Analysis: Previewing the SEC's spring meeting

The Orlando SentinelMay 25, 2009 

Roll out the red carpet, Destin, Fla. The Southeastern Conference's star-studded event is coming with an arsenal of university presidents, athletic directors and well-paid coaches.

Arguably the nation's most prominent conference has major issues to discuss and major players to glad-hand at this year's spring meetings. Monday, Tennessee's Lane Kiffin and Kentucky's John Calipari will stroll into the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort and Spa for the first time as members of the SEC, ready for interviews and meetings on various topics.

Let's get right to it. Here's a user's guide for the four-day event. The highlights include:

Money, money, money

Addressing the faltering economy has topped the agenda for meetings of every college conference this spring. The Southeastern Conference will be no different despite the glossy TV deals and steady football ticket sales.

LSU reportedly might issue coaching and staff furloughs to save more than $200,000. Florida Associate Athletic Director Greg McGarrity said "everything's on the table" regarding Florida athletics and the entire conference when it comes to potential budget cuts.

"Does that mean layoffs or furloughs for us? Who knows?" McGarrity said. "Nothing's really set in stone right now."

As a money saver, the SEC will vote on schools cutting media guides from recruiting tools.

Keep in mind the SEC is in better standing than most because of a $2.25-billion TV deal with ESPN and marketing deals many schools negotiate on their own. Some of the budget talk could be political, to be sympathetic with schools across the nation.

Coaches' egos

This more a spectacle than a pressing issue. In the hotel lobby, the potential tension as Kiffin walks by every coach he's offended in the last five months could be priceless.

Urban Meyer, meet the newest Tennessee coach. You might recall how Kiffin wrongly accused the Florida coach of a recruiting violation.

Maybe LSU's Les Miles and Alabama's Nick Saban will share a golf outing, though doubtful.

Recruiting charades

Auburn coaches ride in limos, Tennessee coaches take shirts off, Alabama coaches tell recruits not to go to Tennessee — and then they all talk about each other like chatty teens.

Don't be surprised if Commissioner Mike Slive tells his football coaches to cool it after numerous secondary NCAA violations have popped up in the last five months.

"I'm going to have conversations with everybody in the league and make some observations," Slive told The Birmingham News. "Our focus should be on the great student-athletes in the league, the competition between institutions and to enjoy the rivalries. The focus needs to be on the field and not off the field."

Scheduling

SEC men's basketball programs need a reputation boost after the disappointment of three NCAA Tournament teams last year. Expect coaches to talk about how to maximize the RPI in an effort to save face.

Football might follow suit, especially with schools such as Georgia unafraid to schedule powerhouse non-conference opponents.

Bowl contracts

This is the last year of the SEC's current agreements with nine bowls, so talk of renewals will surface.

Keep an eye on Orlando's Capital One Bowl. The Big Ten isn't crazy about the Citrus Bowl's lack of renovation, and the SEC also might not be thrilled.

Tying up loose ends

Also on the agenda: Hashing out the TV and digital rights for game times, game selection and talent selection under the ESPN umbrella; and discussing the Mountain West's proposal for a BCS playoff.

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