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Over-signing in football tops agenda at SEC Spring Meeting

BATON ROUGE, La. — Football and the numbers games within the game will take center stage this week during the annual Southeastern Conference Spring Meeting in Destin, Fla.

As league coaches and administrators began arriving Tuesday, legislation was expected to be presented that will address managing scholarship numbers for football in terms of over-signing and "grayshirting" players.

Since 2009, an SEC rule has limited schools to signing no more than 28 players once the national signing period begins in February. But schools have gotten around that number because players who enroll in January or wait until signing in June don't count against that number.

As a result, South Carolina was able to sign a total of 32 players this year, while Arkansas signed 30. Some players often end up grayshirting, which means to delay their enrollment until the January after they sign and count against the next year's class.

The debate is certain to be heated because there are clearly advocates on both sides of the issue. Florida President Bernie Machen has called over-signing "morally reprehensible." Alabama and former Louisiana State coach Nick Saban has argued that over-signing can be a positive if done with the right intentions for the athletes.

Executives from SEC schools are also certain to discuss a proposal recently floated by Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany to supplement the scholarship and room and board athletes receive by up to $3,000 per year. This would be to cover the so-called "full cost" of attending college for items such as transportation and clothing.

SEC members are also expected to address a proposal aimed at cost-containment in football: placing a limit on the number of non-coaching personnel who may work under the umbrella of the football program. Football Bowl Subdivision schools are limited to nine full-time assistant coaches but aren't restricted otherwise in terms of staff.

SEC officials will also meet with CBS and ESPN representatives to review the conference's lucrative TV contracts. Often, some TV games are set during the spring meeting.

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive has said the conference will consider disbanding divisional play in men's basketball with the goal of adopting a 12-team format, as is the case in women's basketball.

Doing away with divisional play would open the door for men's basketball to return to an 18-game format — which it used before expansion in 1992 — and would allow for more equitable seeding in the SEC tournament.

The last three SEC West champions — co-champs Alabama and Mississippi in 2011 and Mississippi State in 2010 — didn't make the NCAA Tournament, but they received first-round byes in the SEC Tournament.

Sites for future SEC basketball tournaments will also be discussed. The 2012 SEC men's tournament will be held in New Orleans Arena, and the men's and women's tournaments are set through 2014.

The meeting will wrap with the revenue announcement. Last year, the SEC split a record $209 million in revenue ($17.3 million per school), a 57 percent increase over 2009 thanks mainly to $65.6 million from the SEC's new TV contract.

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