published Monday, May 26th, 2014

SEC set to discuss big-league governance

Alabama football coach Nick Saban sees the NCAA adjustment to governance as a step in the right direction. (AP File Photo/Rusty Costanza)
Alabama football coach Nick Saban sees the NCAA adjustment to governance as a step in the right direction. (AP File Photo/Rusty Costanza)
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel laughed recently when asked about Arkansas, the permanent cross-divisional opponent for the Tigers moving forward.

"People keep asking about that rivalry, but you've got to play before you have a rivalry," Pinkel said. "I think it could be great, and I have great respect for Arkansas. Obviously it's adjacent to us and directly south of us, and I think it will be outstanding, but we've got to get it going."

Scheduling has been the dominant topic among Southeastern Conference officials, athletic directors, coaches and fans since Missouri and Texas A&M joined in the summer of 2012. The SEC announced last month that it would retain an eight-game league schedule and a 6-1-1 format, and it revealed last Monday a 12-year rotation for the one matchup of cross-divisional foes who are not permanent rivals.

So the debate of who plays whom and in what year has been put to rest before Tuesday's start of the league's annual spring meetings in Destin, Fla.

"The scheduling has gotten out of the way, and that was an important thing to happen," SEC associate commissioner Herb Vincent said. "It's nice to have that not be a major topic of discussion so that other things can be discussed and deliberated."

The impending launch of the SEC Network is expected to be discussed this week, but the biggest topic could be the NCAA's endorsement of a new governance system for the SEC and the four other major conferences: the Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12.

On April 24, the NCAA charged the five "highest-resource" conferences with addressing their challenges and developing a model that would grant them autonomy to make new rules on specific matters regarding student-athletes. Feedback from the 65 institutions began at that point and will run through early August, which is when the NCAA Division I board of directors will vote on a new structure.

"This actually has been in the works for many months," Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said. "We've talked about it verbally for many meetings, so there is really nothing new for those of us who have been discussing this for months. The NCAA has asked for feedback from the institutions, and the conference offices have compiled all the comments from their institutions and dealt with it in a clear, concise manner to where you don't have 65 athletic directors all talking about it.

"You've got five conference commissioners who are carrying the ball, so it's more consistent messaging and more consistent communication with the parties who need to be engaged at the national level."

McGarity and other SEC athletic directors are referring specific questions about the new NCAA governance to league commissioner Mike Slive, but CBS obtained details from a recent Pac-12 gathering that discussed:

• Providing extra money for living expenses to upgrade the full cost of attendance, which Slive has been openly pushing for the past couple of years.

• Developing a lifetime opportunity fund that would assist players in completing their education after they left early for the draft or had their eligibility expire.

• Covering the transportation costs for parents of athletes on official recruiting visits or to championship events such as bowl games or the NCAA basketball tournament.

• Allowing schools or student-athletes the ability to obtain insurance policies that protect future earnings.

• Increasing the academic support, particularly for at-risk athletes.

One day after the NCAA announced its adjustment on governance, Alabama football coach Nick Saban called it a step in the right direction.

"It's inevitable that certain people at a certain level need to have a little different circumstances to exist than other people," Saban told reporters before a speaking engagement in Montgomery. "We try to make the rules congruent to everybody, but it just doesn't work out very well. Some of the things that we want to do puts a stress on them, and some of the things they need done really isn't important to us.

"It really, at the end of the day, can be better for everyone."

Other than receiving updates from Slive and SEC executive associate commissioner Greg Sankey about the NCAA governance restructuring, McGarity is expecting a somewhat "boring" meeting, which he said would be a good thing. The conference's championship sites in football, basketball and baseball are set for the foreseeable future, but the league could reveal the 2016 women's basketball tournament locale this week.

Chattanooga is hoping to be in the running for the 2017 SEC women's tournament.

Discussing a loosening of beer and wine sales at league venues, which Arkansas is considering for parts of Reynolds Razorback Stadium, is not on this week's agenda, according to Vincent. Football scheduling may not be at the forefront, but there is still the matter of formulating specific dates of games for the 2015 season and potentially beyond.

"The best thing we'll be able to leave Destin with are the new definitions of unlimited meals," McGarity said. "That will be something all athletic directors are interested in, because that legislation starts in August. The rest of the governance model doesn't kick in this fiscal year, but the unlimited meals begins in August, so we'll have to get our hands around that and have some clear guidelines that will give us some direction on what we can and can't do."

McGarity must have a good idea already, as Georgia's athletic board this past week budgeted $1.28 million for unlimited meals and snacks in the next fiscal year.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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