DESTIN, Fla. - For a second consecutive year, Lane Kiffin won't be here, so the entertainment around the elevators of the Sandestin Hilton doesn't promise to be as exciting at this year's installment of the SEC's spring meetings.
That doesn't mean the week won't go by without a little conflict among the league's most powerful coaches.
The topic of "roster management" sits at the top of the agenda for Tuesday's session with the conference's football coaches. There, it is promised that SEC commissioner Mike Slive will introduce legislation that could curb the unpopular practice of "grayshirting" and forced attrition by potentially limiting football coaches to 25 players per signing class - down from the current 28.
According to the Athens Banner-Herald, which learned of the potential legislation last week, Slive will propose that schools could only sign 25 players from Dec. 1 to Aug. 1. Currently, SEC teams can bring in a maximum of 28 players from National Signing Day to May 31, a span of time that has allowed coaches to expose a number of loopholes that provide the ability to bolster their roster with more than 28 players from one year to the next. It has also spawned and enhanced the practice of unexpected grayshirting, which forces a signed player to pay for his first semester of school before joining the team for the following season, and an inordinate amount of mysterious medical hardship waivers, which free up scholarships by relegating a player unfit to play for the remainder of his career.
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt, to whom the recently imposed 28-player limit is credited because of his 37-man class in 2009, is understandably against the legislation, So, too, are South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier and Alabama coach Nick Saban, while Georgia coach Mark Richt has been adamant in his stance that he will never grayshirt a player.
"These other coaches have been oversigning, trying to grayshirt, trying to make sure they never come up short of that 85 (scholarship limit) number," Richt said during a Georgia fan get-together in Greenville, S.C., earlier this month. "But in doing so have they done it in an ethical way, which is what you're asking. And I'd say not. That's why the NCAA is trying to change its rules."
Oversigning is far from being the only line of business on the agenda. Among the other topics to be discussed today through Friday are:
Last year, SEC West men's basketball coaches revoked a proposal that would have changed how the league seeds its end-of-season tournament. Instead of basing it around how the teams finish within their respective divisions, it would rank them simply by their conference record, which, in theory, would create a fairer playing field.
Now, it appears Slive wants to go one step farther.
The commissioner and coaches will toss around the idea of eliminating divisions altogether to mimic the current women's model. Also, there is a possibility that the league schedule will expand from 16 conference games to 18.
Staying out of trouble
Many scoffed at Slive when, at his first spring meetings as the league commissioner in 2003, laid out a goal to have the entire SEC off NCAA probation by 2008.
To the surprise of his doubters, it happened. But now, three years later, it appears a number of the league's schools are back in the NCAA's crosshairs.
Alabama is already under a probation sentence because of its text book scandal and Tennessee is expected to receive a minimum of two years after its meeting with the Committee on Infractions in June. There are on-going probes at LSU and Auburn, while Georgia and South Carolina both had to suspend players last season because of improper relationships with agents.
It might be time for a stern talking to, something Slive has been known to do on occasion.
Money, money, money
In 2010, SEC schools hauled in a record amount of funds because of the league's billion-dollar TV deal with ESPN and CBS, and the total isn't expected to decrease in 2011.
That's always good news for everyone, but there could be some that use this week's meetings as a platform to air concern. The SEC's contracts don't look so superior now that the Big 12 and Pac-12 have recently inked new deals that could potentially bring more money to their respective schools than the SEC's does for its institutions.
Everyone's making more money than they ever have. But everyone, especially the SEC's athletic directors and coaches, still wants to rake in the most cash.