Senior Writer

Oversigning, scholarships to headline SEC meetings


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- The SEC news cycle waits for no one. Consider that the Cam Newton issue probably isn't even in the top 10 of topics when the league's spring meetings begin this week in Destin, Fla. Still ...

"We have a lot of interest in it," commissioner Mike Slive said recently.

Almost five months after Auburn's Heisman-winning quarterback -- and his controversial father -- left the college scene, the pair still have a significant impact on the future of the league. Even if no NCAA wrongdoing is found -- and there isn't a hint yet -- the Newtons will leave a legacy. The NCAA is still in the process of developing legislation that would close the loophole that allowed Cam to play late last season.

Cam Newton and the investigation surrounding him are still hanging over the SEC. (US Presswire)  
Cam Newton and the investigation surrounding him are still hanging over the SEC. (US Presswire)  
Newton was declared ineligible for a day while the NCAA investigated his father's role in soliciting money for his son's services. The NCAA wasn't able to proceed essentially, because there is no bylaw to cover a parent from selling his son to the highest bidder. That will change at some point in the future. The Cecil Newtons of the world are expected to be classified as a booster, a runner or whatever label can be slapped on such alleged low lifes so that the NCAA can have legal standing.

And let's not forget Newton and Auburn are still under investigation by the NCAA.

"We've offered to play whatever role we can ... in the development of legislation. We would sponsor something if it came to that," Slive said.

The meetings are an offseason event in shorts, Tommy Bahama camp shirts, white sands, serious issues and actual news. A couple of years ago Slive came down on his coaches in the middle of the Lane Kiffin hatefest. Twelve years ago, Steve Spurrier stood up and accused Alabama's Mike DuBose of cheating. The question going forward is how the league deals with its spot atop the sport.

NCAA intervention or not, there is little question the SEC is at the height of its football power. Part of the reason for that dominance is the practice of oversigning. The NCAA limits schools to 25 new scholarships per year. SEC coaches aren't the only ones to find loopholes in the rule, but they have made a precise science of it. Slive intends to make "roster management" -- code term for oversigning -- one of the main topics of the meetings.

The question is whether the SEC can continue that dominance playing by the same rules as everyone else.

Give credit to Slive for trying to make it a fully rounded conference in his nine years as commissioner. For a while there, he almost wiped the NCAA slate clean too. In 2009, the league was only a couple of investigations away from being free of major penalties. That's about to change with the assumed bomb about to be dropped on Tennessee. The school will be in front of the NCAA infractions committee June 10 for violations in basketball and football.

While the NCAA investigated and Tennessee stood by, it's a good thing Slive was able to step in and suspended Bruce Pearl. Conference presidents voted Slive enhanced powers last year.

"We're very competitive. It [NCAA issues] is a wake-up call for us," Slive said. "I am concerned about it. The consequences have been ratcheted up. It's foolhardy for anyone around me to think the risk/benefit ratio tilts in favor of benefit ... The conduct defines the violation, not the violation defines the conduct."

Other issues to be discussed in Destin:

  7-on-7 camps and the affect of non-scholastic third parties who influence high school prospects.

  Cost of attendance. Slive is in favor of Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany's recent suggestion that the issue needs to be discussed again. Delany proposed that players be given $2,000-$5,000 per year to cover basic living expenses. Administrators are quick to say that such a move doesn't mean players are being paid. What they haven't figured out is where the money is going to come from to enhance those scholarships. The Big Ten and SEC can probably afford to do it, but what about, say, the Sun Belt?

"Should there be some significant dialogue about whether a scholarship is enough?" Slive said. "In my view, yes. I think there is a question whether a scholarship is enough. I think we need to talk about the cost of attendance."

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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