Some movement, but plenty of disagreement, on SEC roster management

semerson@macon.comMay 31, 2011 

DESTIN, Fla. -- Mark Richt started a media session at the SEC meetings with a flub: He knocked over a glass of water on a conference table, ruining a couple of tape recorders.

When he started speaking on the week’s most heated topic, Richt tried hard not to commit another error. Georgia’s head football coach may have spilled a glass, but he refrained from spilling his guts again about over-signing and grayshirting.

“I’m just gonna listen to what everyone has to say,” Richt said, speaking an hour or so before entering a meeting of coaches, where he was outnumbered by those who don’t want further restrictions.

Richt may have clammed up, but in what little info that came out of that Tuesday meeting, the following could be gleaned:

There is some consensus on some measures proposed by the conference’s athletics directors and put forward by commissioner Mike Slive. Those measures, mostly procedural, could be voted on by coaches Wednesday, then approved by league presidents on Friday.

The sides are still split on the proposal to limit each team to 25 signees in each recruiting class. The current limit is 28, and most coaches professed themselves comfortable with that. But their bosses apparently disagree.

“The number is certainly in play,” LSU head coach Les Miles said after Tuesdsay’s meeting. “The chancellors and the presidents certainly have a strong opinion. The ADs and coaches (may feel) slightly different. I think it will come to a point where we decide on a policy. And I think the intent certainly is to make college football better.”

The over-signing issue became the major one around the conference the past few months. Several coaches have been criticized for signing an excessive amount of players, then making room for them later by releasing players from scholarships or having players take medical exemptions.

The coaches and athletics directors met separately Tuesday; they meet together Wednesday. Then the presidents vote Friday, surely with heavy input from their coaches and athletics directors.

Slive was asked if the ultimate decision on roster management should be influenced by coaches or administrators.

“It doesn’t really matter where it comes from,” Slive said. “This legislation was brought forward by our athletic directors. The important thing was to get it here into Destin so we could in fact talk about it. It can be adopted, it can be rejected, it can be revised. So I think it’s a little early (Tuesday) to be definitive about any aspect of that.”

Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino, among those under fire for the practice, was rather direct on the subject Tuesday.

”Wnen you read what the commissioner wrote, there will probably be a change. You can’t be stupid. When you see the head guy talking about it,” Petrino said. “I’m not sure (critics) really understand it, but there will probably be a change.”

How stark are the differences among some coaches?

“I have always been one that over-signs,” Petrino said, explaining that he did it knowing several wouldn’t be academically ineligible.

But Florida head coach Will Muschamp, taking the opposite position, was curt when he said, “We don’t over-sign.”

That puts Florida and Georgia, arch-rivals on the field every season, on the same side with possibly the minority opinion.

Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity reiterated his school’s position Tuesday, when he was asked if he bought into the idea that teams needed to over-sign because of potential academic casualties.

“I just imagine being on the flip side of that,” McGarity said. “As a parent you never want to be surprised. I think that’s one of the things that you’re trying to avoid, are any surprises. ‘Well you told me this; you didn’t tell me this. You didn’t make it clear enough.’ ”

Even Richt, after softening his rhetoric for most of his media session, gently stated his position again.

“You’ve just gotta do what’s in the best interest of the kid in these situations,” Richt said. “And you’ve gotta do what’s in the best interests of your program, too. But you’ve gotta do it in a way -- there’s a right way of doing those things, I think.”

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