SEC looking to block Michigan from holding spring practice in Florida

The SEC has asked the NCAA to prohibit college football teams from holding spring practice during spring break, commissioner Greg Sankey told CBS Sports on Tuesday.

The move is obviously a direct response to Michigan’s recent announcement that it would conduct part of its spring practice at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

Coach Jim Harbaugh said on National Signing Day that the Wolverines would begin practice at IMG during their spring break from Feb. 27 to March 6.

There is currently no NCAA rule prohibiting such a move.

One high-ranking source told CBS Sports that an effort similar to Michigan’s will most likely be prohibited in the near future but a decision is not expected to be handed down in time to prevent the planned trip to Florida.

“Our primary reaction [is] that, in the face of the time-demand conversations, we’ve got one program taking what has been 'free time' away,” Sankey said. “Let’s draw a line and say, ‘That’s not appropriate.’"

Harbaugh’s announcement comes at a time when schools are increasingly concerned about demands on athletes’ time. A Pac-12 study last year revealed that the conference’s athletes spent an average of 50 hours per week on their sport and were often “too exhausted to study effectively.”

Time demands were the focus of last month’s NCAA Convention; however, several proposals were tabled for study.

Specifically, the SEC has asked the newly formed NCAA Football Oversight Committee to address the issue “as soon as possible,” according to Sankey.

“We’ll see how people react,” he said.

In general, FBS players are allowed a maximum of four weeks off per year when they aren’t accountable to the program. Going to Florida would account for one of those weeks. Preliminary indications are that Michigan would conduct its four practices at IMG on Feb. 29, March 1 and March 3-4.

Essentially, the SEC is saying spring break should be considered spring break. Some athletes choose to spend their time doing mission trips to other countries. Others prefer to take the traditional spring break vacation and unwind. Enduring point: It’s their time.

“This seems completely counter to the dialogue,” Sankey said. “We have work to do on [giving athletes a] day off. We have work to do on, how do you provide a postseason break? It seems where this is one where reasonable people could say we just shouldn’t be in this space.”

At the time of Sankey’s comments, CBS Sports had responses from 81 of the 128 FBS programs. None conducted spring practice during spring break.

The NCAA allows a maximum of 20 hours per week for an athlete to spend on his or her sport -- no more than four hours per day. Michigan was penalized by the NCAA in 2010 for surpassing that weekly threshold while Rich Rodriguez was coach.

Michigan traveling to Florida could also be perceived as another incursion on SEC recruiting territory. The SEC and ACC have sponsored pending legislation that would ban so-called offseason “satellite camps.” Harbaugh caused a stir when he took over at Michigan as he appeared at several of those camps deep in SEC recruiting territory.

“The net of that is to say the Southeastern Conference is not going to be outpaced in recruiting,” Sankey said. “If the national approach is that we want to have more aggressive summer camps and coaches touring around all summer, then we will not only engage in that behavior, we will certainly engage in that behavior more actively -- probably more effectively than others.”

Sankey is also concerned Michigan would be at a “site full of prospects run by a business enterprise that has a lot of interests -- but one of those is sports agents. It seems like very much the wrong tone.”

Schools have traveled off campus for spring practices in the past, but seldom out of state.

“We’ve not been evangelistic -- if you will -- about practice locations that are reasonable,” Sankey said. “Part of that conversation was that campuses could make these decisions in an appropriate manner without need for national legislation.”

IMG Academy opened 37 years ago as the first full-time tennis boarding school, according to its website. Part of its mission is to be a private athletic training institute for ages Pre-K through 12th grade. Two of the top 12 national prospects in the 2016 247Sports Composite were products of IMG Academy.

IMG is an international talent representation firm headquartered in New York City.

Chairman of that NCAA Oversight Committee, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, did not have comment. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Michigan deferred comment until the point there is a formal NCAA proposal, according to spokesman Dave Ablauf.

Jim Harbaugh's already had success in Florida with a Citrus Bowl win. (USATSI)
Jim Harbaugh's already had success in Florida with a Citrus Bowl win. (USATSI)
CBS Sports Senior Writer

Dennis Dodd has covered college football for CBS Sports since it was CBS SportsLine in 1998. He is one of only seven media members to attend all 16 BCS title games and has chronicled conference realignment... Full Bio

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