed,” Chizik said.

Chizik said say he spoke with Mack Brown about “moving forward” after winning a national title. Chizik was Brown’s defensive coordinator at one point. But since so many players are gone from Auburn’s team from last year, it doesn’t feel like the Tigers have to defend much.

“January 10th is so far back in our rearview mirror, it’s gone,” Chizik said.

One candidate to join Auburn could be Russell Wilson, the quarterback who is transferring from N.C. State. Chizik cannot talk about Wilson, so he spoke in generalities when asked.

“As we go down the recruiting road, whoever gives us the opportunity to win … then obviously that’s my job, and I’m for it,” Chizik said.

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