UK Men's Basketball

SEC football signing classes cut to 25

DESTIN, Fla. — There will be one basketball division in the Southeastern Conference along with some unhappy football coaches.

School presidents and chancellors voted Friday to eliminate divisions in men's basketball and to reduce the annual signing classes in football to 25 players. SEC football coaches voted unanimously to keep the number at 28.

It's sweeping reform in the conference with the last five national titles, and academic leaders said they hope it will be eventually adopted across college football.

"I don't think that any conference in the country is looking at the whole picture in the way that we are," University of Florida President Bernie Machen said. "Obviously, this is not a quick fix. This is not a one-size-fits-all model here. ... I'm very pleased that the league is where it is today, and I'm proud of the step we've taken really in a leadership role nationally to deal with this bigger concept of roster management."

All the league's football coaches opposed the proposal to cut scholarships from 28 to 25. The 28 total had been in effect for only two years — through just one signing class.

"We had enough experience with it," SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said. "When we began to look at roster management and talking about what we felt was fairest to the prospects, this makes the most sense. There was a lot of discussion, a lot of debate. In the final analysis, this is a unanimous approach to roster management."

The league, which will hand out an SEC-record $18.3 million in shared revenue to each of its 12 schools, also voted to eliminate divisions in men's basketball. The teams will now be seeded 1 through 12 in the post-season tournament, with the top four teams receiving first-round byes. The SEC will keep a 16-game league slate for 2011-12 but will increase the number of conference games the following season.

The SEC also extended the current rule permitting Mississippi State to have cowbells in its home stadium. But Slive said the SEC increased fines for using them at inappropriate times to $50,000.

Slive said presidents and chancellors passed five proposals related to roster management. He said all five will be taken to the NCAA in hopes that the rest of college football will follow their lead.

The five proposals passed are:

■ Reducing the scholarship ceiling from 28 to 25 prospects. Additionally, the league has done away with back-counting, meaning a junior college player who signs in December would count toward the number in the February signing class.

■ Eliminating the graduate-student exemption to the rule the league has had in place for years, whereby an athlete must have two years of eligibility remaining to transfer to an SEC school. The previous rule allowed former Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli to attend Mississippi last season.

■ A school cannot sign a prospect to an SEC financial-aid agreement until that prospect is enrolled in school and a full-time student attending classes.

"It's a way of dealing with early enrollees," Slive said. "It would not permit other institutions to talk to you. We want to know that our prospects are coming to our institutions."

■ The conference will oversee the administration of medical-hardship exemptions. The league will review each case and decide the outcome.

■ Prospects attending summer school will count against the 25-scholarship total that year.