Biggest takeaways from the SEC’s spring meetings

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The 2014 SEC spring meetings are officially in the books, and here are the biggest takeaways from a cordial few days in Destin, Florida:

A new division

Mike Slive rang the NCAA’s bell. Prior to the start of the meetings, Slive said he anticipated most of the conversation to center around Big Five conference autonomy, meaning the five power conferences want to decide how their own legislative process works. While that did happen and was much of the discussion, Slive also threw in a negotiation tactic regarding creating a Divison IV, where the power conferences would pull away from the NCAA. The NCAA Board of Directors is set to vote on the NCAA restructuring in August.

Is Slive threatening the NCAA? I don’t think it’s a threat as much as a negotiation tactic at this point. Autonomy doesn’t mean the end of the NCAA, at least not yet. Big Five schools will spend more money how they see fit, and it will benefit the players. Full cost of attendance or stipends, travel expenses for family members and broader insurance policies have all been discussed. Slive wants the NCAA to give them autonomy, but he reminds them they can absolutely create their own autonomy by breaking away.

Revenue

The SEC announced a record $309.6 million in revenue, which will be distributed to the schools to the tune of $20.9 million. This gives you an idea of just how much money is pouring in over the last several years: 2009 ($165.9 million); 2010 ($233.3 million); 2011 ($248.1 million); 2012 ($256.9 million); 2013 ($304.7 million).

In an interview this week with ESPN senior VP for college networks Justin Connolly, he said the network could be worth as much as $500 million to the conference per year, or $35.7 million per school once distribution is achieved. The SEC currently gets about $20 million per year in TV revenue. So, um, that’s a huge bump.

Coaches’ ’unanimous’ support for early signing period

The SEC coaches are in favor of having an additional signing period the first Monday after Thanksgiving, but the league isn’t in full support yet. The ACC proposed to have one in August, but the SEC coaches are not in favor of that, especially when things are gearing up for the season. Much debate has taken place about whether this is good for the schools or the prospects. The bottom line is that it’s not for every prospect, just the minority who are ready to have the process behind them. Any inkling of doubt from a prospect would cause him not to sign early, but if he did sign early, he couldn’t take any more visits. The SEC will keep the current recruiting calendar intact, but if change is necessary, the first Monday after Thanksgiving is the day preferred.

10-second proposal

We knew this one wasn’t going away anytime soon. The coaches discussed it, but things were cordial and nobody got punched. I’m kidding, kind of. Gus Malzahn said there was a healthy debate. Not all agreed, but it was ‘healthy’. 2015 is a rules change year, and unless there’s sufficient data to change the rule under the umbrella of player safety, it won’t happen. But that leads me into the next topic…

8th referee

The league will experiment in 2014 with a single eight-man officiating crew. The added official is called the ‘center judge’. The center judge is assigned to spot the football in an orderly and accurate fashion. Could this be the middle ground to the 10-second proposal differences? At this point it’s just an experiment.

Other notes:

  • CLANGA! The new SEC rule allows teams to play music and artificial noisemakers until the center is over the football. How will the referees police this? Nonetheless, Mississippi State wins the day!
  • The SEC is allowing the 14 member schools to choose whether or not they want FCS teams on their schedules. The Big Ten instituted a rule to play no more FCS schools, but the SEC isn’t following suite.
  • The SEC modified its bylaws to implement an automatic waiver process for graduate school transfer student-athletes with less than two years of eligibility remaining. Now the SEC will allow schools to accept grad student transfers without a waiver if the transfers meet certain standards.

Photo Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

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