SEC: SEC May meetings

Recapping the SEC spring meetings

May, 29, 2009
5/29/09
6:19
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

DESTIN, Fla. -- The SEC presidents have spoken, and the days of signing as many players as a coach wants  in this league are over.

Starting immediately, the SEC will cap football signees each year at 28. The coaches had favored capping it at 30, but the presidents voted Friday to cap it at 28.

Schools can only bring in a maximum of 25 players each fall, but some schools over-sign and then whittle that number down to get to 25.

The SEC schools can probably thank Ole Miss and Houston Nutt for this new legislation, which will go into effect whether it passes at the national level or not. The Rebels signed 37 players in February. Of course, Arkansas also signed 32.

Also, the football coaches had wanted to expand from two to four graduate assistants, but that proposal was shot down.

Slive ended the meetings by announcing that the league will distribute about $132.5 million to its 12 schools for the 2008-09 fiscal year. That's a 4 percent increase from last year.

Next year, when the new television contracts with ESPN and CBS kick in, that figure will climb even more, or in Slive's words, be "more robust."

What recession, right?

Politics and playoffs don't mix

May, 29, 2009
5/29/09
10:00
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Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

DESTIN, Fla. -- With everybody from President Obama to members of Congress all weighing in on how college football should determine its national champion, Kentucky coach Rich Brooks offered the most sensible assessment of the whole debate this week at the SEC spring meetings.

"I think the government has a lot more important things to do than to worry about the football national championship ... like wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, taxes and unemployment," Brooks said. "There's a lot of things they need to be concerned about rather than a football playoff."

Hard to argue that point.

Capping signees at 30

May, 28, 2009
5/28/09
7:11
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Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

DESTIN, Fla. -- The SEC presidents and athletic directors met Thursday, and there's strong support for legislation that would cap the number of football signees a school could sign at 30.

That's an amendment from the original proposal of capping the number at 28. The SEC's preference is for this to become national legislation.

The presidents will vote Friday on whether the SEC will sponsor this legislation at the NCAA level.

Saban misses the May recruiting trail

May, 28, 2009
5/28/09
4:00
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Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

DESTIN, Fla. -- Alabama coach Nick Saban is still peeved that head coaches aren't allowed to be on the road recruiting during the May evaluation period.

Only assistant coaches can go out and see players during May, legislation that some in the SEC have suggested was aimed toward Saban.

Never too far removed from the recruiting process, Saban used to wear out the road in May before the NCAA said two years ago that head coaches couldn't go out.

"It's what I like to do. I like to look at players, and I like to evaluate," Saban said. "I think we all have a responsibility and an obligation to promote our game. Head coaches in the SEC going to high school campuses are certainly things that promote the game. I have a little different opinion about all that.

"It is an evaluation period. We did use it to evaluate. I would like to get it back, because I enjoy doing it. There are only two things that are important -- how you develop the players on your team and how you bring them to your team. Any time you lose an opportunity to evaluate, that can affect who you can bring to your team."

Even though Saban feels restricted by the rule, it obviously hasn't hurt the Crimson Tide's recruiting. They already have 12 commitments for the 2010 class. The latest addition was defensive end Craig Sanders of Ariton, Ala. Of their 12 commitments, five are members of the ESPNU 150 Watch List.

Johnson the ace golfer

May, 28, 2009
5/28/09
2:56
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Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

DESTIN, Fla. -- We already knew Bobby Johnson was a good football coach, especially when you look at what he's done the past few years with the Vanderbilt program.

Johnson's not too shabby with a golf club in his hand, either.

During the SEC spring meetings golf tournament Thursday, Johnson won the closest-to-the-pin award on one of the par 3s. We're not talking feet or even inches here. Johnson's ball was mere centimeters from the cup.

Spurrier still believes it can be done at South Carolina

May, 28, 2009
5/28/09
2:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

DESTIN, Fla. -- If he's getting close to hitting the golf course full time, South Carolina's Steve Spurrier isn't talking like it.

The Head Ball Coach was adamant this week at the SEC spring meetings that the Gamecocks' job still intrigues him and he's as committed as ever to winning a title at South Carolina.

"That's the challenge, to have that big year at South Carolina because it hasn't happened," said Spurrier, who's just 15-17 against SEC opponents since returning to college football in 2005.

Heading into his fifth season in Columbia, Spurrier likes the chemistry surrounding this team a lot better.

"We've actually won 28 games [overall], which is the most in a four-year stretch in South Carolina history," Spurrier said. "So we're not doing terrible. We're just not doing super. We just haven't done quite as well as we'd hoped. But we're all excited about this year's team. I believe we're going to have our best senior leaders."

He also noted that a couple of juniors, defensive end Cliff Matthews and fullback Patrick DiMarco, were voted captains by their teammates.

"I believe we're going to have the best summer participation we've ever had," Spurrier said. "Right now, everybody likes each other. Coaches like the coaches. Players like each other, and players like coaches. Hopefully we'll maintain that attitude."

Always brutally honest, Spurrier said the key to the Gamecocks making a run in the Eastern Division hinges on how much improvement Stephen Garcia can make at quarterback and how well the offensive line comes around under first-year line coach Eric Wolford.

"If our quarterback play is sound and good and our offensive line plays well, our defense ought to be pretty good again," Spurrier said. "We led the conference [in total defense] after 10 weeks last year, and we sort of pooped out. Our whole team pooped out at the end, which we've actually done the last two years.

"So, anyway, hopefully with our attitude and all that kind of stuff, we'll be able to finish the season."

Spurrier insisted that he's not concerned with his legacy.

"I can't worry about what people remember me by," said Spurrier, who won six SEC championships at Florida. "Whatever I did at Duke is history. Whatever I did at Florida is history.

"We're still trying to make some history at South Carolina."

Kentucky's Brooks hurts for Jarmon

May, 28, 2009
5/28/09
1:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

DESTIN, Fla. -- Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said he anticipates former defensive end Jeremy Jarmon applying for the NFL supplemental draft later this summer and putting off his trip to France to study abroad.

Jarmon was declared ineligible for his senior season by the NCAA after testing positive for a banned substance. Jarmon, in an effort to trim down and lose weight, said he took an over-the-counter dietary supplement that contained the banned substance.

Kentucky appealed the NCAA's decision, but that appeal was denied last week.

Brooks said he was hopeful that Jarmon would at least get back half of his senior season.

"But I think the NCAA just throws a blanket over all of it," Brooks said. 

While the Wildcats will no doubt miss Jarmon next season on the field, Brooks said what hurts the most is having it end this way for Jarmon, who's been a big part of the Wildcats' resurgence the past few years.

"It's always a blow when you lose a quality player, but it could have been a knee injury or any number of things," Brooks said. "I don't think that it's as big a blow for the program as it is to me personally, having the respect I do for Jeremy and caring about him as I do as an individual. What he has put into our program and how it ended, to me, is devastating.

"Would we be better with Jeremy at defensive end? Hell yeah, we would. But we will be OK, I think. We'll make it through this."

With Jarmon out of the equation, Brooks said there would be a huge opportunity in preseason camp for a pair of redshirt freshmen -- Collins Ukwu and Taylor Wyndham. Junior college newcomer DeQuin Evans and sophomore Chandler Burden will also factor into the mix. There's not a defensive end on the Wildcats' roster who's ever made a tackle in a college game.

Season tickets going fast at Mississippi State

May, 28, 2009
5/28/09
10:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

DESTIN, Fla. -- While it's true that new Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen hasn't lost a game (or won one, for that matter), the Bulldogs' fans are obviously buying into what he's selling.

Mississippi State has already sold about 32,000 season tickets, according to athletic director Greg Byrne. This time last year, they were hovering somewhere in the neighborhood of 13,000.

Mississippi State moved up the deadline by two weeks for renewing season tickets this year and started the whole process earlier, which has inflated the numbers some. But the biggest factor has been Mullen and the excitement he's generated among the fans.

"He's been all over the state, and the response he's gotten has been incredible," Byrne said.

Mississippi State's record for season-ticket sales is a little more than 38,000, which would seem to be in serious jeopardy. The Bulldogs sold 36,000-plus season tickets a year ago.

The Bulldogs' spring game was a pretty good indicator of what's ahead. A crowd of more than 31,000 was announced back in April compared to crowds in the 5,000 range in previous years.

The home schedule next fall also doesn't hurt. Florida, Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss are the four SEC teams that will come to Davis Wade Stadium, and Georgia Tech also visits on Oct. 10.

Over-signing may be a thing of the past in SEC

May, 27, 2009
5/27/09
8:22
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

DESTIN, Fla. -- The SEC is considering sponsoring proposed legislation to the NCAA that would cap the number of football players a school could sign at 28.

Rules are already in place that limit the number of signees a school can bring in each year to 25. But that hasn't stopped some schools from over-signing in February and then whittling that number down one way or the other by reporting time in August.

During this most recent class, Ole Miss signed 37 players and Arkansas 32. The Rebels' total really got SEC commissioner Mike Slive's attention.

"I have not been really concerned about it at the current number," said Slive, noting that most SEC schools had been around the 28 to 30 number in recent years. "But last year, I was really concerned about it when we had one or two that signed a lot of kids. That was a catalyst for these discussions."

Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt apologized during Slive's meeting with football coaches and athletic directors Wednesday for any embarrassment the Rebels might have caused the league for signing so many players.

Nutt explained earlier in the week that one of the reasons the Rebels signed so many players was that they knew several weren't going to qualify academically, and he wanted to build relationships with the junior colleges in the state.

"We knew seven to eight of those guys 100 percent would not qualify, so you're able to help some junior colleges," Nutt said.

Several of the SEC athletic directors said Wednesday they thought the 28 limit would be endorsed by the presidents and sent onto the NCAA. Slive also said he wouldn't be opposed to the SEC adopting its own league-wide policy capping the number of players a school could sign.

Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said it's a decision each school has to make, but that the Gators rarely over-sign players.

"Candidly, I don't think it's healthy to do that, but that's one man's opinion," Foley said.

Animated Slive gets his point across

May, 27, 2009
5/27/09
7:44
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

DESTIN, Fla. -- SEC commissioner Mike Slive delivered his much anticipated "play nice" speech to the football coaches and athletic directors Wednesday at the spring meetings, but there wasn't necessarily anything nice about it.

After an offseason filled with sniping among the coaches, triggered by Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin's erroneously accusing Florida coach Urban Meyer of cheating back in February, Slive made it clear that he's heard enough.

"I had all 5-foot-9, 175 pounds of me into every word I said. I can tell you that," Slive said.

Slive was passionate and animated, and he didn't hold back. He circled the room and made eye contact with everybody.

"He had a lot of fire, a lot of energy," Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said.

Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley added, "It wasn't obvious to me that he was annoyed as it was obvious of what he expects out of this league. That's part of his job of being our boss, and he made it pretty clear."

Slive has already reprimanded Kiffin when the first-year Tennessee coach directed his cheating comment toward Meyer the day after signing day. But South Carolina's Steve Spurrier, Mississippi State's Dan Mullen and Meyer also made public comments directed at league counterparts this offseason that irked Slive.

League policy, adopted in 2004 and approved unanimously by the presidents and athletic directors, stipulates that any complaints or issues that a coach may have with another school or coach should be handled through the league office and not aired publicly.

"For the last five years, all the focus has been where it ought to be, how we were doing athletically," Slive said. "Then all of a sudden, we were back at it, and that really annoyed me."

He reiterated that he would continue to reprimand and fine coaches who don't comply.

While Slive's message was intended for everybody, the truth is that it was just a handful of coaches that did most of the sniping this offseason.

Joked one coach, "Only a couple of us needed to hear it, but we all got slapped upside the head."

Alabama to hear soon from NCAA

May, 27, 2009
5/27/09
3:15
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

DESTIN, Fla. -- Alabama officials expect to hear from the NCAA on possible penalties resulting from the textbook scandal as early as next week.

With the SEC spring meetings going on this week, it's doubtful that the NCAA would hand down a decision this week.

What most everybody agrees on is that there will be some type of probation for the Crimson Tide, probably a two-year term. What that means is that they can't have anything happen NCAA-related during that period or there could be serious consequences.

It's still unclear what kind of penalties Alabama will receive. Initially, the feeling was that there wouldn't be any scholarship losses. But as the process has dragged on, there have been increasing rumblings that the Tide could lose a scholarship or two for each of the next two years.

Keep in mind that the textbook case doesn't involve just Alabama football players. In fact, there were more athletes from other sports involved, particularly track, than there were in football.

Nutt, Rebels not giving up on Hornsby

May, 27, 2009
5/27/09
10:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

DESTIN, Fla. -- Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt isn't giving up on troubled signee Jamar Hornsby and remains hopeful that the junior college safety will be a part of the Rebels' program.

"Talking to him, lawyers, his mama, coaches, people that have been around him, I think there's a lot of good there," Nutt said. "But again, we'll wait until that court case and find out exactly what happens there. I'm hoping that we'll have a chance to get him in our family and get going. But I don't know for sure."

Hornsby's trial date was pushed back to Aug. 12. He was arrested March 1 and charged with felony assault and petit larceny after being accused of hitting somebody with brass knuckles. Ole Miss had given him a second chance after he was kicked off Florida's team prior to the 2008 season.

Hornsby, who attended East Mississippi Community College last year, pleaded no contest to four misdemeanor counts of fraudulent credit card use after he spent nearly $3,000 on a gas card that belonged to the deceased girlfriend of Florida cornerback Joe Haden. She was killed in a motorcycle accident.

Hornsby was sentenced to a year of probation, and this latest charge could potentially affect that probation.

Nutt said a big part of Hornsby's fate with the Rebels would hinge on what happens to him during the legal process.

Unapologetic Kiffin not backing down

May, 27, 2009
5/27/09
9:30
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

DESTIN, Fla. -- For the umpteenth time, Tennessee's Lane Kiffin wants everybody to know that it's not personal.

Despite everything he's said and anybody he might have offended along the way in his first six months on the job, Kiffin's confident that he's on track to do what he was brought to Tennessee to do -- restore the Vols to national prominence.

Have all the headlines (many of them negative) been worth it?

Kiffin said the proof is in the first signing class the Vols were able to put together in a short period of time, a signing class that included three nationally rated players who chose the Vols post-national signing day.

"Unfortunately nowadays, there aren't six-year plans anymore. We had to make an immediate impact and get players immediately," Kiffin said of his propensity to stir it up and generate headlines. "To sit back and say, 'Maybe we'll take it easy, sit in the weeds and sign a few players here and there, and maybe the next year or the year after that, we'll get a Top 10 class,' we didn't have time to do that.

"Do I love everything that I had to do to get us to this point? No, I don't. But my job is not to love everything I do. My job is to do the best thing for our university and the best thing for our people."

Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton, the man who hired Kiffin to do that job, said the energy surrounding the Vols' program is exactly what he envisioned when he settled on Kiffin to replace Phillip Fulmer.

"I want him to have the freedom to be who he is," Hamilton said. "He's also said very little [that was controversial] since those original comments back in February at our recruiting celebration. It's just that those comments keep getting replayed."

Kiffin understands that it's the price he'll have to pay. And until he wins that first big SEC game or makes some noise in the SEC race, he's going to be tagged as the new guy with the big mouth.

That's OK, too, because he thinks it's good for business when it comes to recruiting great players.

"I think as you look at kids nowadays, they respond to confidence," Kiffin said. "I think as you read articles about our kids we've signed, they talk a lot about the confidence of our staff and that we have the players' back. We're not backing down. I think it's very positive, and the evidence is in last year's class and in all the recruiting stuff you're reading now.

"The kids like that. They like that energy around our program."

As for how much of what he's said and done has been calculated, Kiffin turned coy.

"If I answered that question, you guys wouldn't have anything to write about," Kiffin quipped.

'Old-fashioned' Saban set in his ways

May, 27, 2009
5/27/09
8:30
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

DESTIN, Fla. -- Don't look for Alabama's Nick Saban to steal a page out of Lane Kiffin's scorched earth recruiting handbook any time soon.

Saban never mentioned the Tennessee coach by name Tuesday at the SEC meetings, but made it clear that he didn't feel the need to generate headlines just to get noticed by recruits.

"Everybody has to have their own way of handling and dealing with things," Saban said. "Heaven knows that I've made my share of mistakes in dealing with the media and everything else.

"But philosophically, we try to represent our organization in a first-class way and be the kind of role model we'd like our players to emulate and do it with some honesty and integrity and loyalty to the game. I think that's important.

"I'm a little old-fashioned, but that's my opinion."

And for the record, Saban doesn't Twitter, either.

"I can't even send an e-mail or a text message," joked Saban, adding that his technology was about 25 years behind.

Nutt: It's on us to handle the hype

May, 27, 2009
5/27/09
8:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

DESTIN, Fla. -- The book on Houston Nutt is that he does his best work when nobody sees him coming.

Here's his chance to shoot down that notion, because Ole Miss enters the 2009 season with the kind of expectations not seen around Oxford in decades.

"It comes back to the players and coaches doing their part," said Nutt, who points out that his Arkansas teams had some costly injuries in those years the Hogs were picked to do well and didn't live up to expectations.

"If you look at those times we were picked high, we lost some players. You can't control that. So that's the first thing. You want to stay away from injuries."

The other thing that will be critical for the Rebels, according to Nutt, is building depth, particularly on the offensive line. Whereas former coach Ed Orgeron left the roster stocked with talented defensive linemen, Nutt said it was "just the opposite" on the offensive line.

"All your offensive linemen, the backups, will be freshmen," Nutt said. "So there's a big hole, some big holes. But again, it goes back to the attitude and work ethic, and we've got to be able to handle it. They're in uncharted waters, and that's up to us."

He said junior quarterback Jevan Snead's development will allow the Rebels to expand their playbook. And while he doesn't want Snead taking any unnecessary chances, Nutt said the Rebels don't want him playing not to get hit, either.

"What we've asked him to do is work harder than he's ever worked and study more than he's ever studied," Nutt said. "If you take the last five games compared to the first five, Jevan was a different quarterback. He was doing the things [to protect himself], getting rid of it, getting us out of the bad play and getting us in the right one, throwing with accuracy and not trying to force things.

"It's OK to throw it away and even OK to take a sack at times. He was making decisions so much better. Even in the Texas Tech game, he throws the interception and they run it back for a touchdown, and he doesn't flinch. He really grew up for us."

Nutt said Ole Miss fans can expect to see a different version of defensive end Greg Hardy, too.

"I'm excited about Greg because I think mentally he's a whole different person right now," Nutt said. "He made every 5:30 a.m. run even though he couldn't run. He was there encouraging his teammates. That's a huge sign for him because he's never done that before. I think he's taken a step forward.

"Of course, it doesn't hurt that he's seen Peria Jerry and Michael Oher driving different cars now. That's a real motivator."

While it might not be a necessity for Hardy to be a leader for the Rebels on defense, Nutt said, "It takes us to a different level when he is."

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