Destin: Schedules, BCS and expansion top the SEC docket

semerson@macon.comMay 26, 2012 

ATHENS -- The Hilton Sandestin is actually part of a sprawling complex on the beach. But each year, when the SEC holds it annual meetings at the facility, most of the dignitaries keep to a smaller area of conference rooms and the main lobby. The sun and fun are for any family members tagging along.

There are no dramatic, over-hanging issues entering this year’s meetings, at least like there was last year with the over-signing controversy. The conference appears on the same page as far as the biggest issue in college sports right now, the football playoff.

But a number of issues will be on the docket:

1. Football schedules

The revamped 14-team schedule for the next dozen years is expected to be voted on and released this week. The schedule for 2012, the first with Missouri and Texas A&M, was put together late last year, but that was just a stop-gap.

Since then, the athletics directors have been negotiating and trying to hammer out what the scheduling philosophy will be. The indications are they have arrived at a framework and just need it approved this week.

“How many times have we talked about it? We’ve talked about it in Phoenix, in Nashville, in New Orleans,” Georgia athletics director McGarity said, ticking off the locations where he and his counterparts have met to discuss the schedule. “And we’ve gone through it. Now’s where we can finally put it to rest, for hopefully a 12-year period for football.”

Georgia fans are only waiting to see who will be the eighth conference opponent in 2013 and beyond. Seven are locked in: The six other East Division teams, plus Auburn.

2. Basketball schedules

Similarly, the scheduling philosophy for men’s basketball also has been up in the air. What is known is that the conference will go to an 18-game schedule next season and will stick with a non-division format even with 14 teams.

But who will play who twice per year remains to be announced. As of last month, Georgia men’s basketball head coach Mark Fox said he had yet to see any plans. But he has told several Bulldogs fan groups that it’s a possibility, for instance, that Georgia might not play Florida twice per year.

3. The football playoff

The standard procedure, when it comes to national issues, is for SEC presidents to give commissioner Mike Slive “parameters” on how to handle it with other commissioners, according to Georgia president Michael Adams.

“(The playoff) is kind of like coaching salaries, that kind of gets the presidents’ blood moving a little bit,” Adams said. “And I think there will be some strongly held opinions among the presidents about how those questions ought to be answered.”

Still, it doesn’t seem there will be a huge amount of drama from the SEC meetings when it comes to the playoff. The position of the commissioner and the presidents is well known, as the SEC has long been a proponent of a playoff, it is only this year that the rest of college football has caught up.

“There’s a growing consensus about a playoff. And still some debate about the role of the bowls, where it would be, how it would be selected.”

That’s where the SEC presidents will voice their opinion, and perhaps emerge from Destin with a recommendation. Even then, the conference is just one voice, and on the most contentious part of the debate, the SEC’s opinion is already known: While the Big Ten, Pac-12 and others would prefer only conference champions to make a playoff, the SEC wants room for an at-large, such as Alabama this past year.

It also seems likely the SEC will be in favor of keeping the bowls involved. Even Adams, who has taken thinly veiled shots at the Rose Bowl, is in favor of the bowls.

“I think the bowls deserve a lot of consideration, given what they have done for us over the years,” Adams said. “I don’t think you walk away from your friends.”

The bottom line is it doesn’t seem likely the SEC will move the national debate too much this week.

4. Welcoming the new teams -- and talking about more

This will be the first time Texas A&M and Missouri have representatives at an official, public SEC event to be interviewed, other than the post-spring football teleconference.

The football head coaches, Missouri’s Gary Pinkel and Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin, will be meeting many colleagues for the first time. Arkansas men’s basketball head coach Mike Anderson will have an awkward reunion with his former bosses at Missouri, where he left a year ago.

There will be a lot of glad-handing and “welcome to the SEC” talk. But behind closed doors, or at least over a beer at the pool, some officials will talk about further expansion. The SEC is content to stay at 14, but if there is a big movement to super-conferences, the conference has to consider who might be next. There will also be discussion of whether it would need to respond to the Big 12 if that conference makes a move near SEC territory, such as Florida State.

5. What’s next for TV

The SEC already has lucrative broadcast deals with CBS and ESPN for football. But that was before expansion, and the conference has an opt-out clause.

The next thing for the conference may be an SEC network, similar to what the Big Ten has done, with much success. The conference is exploring that option, and Slive could provide some details.

Schools will be anxious to know about the SEC’s future in TV. They were enticed to expand the conference to 14, thus diluting each school’s current TV payout, on the promise that the next deal would be even bigger.

6. The sideshows

There will be some discussion of Steve Spurrier’s proposal to have only division games count toward deciding the division champions. But the South Carolina head football coach’s idea is likely dead on arrival.

In any case, Spurrier is liable to say something interesting, as is new Arkansas football head coach John L. Smith, who replaced Bobby Petrino. New South Carolina men’s basketball head coach Frank Martin could also fill a reporter’s notebook.

And several other coaches will deal with hot-seat talk, especially Tennessee’s Derek Dooley and Kentucky’s Joker Phillips.

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