John Clay

John Clay: Eliminating divisions makes sense for SEC basketball

Random notes:

■ So the men's basketball coaches took the plunge at the Southeastern Conference Spring Meetings in Destin, Fla., but not into the pool.

Instead, the dandy dozen recommended scrapping the divisional format, which will change the seeding process for the league tournament and produce only one regular-season champion (not to mention a 12th-place team), starting this coming season.

The schedule will stay the same, at least for now. That means still 16 games, and still home-and-homes with your former divisional foes. But the standings will be 1-12, with tourney seedings falling suit.

To that we say, bravo, if there is a schedule change in the future. An 18-game conference schedule would be nice. Have a few permanent foes, and rotate the rest. A 22-game conference schedule would be ideal, but that's not going to happen.

■ The hot football topic at the SEC Spring Meetings is over-signing. That's the popular practice in which schools sign more than the annual limit of 25 players to scholarships. If more than the required number of signees qualify academically, then players are either encouraged to enroll in January — the grayshirt practice — or are cut loose.

Mississippi signed 37 players in 2009, which drew attention to the discussion. Auburn signed 32 last year. Then came the high-profile case of Elliott Porter, who balked at being grayshirted by LSU and wound up at UK last season. Homesick, Porter returned to Baton Rouge and is expected to walk on with the Tigers this fall.

The SEC put in place a hard limit of 28 signings last year, but now Commissioner Mike Slive wants at least a discussion about adhering to the final number of 25. Coaches are against that.

Of course, there is a solution. Players can always walk on, with the opportunity to earn a scholarship at a later date. Isn't that the way the rule is really supposed to work?

■ August of last year, the Reds lost three straight at home to St. Louis to drop to 64-51, a game behind the Cardinals. After that, however, Cincinnati went 27-20. St. Louis went 22-27. The Reds won the division by five games.

■ This year, the Reds swept three straight at home from St. Louis to improve to 23-17 and take first place in the NL Central. Since then, the Reds have gone 5-11. St. Louis is 11-4. And the Cardinals own a five-game lead over the defending division champs.

■ Back to the Reds' 2-1 loss at Atlanta on Sunday night. Yes, it appeared Paul Janish avoided the tag at home plate on that key eighth-inning play. But with Joey Votto on deck, why was the slow-footed Janish sent home in the first place?

■ The reason Cris Collinsworth has agreed to coach the receivers at Highlands High School this fall? NBC's Sunday Night Football analyst is convinced it will be November before we see pro football.

■ What are pro football players doing during the lockout? Tying the knot, apparently. Bengals wideout Jordan Shipley married Nashville songwriter Sunny Helms. Dallas quarterback Tony Romo married local TV anchor Candace Crawford.

■ Where can I get one of those Ohio State "Liar, Liar, Vest on Fire" T-shirts?

■ Heard Kirk Herbstreit say on ESPN radio that Ohio State, not Notre Dame, is Urban Meyer's dream job.

■ I'm with Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, who says schools should consider "full-cost scholarships" for athletes. That means an extra $3,000 to $5,000 per student. Doesn't seem all that much considering what's spent on coaches' salaries, offices, meeting rooms, scoreboards, etc.

■ We really need Animal Kingdom and Shackleford to run in the Belmont.

■ Good to see Louisville and Memphis renewing their basketball rivalry, which will restart for two years next season. I remember the good old days when back at the old Mid-South Coliseum, a knife was thrown from the stands and stuck in the floor. Good times.

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