DESTIN, Fla. — Southeastern Conference leadership found itself at an impasse at the annual spring meetings, powerless because of the complexities of NIL issues and divided on schedule models.
Here are 3 takeaways from the SEC Spring Meetings:
College Football Playoff holding up scheduling model
32 teams have been selected over the eight years of the four-team College Football Playoff — none of them had two losses.
That’s a primary reason why the SEC has not yet moved forward with a proposed “3-6″ nine-game schedule that would protect three annual opponents while rotating six each year to provide teams an opportunity to play others across the conference more often.
The current four-team CFP format is contracted to run through 2025 so the 12-team playoff proposal announced last summer would have required an 11-0 vote for any changes to be made before then.
The 12-team proposal was gaining steam before the Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 formed an “Alliance” last summer in the aftermath of the surprise announcement that Texas and Oklahoma would be joining the SEC no later than 2025.
The three Alliance conferences have been blocking approval of a 12-team proposal ever since, perhaps concerned a 16-member SEC would be at a competitive advantage for at-large bids.
SEC teams have captured 12 of the past 16 national championships and would like to maintain that momentum.
Alabama coach Nick Saban pointed out that with a nine-game schedule, SEC teams would be playing five Top 15 teams and could be on the wrong end of competitive balance relative to other conferences.
NIL confusion reigns
Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said “the answer is there is no answer,” essentially because of the lack of consistency in state laws and the NCAA’s challenges to enforce existing rules.
“The thing you have to have is uniformity,” Fisher said last Wednesday. “It has to be concrete across the board.”
The NCAA has said NIL deals aren’t supposed to be used as recruiting inducements, but some state laws allow high school students to negotiate deals.
In April, Tennessee lawmakers updated its NIL laws to give its state universities an advantage over others by allowing NIL groups to talk to school officials as well as recruits.
First-year Florida coach Billy Napier had the best summation of the current state of the NIL and its issues.
There’s a ton of gray area relative to what you can do, what you can’t do,” Napier said last Tuesday. “There’s no manual, there are no parameters, there are no guidelines. To some degree, we’re living in a land with no laws. It very much continues to be a fluid situation.”
Napier pointed out that players with remaining eligibility who haven’t used the one-time transfer exemption granted by the NCAA last summer is a free agent: “The reality is we have no contracts, and we have no cap number.”
Georgia football sitting pretty
Georgia football and administration have never been more powerful, reigning as national champions at a transitional time where momentum and a program’s financial model mean more than ever.
UGA has as much or more control over the direction of collegiate athletics as any program with president Jere Morehead serving as SEC president as well as holding appointments on the NCAA’s most influential committees, the board of governors and board of directors.
At a time when just four of the 14 SEC coaches from the 2019 SEC Spring Meetings still held jobs at their same institutions, Georgia has the youngest of the four in the 46-year-old Smart: Saban (70) Fisher (56) and Kentucky coach Mark Stoops (54).
UGA AD Josh Brooks brings more youth (41) into the equation, but Brooks’ football-related experiences give him even more of an advantage. Brooks worked under Saban and Fisher as an equipment manager and student assistant at LSU and has eight years of experience as a director of football operations at Louisiana-Monroe (2004-08) and UGA under Mark Richt (2008-11).
Georgia is on the verge of locking up Smart with what’s believed to be a 10-year contract in excess of $100 million and recently announced $68.5 million in upgrades and enhancements to Sanford Stadium.
Additionally: The SEC, while not reaching a decision on its future schedule model, did announce some changes to league tournament formats, most notably basketball:
• SEC Men’s basketball regular season, each team will play two permanent opponents (down from three), with 12 remaining opponents in single contests as part of an 18-game league slate.
• The SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament, all 16 teams will compete in a single-elimination format consistent with the current model but with two additional games. The top four-seeded teams will receive byes through the first two rounds.
• SEC Women’s basketball, each team will play a rotating opponent home and away, plus 14 remaining opponents in single contests for a 16-game league slate.
• SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament, All 16 teams will compete in a single-elimination format, consistent with current model but with two additional games. The top four-seeded teams will receive bye through the first two rounds.
• Softball regular season, teams will play three-game series’ against eight rotating opponents.
• SEC Softball Tournament, All teams will compete in single-elimination format that’s consistent with current format but with two additional games.
• SEC Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships, All teams will compete in a single-elimination format with top four seeds receiving a bye through the first two rounds of the tourney.
• SEC Soccer Championship, 12 teams will compete in a single-elimination format with the top four seeds receiving a first-round bye.