DESTIN, Fla. — SEC 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 three takeaways from the SEC spring meetings:
College Football Playoff holding up scheduling model
Thirty-two 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 join 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 play 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 Wednesday. “It has to be concrete across the board.”
“There's a ton of gray area relative to what you can do, what you can't do. 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."
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 their NIL laws to give their 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 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 players with remaining eligibility who haven’t used the one-time transfer exemption granted by the NCAA last summer are free agents: “The reality is we have no contracts, and we have no cap number.”
UGA football sitting pretty
Georgia football and administration has never been more powerful relative to other conference members, reigning as national champions at a transitional time when 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 46-year-old Kirby Smart. Saban (70), Fisher (56) and Kentucky coach Mark Stoops (54) are the others.
UGA athletic director Josh Brooks brings more youth (42) 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, announced some changes to league tournament formats, most notably basketball:
• In the 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.
• For 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.
• For 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.
• For the SEC women’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 a bye through the first two rounds.
• For the softball regular season, teams will play three-game series against eight rotating opponents.
• For the SEC softball tournament, all teams will compete in a single-elimination format that’s consistent with the current format but with two additional games.
• For the SEC men’s and women’s tennis championships, all teams will compete in a single-elimination format with the top four seeds receiving a bye through the first two rounds of the tourney.
• For the SEC soccer championship, 12 teams will compete in a single-elimination format with the top four seeds receiving a first-round bye.
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