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Five pressing issues: Tackling SEC schedule, Miami mess, O'Bannon case

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June is almost here and with it comes the self-imposed (actually it is a Mrs. Barnhart-imposed) sabbatical to recharge the batteries and get reacquainted with my family. We will return just prior to the SEC's preseason meetings in July and by then we'll be off and running toward the 2013 season. Bet it will get here quickly.

But while I'm away, I will be keeping my eye on a few things. (Just don't tell Mrs. CFB.)

Nobody asked me, but ...

SEC will go to 9-game schedule

I know how the coaches voted on Wednesday in Destin (13-1 against with only Nick Saban voting for it). The reality is that the coach's vote is always interesting, but it's not the one that matters.

Commissioner Mike Slive doesn't have to convince the coaches that nine games is the right thing to do. He has to convince the presidents. And if Slive believes that playing a nine-game conference schedule is in the best interest of the SEC, his track record will carry the day with the presidents.

The SEC won't go to nine games before 2016 because they need a couple of years with the four-team playoff to determine what's important to the selection committee. We don't even know who's on the committee or what their criteria will be.

Given its track record, the SEC can feel confident that its champion will get in the four-team playoff. If the data suggests that the best way for the SEC to get two teams into the playoff is a nine-game conference schedule then it will be done. But you don't make that decision until you have the data.

Miami case will get resolved this year

The school goes before the NCAA's Committee on Infractions on June 13. I'm not going to rehash what a black eye this investigation has been for the NCAA and for Miami. It needs to be over for all parties involved. Miami has already self-imposed a postseason ban for the past two years, which kept the Hurricanes out of the ACC championship game last December. After all of the issues with the NCAA investigation, some of which caused the Director of Enforcement (Julie Roe Lach) to be fired, it's hard to see Miami getting additional penalties.

But I will say this: If Miami gets additional penalties, the infractions committee had better have it damned well documented with reliable, verifiable sources. One more slipup in this investigation will land the whole thing in court and nobody needs that.

Could O'Bannon change everything?

Ed O'Bannon is the former UCLA basketball star whose suit is challenging the NCAA's practice of holding the rights to use the likenesses of college athletes in perpetuity.

In January a judge ruled that she would hear arguments to make this a class action suit that would include all current players. Part of this argument is that players would be eligible for a portion of the television rights if damages were eventually awarded.

That's about as deep into the legal weeds as we need to go. Just trust me that if the NCAA does not prevail on this June 20 ruling, a lot of people who run college athletics are going to be sweating bullets. This case, according to the smart people I know, has the potential to completely change the financial model of intercollegiate athletics.

I can see a judge awarding damages for the use of an athlete's image after his playing days are over. Saying that the athletes are also entitled to a cut of the TV revenue seems to be a bit of a stretch. We'll see.

Gundy going overboard with Lunt

Quarterback Wes Lunt wants to leave Oklahoma State and play college football somewhere else. The NCAA rules say you can enroll at another school and sit out a year of competition before you're eligible to play.

That should be it.

But college athletics has this archaic system that allows the former school (meaning coach) to control where the kid goes to school next if he wants to immediately be on an athletic scholarship. The former coach can ban the kid from going to a school in his conference and any other conference if he feels like it. The coach doesn't have to justify it. He just has that unchecked power.

Mike Gundy, the head coach at Oklahoma State, has put so many restrictions on where Lunt can go that he might as well enroll at Glendale Community College. It's ridiculous, and someday a judge is going to determine that it's illegal.

I've met Gundy. Like him. Think he's a helluva football coach. But he and every other coach who tries to wield this kind of excessive power over kids is on the wrong side of history on this one.

If a coach thinks another school is tampering with his players, then that's a problem between that coach and the other school. Don't put the kid in the middle.

Coaches who continue to do this are going to get hammered (see Randy Edsall, Maryland) in the court of public opinion.

Ignore fans on selection committee

A college athletics director once told me, "The strength of our program is that the fans care so much."

Then he said: "The weakness of our program is that the fans care so much."

We love fans. We really do. College football wants their input. But there are times when the powers that be have to press on and do the right thing, knowing the fans are going to howl.

Such a time has come with the choosing of a selection committee for the four-team playoff that will begin in 2014.

New Alabama AD Bill Battle, who played at Alabama, was head coach at Tennessee and built a billion dollar business (Collegiate Licensing LLC). At age 72, when he should be on the golf course and playing with his grandchildren, he answered the call of his alma mater to help run things after the death of Mal Moore.

As requested by the conference, he submitted a list of potential candidates for the selection committee that included, according to Kevin Scarbinsky of the Birmingham News: Former Georgia coach and AD Vince Dooley, former SEC commissioner Harvey Schiller, former Tennessee coach and AD Doug Dickey, and former SEC commissioner Roy Kramer.

A percentage of Alabama fans blew up the message boards about Dickey and Kramer. They don't like Dickey because he was the boss of Phillip Fulmer, who allegedly turned Alabama into the NCAA which resulted in significant NCAA penalties in 2002. They objected to Kramer based on the narrative that Kramer was also a player in that 2002 probation.

Other schools will have other objections about candidates because of past grievances -- real or perceived.

I'm not going to debate whether or not this stuff is true. Frankly I don't care if it's true or not. If fans are going to use this process to vent about stuff that happened a decade ago then the selection committee will be comprised of 16 greeters from Walmart -- nice folks with good people skills but no background to make this kind of decision.

So press on and pick the right kind of people for the selection committee because the fans are going to complain no matter what.

That's all for now. Thanks for a great year. We'll see you in July.


Tony Barnhart is in his fifth season as a contributor to CBSSports.com. He is a college football analyst for CBS Sports and The CBS Sports Network. Prior to joining CBS he was the national college football writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 24 years. He has written five books on college football.
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