After a two-year in-person absence due to COVID, the Southeastern Conference Spring Meetings will return on Tuesday in Destin, Fla.
Normally, these meetings are fun and low-key. They represent the end to another successful year for the SEC both competitively and financially. Tuesday night’s reception by the pool at the Hilton Hotel is on the “must-attend” list for the media because EVERYONE—coaches, athletics directors, TV executives, and, of course, the commissioner—will be there.
Paul Finebaum’s stage for his popular SEC Network show is set up poolside with the ocean in the background.
Yeah. It’s big.
It used to be the biggest news coming out of Destin was how much revenue was being shared by the member schools. Now that news is released well before Destin. For the 2020-21 fiscal year the SEC shared $777.8 million or about $54.8 million per school. By contrast the SEC shared $27.7 million in 1992.
Of course, there was the year (1990) when new Commissioner Roy Kramer told his football coaches that the conference was expanding to 12 teams and that an SEC championship football game was going to be created. The coaches were less than pleased.
“We’ll (the SEC) never win another national championship,” Alabama Coach Gene Stallings said after the announcement was made. In fact, Alabama won the national championship in 1992. The SEC has won 16 of the last 30 national championships and five of the last seven.
But an argument can be made that this will be the most consequential SEC Spring meetings ever. Think about what’s on the plates of the decision makers this week:
**–The Nick Saban-Jimbo Fisher feud: Despite all the funny suggestions, like putting a boxing ring the middle of the hotel lobby, there will not be a whole lot said about the recent dust-up between the two highly-paid coaches. You can bet that Commissioner Greg Sankey has seen to that. But the clash between the two national championship coaches is a symptom of other concerns that WILL be discussed. Specifically:
**–Name, image, and likeness: It is clear now that NIL has morphed into something different than it was intended. But what, if anything, can/should be done about it that does not violate anti-trust law? Any change to the NIL that will limit what athletes can earn on the free market will be met with a court challenge. The last time the NCAA went to court over limiting what athletes could receive in benefits, it got slammed dunked 9-0.
“The courts have already told us not to come back to them with a case like this,” said one high-profile coach from another conference. “Short of getting an anti-trust exemption I don’t see an answer.”
**–Transfer portal: Instead of the transfer portal being open for 365 days a year, the coaches want a couple of windows when football players can transfer. The first would be between April 15 and May 1 so players could make their decisions after spring practice. The second would start on the last Sunday in November and end with the national signing period in mid-December.
“We can find a sweet spot where we give the players ample opportunity to change schools but also give the coach a chance to manage the roster,” said Todd Berry, the executive director of the American Football Coaches Association.
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**–Could the SEC have its own playoff?: Sankey put a lot of work into a proposal that would have expanded the current four-team playoff into 12 teams. But the plan was shot down on an 8-3 vote with the ACC, Pac-12, and Big Ten voting “No.”
The SEC Commissioner was not pleased.
Sankey told Pete Thamel of ESPN that he will encourage his athletics directors to engage in “blue sky thinking which is you detach from reality. What are the full-range of possibilities?”
One of those blue-sky thoughts would be for the SEC to consider having its own playoff when Texas and Oklahoma finally come on board, which right now is set for 2025
**–Could Texas and OU come earlier? The Big 12 has put together a deal that will bring Cincinnati, UCF, Houston, and BYU into the conference for the 2023 season.
So, does that mean that the Sooners and Longhorns could come to the SEC early as well?
**–Conference scheduling model: The SEC currently has a 6-1-1 scheduling model for football. Teams play the six other teams in their division, one permanent team from the other division, and one team that rotates on a yearly basis,
Fans don’t like it because their team plays the same seven teams every year. Last season Alabama played at Florida for the first time in 10 years. For the money fans are paying, they want a broader variety of conference games.
Then there is also matter of what scheduling will look like when Texas and OU come board.
So, the scheduling model will likely change. But will the SEC play eight conference games or nine? Will there be two divisions like the SEC has used since 1992? Will there be no divisions? Will there be quads, which would be four divisions of four-teams each?
This is a huge decision in the history of the SEC.
So, you get the picture. There is a lot of important stuff to discuss. Will there be a lot of big-time decisions made this week on the Florida gulf coast?
We’ll find out on Friday.