SEC coaches vote to drop basketball divisions

semerson@macon.comJune 2, 2011 

DESTIN, Fla. -- The SEC men’s basketball standings will look a lot different next year, and so will the tournament.

The conference’s coaches voted on Wednesday to essentially stop using the division format, which has been intact since the league expanded to 12 teams two decades ago. The move is expected to be formally approved by the athletics directors Friday at the conclusion of the conference’s spring meetings.

“I think we’re tired of our league being presented as two different ones,” said Georgia head coach Mark Fox, who favored the move.

The schedule will remain the same for the upcoming season, since it’s too late to change that. But the conference standings will not be broken into East and West anymore, and the tournament will be seeded 1-12, with the top four teams getting byes.

The past few seasons have seen a wide disparity in the divisions: Alabama won the West with a 12-4 record, yet it didn’t get an NCAA bid, while the East Division’s Tennessee went 8-8 but did go to the NCAAs.

Two years ago, the top four teams in the East went unbeaten against the West. But the top two teams in the West got byes in the SEC tournament, leading East coaches to push for re-seeding of the tournament at the 2010 conference meetings.

That didn’t pass, as it was blocked by Western coaches. But there was a change in thinking this year.

“We need to look at ourselves and how we’re positions ourselves as a basketball league,” Mississippi head coach Andy Kennedy said. “We’re the only ones that have divisions in the power system (of conferences).”

Fox called the dialogue in the coaches’ meeting both “heated” and excellent.”

“We did have very active dialogue, the most active dialogue we’ve had since I’ve been in the league, regarding a lot of topics,” Fox said. “But I think the general consensus is the coaches in the league now are genuinely concerned with doing what’s best to help the league. I really felt like all the conversations weren’t selfishly driven, they were motivated by an interest to make the league better.”

SEC commissioner Mike Slive, a former chairman of the NCAA selection committee, felt it was a good move for the conference.

“I’m pleased that we’ve come to this conclusion,” Slive said. “I think it’s better for SEC basketball.”

In the meantime, the SEC will also study future scheduling, under the assumption that the old division model (two each vs. fellow division foes, one each against the other division) will no longer exist.

Expanding the schedule to 18 games, or even more, would be on the study list for the future, and could happen for the 2012-13 season.

“We may indeed find that adding games in conference play is of value. We just don’t know that yet,” Fox said.

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