Roster question moves to SEC presidents

semerson@macon.comJune 2, 2011 

DESTIN, Fla. -- The heated issue of over-signing and roster management is now in the hands of the SEC’s presidents. But not after the football coaches had their say, and some in quite pointed fashion.

The SEC is looking at a number of proposals to curb some issues such as over-signing, gray-shirting and medical disqualifications. The result was what commissioner Mike Slive called a “spirited” dialogue.

The conference’s coaches met behind closed doors with their athletics directors on Wednesday, and according to one version voted 12-0 against the most controversial proposal: To limit each team’s signing class to 25 players. The current limit is 28.

Alabama’s Nick Saban, a focal point of critics of over-signing, made his point clear.

“What’s the problem with 28?” Saban said, addressing the media. “You all are creating a bad problem for everybody, because you’re going to mess up the kids getting opportunities by doing what you’re doing. You think you’re helping them, but you’re really gonna hurt them. You take one case where somebody didn’t get the right opportunity but you need to take the other 100 cases where somebody got the opportunity because of it.”

The presidents appear to disagree. South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said he didn’t think the presidents favored staying at the 28 limit.

Georgia president Michael Adams is virtually certain to vote for the 25-player limit. No matter what happens, Georgia appears set to continue its policy of not signing more players than it has room for on the roster.

“I don’t see us changing the way we think,” Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity said.

But Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt, also a vocal critic of over-signing, softened his rhetoric after the Wednesday meeting.

“I’d say in our head coaches meeting, when it came to proposals, that was the one that had the most discussion to it,” Richt said. “I thought it was a very good discussion. I thought we had some good ideas that we presented. But we don’t want anything -- there’s more conversation and more process to be done before everything gets spewed out all over the airwaves. It’s better that we don’t say anything at this point, and see where it goes.”

NCAA president Mark Emmert didn’t take a stance on over-signing. But he said he was “very pleased” that Slive had put it on the agenda.

“It obviously generates a lot of controversy,” Emmert said. “My position is I want to make sure that we’re taking care of student-athletes and not putting them in a position where they’re hung out to try. At the same time I understand it’s a complicated question for coaches to make sure they keep their programs full. And there’s room in the middle of that for a lot of debate.”

Emmert was asked if conferences should be playing on the same set of rules.

“The way it works with a whole array of issues is the NCAA sets a national standard, and then if conferences want to be more restrictive then they can be,” he said. “So if the SEC or any other conference wants to have a more restrictive approach to that, then they’re welcome to do so. That’s a local decision that they can make.”

And Slive said that local decision will be made by the presidents, no matter the vocal opinion of the coaches.

“The only vote that counts is Friday afternoon,” Slive said. “Everything else is just part of discussion and information to be shared by the groups.”

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