Wrapping up the SEC meetings in Destin …
It was a good experience to cover. I'd not been there before, usually still involved with Ole Miss baseball at this time of year.
There were more media at this year's meetings than ever before, I'm told. I'm guessing there were almost 50 media in a small conference room set up with about 15 chairs for the organized pressers on Day 1.
Clearly there is interest in the business of the SEC, and that interest is growing.
The coaches recognize that interest, and almost all of them were available to address the various issues after discussions with their colleagues.
Nick Saban did not make himself available. He was the first coach out of the joint AD-coach meeting on Wednesday. He didn't exactly leave the ballroom at a sprint, but there was a determination to his pace that said, “I'm not about to stop.”
He didn't, of course. A group of media followed him to the elevators, but that was quite some distance away, so the scene became almost comical, one man leading a herd through a luxury hotel as the herd sought one or two pearls of wisdom.
I am proud to report I dropped out of the herd early.
Saban was one of the eight coaches, who addressed media in a press conference before the meetings began, but he could have handled the after-meeting scene better.
It was interesting to listen to Steve Spurrier after he emerged from the join meeting.
Spurrier had sent out word of his availability earlier in the day, giving his media relations director a time and place to “round up all the media boys.”
The invitation extended to the female reporter in attendance.
Having watched Spurrier for many years at SEC events, he came off as arrogant in the early years. I think that's changed a bit at South Carolina, though his team could be the No. 1 pick in the East later this summer.
In Destin, he talked to the “media boys” about the need to provide some level of spending money for football players.
He didn't expect his proposal of $300 per game – paid by the coaches if necessary, and six others voted with him on that – to gain traction and pass, but he came across very sincere, genuine and almost pleading to do something for the players. He is clearly bothered by the issue.
Ultimately, the goal may simply have been to advance the discussion, and we'll see in the coming weeks and months if Spurrier's proposal is successful in that regard.
Speaking of stopping and talking, the presidents were all about stopping but not talking after they met together for the first time on Thursday.
Honestly, after two days of so many saying so much and leaving so many opinions, so much conversation to process, evaluate and wade through, I was in favor of them saying little or nothing. The votes were the next day anyway.
There were several voices from the AD's and coaches through the first two days who kept saying in essence, “It doesn't matter what we do, the presidents will do their thing.”
“Their thing” was a bit of an unknown over the first couple of days, because they weren't in Destin yet, and because most of them had not spoken publicly about the oversigning issue. There seemed to be a backdrop, though, that the presidents would favor a cap of 25 signees.
Rick Stansbury was equally sincere about his desire to keep the basketball divisions, but I didn't hear other Western Division coaches as passionate about divisions as Stansbury was.
I got the feeling they thought change was imminent. Perhaps when they held up tradition against the need to seed teams for the SEC tournament in a manner that is perceived to be more fair, they didn't feel the tradition argument was very strong.
There's also the desire for the SEC to get as many teams as possible in the NCAA tournament. It's not putting all 12 teams together that will do that, but the expanded scheduling – details yet to be worked out – will have some impact there as teams see more games against higher RPI foes on their schedules. The losers in that conversation will be the SWAC and Sun Belt teams in need of buyout games.
I do agree that winning a division championship means nothing to the NCAA tournament selection committee. That much has been made clear.
Out of all the groups meeting in Destin, it was the men's basketball coaches, who had the most humor about themselves. Vanderbilt's Kevin Stallings came out of the joint meeting for a minute around the midway point and told everyone the coaches and AD's would propose increasing to four divisions.
Not a lot of attention was placed on the women's basketball coaches. They already have been in one division.
Asked about their meetings, Ole Miss coach Renee Lander said, and I'm paraphrasing here, “We just don't want to mess up the best conference in the country.”
It was interesting to watch Ladner and MSU coach Sharon Fanning-Otis leave the meeting with AD's together, walking and talking. You wouldn't have known they were rivals.
Never saw Nutt and Mullen or Kennedy and Stansbury hanging out together.