Bill Shanks

SEC meetings signal football is near

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart is entering his second season with the Bulldogs.
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart is entering his second season with the Bulldogs. AP

The college football magazines are out, which is a very good sign that football is getting closer. For some, that can almost be the kickoff of the preseason, as we over-analyze everything people have written about the upcoming season.

Another event to indicate the calendar is getting closer to football is the annual SEC meetings in Destin, Florida. It’s just a bunch of athletics directors and coaches getting together for meetings and beverages and a little sun, but we over-analyze everything they say about the upcoming season.

The athletics directors pick up their conference checks — which have reportedly almost tripled since 2010, thanks to the SEC Network — at the meetings. Each conference member now gets around $40.4 million, which helps when you’re making changes to stadiums and weight rooms.

It’s amazing, really. Programs get so much money up front, mainly from TV deals, and yet continue to ask for more money for tickets and more contributions for special projects. It’s almost like a rich person you know who has a lot of money asking you for money for a new addition to their house.

“We already have plenty of money, but please contribute what you can anyway.”

Next thing you know the SEC will set up a GoFundMe page.

If teams are asking for more money, even though everyone can read the enormous amount each SEC member receives, they better be ready for the scrutiny that comes along with their records not being up to par with the fans.

One thing schools must do is improve their non-conference schedules. That should be on the agenda in Destin this week, but it’s probably not. How can they ask for more money for season tickets and then have cash-for-clunker games two or three times each season? Why do fans want to contribute to games they may have no interest going to?

Don’t give me that spill about how the bigger schools help financially support the smaller programs with these games. If that’s the case, programs should play teams only from their state.

Look at Georgia’s schedule in 2018. They host Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee and UMass. That’s embarrassing. Sure, fans will also pay for the home games against Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Auburn and Georgia Tech. But the problem is not everyone is going to want to go to the other games, increasing the number of empty seats for three home games.

Schedule Georgia Southern (that won’t ever happen again after 2015) or Georgia State or Mercer. If you’re going to give a bunch of money to a school to go to Athens, give it to a state school that can benefit. Then at least in-state fans will go to the games.

Every Power-5 conference team should improve its non-conference schedule. For example, Georgia should play Clemson every season. Those two programs are 73 miles away. That’s a game fans will pay for and attend, compared to a game against Austin Peay.

The SEC members will also talk about the new recruiting rules this week. The NCAA has approved a three-day window in December, which is just peculiar. Why not have that window in August, before the high school season starts, so that those who know where they are going can go ahead and sign on the dotted line? Then the college coaches can spend more time with their current players on campus.

Graduate transfer rules will also be on the agenda. The SEC might move more toward the NCAA’s rules, and shouldn’t every conference use the same rules anyway? It’s never made sense how there is not more uniformity in college football. I know, that was a funny statement. Why should we expect something like uniformity in college athletics?

Even talking about these subjects get us closer to talking about the real topics for fans – who will win this season. June is almost here, so we’re getting close to the football on the field taking over the conversation.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on “Middle Georgia’s ESPN” – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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