Booze, transfers among eight discussion points at the 2019 SEC spring meetings
The annual offseason meetings take place this week in the Florida Panhandle
On a spit of white sand beach, the SEC will decide the current and future state of the league. In other words, it's time for the annual spring meetings in Destin, Florida.
The league conducts these meetings at resort on the Florida Panhandle with a view of the Gulf of Mexico. Those meetings begin formally on Tuesday with an ocean breeze and a full agenda. Focus, boys and girls, paradise can wait until the end of business hours.
Here are eight things you should keep an eye on as the SEC spring meetings go down this week in Destin.
1. Name, image and likeness: Hard liners gasped a little when the NCAA, two weeks ago,. The moving target that is amateurism will be a key discussion point in Destin. The basic argument is whether student-athletes -- like their Olympic counterparts -- can profit from their basic sense of self.
The Olympics decided 30 years ago that its athletes could still be considered amateurs despite allowing them to do commercials. Those ratings-grabbing figure skaters, gymnasts and skiers didn't turn off a soul because they appeared in an airline commercial.
What does that look like in the college space? Think of Tua Tagovailoa doing a local car commercial or DeAndre Swift getting a little somethin', somethin' for his autograph. You'd better believe the SEC will begin significant discussions on what it all means. This is a league that lost its collective mind in 2015 when cost of attendance was implemented. Back then, the concern was, God forbid, Auburn players get $100 more per month than their Alabama counterparts -- or vice versa.
2. Auburn sadness:will no doubt hang over the meetings. Bramblett and his wife were killed in a car accident over the weekend, leaving a school and a conference in mourning. Bramblett had been the football "Voice of the Tigers" since 2003. He leaves behind two wonderful children, Shelby and Joshua. There have been many great voices of SEC football. Their shared contribution is to those who have no other way to follow their teams except through those unique voices. We should never forget Bramblett's famous call of the Pick Six.
3. Athletic director musical chairs: The SEC West is apparently the place to be for administrators, too. Scott Woodward and Ross Bjork will be at their first SEC meetings since changing jobs within the West Division. Woodward, a New Orleans native, came "home" to LSU from Texas A&M. On Friday, Bjork left Ole Miss -- where he had been for eight years -- to take the opening at TAMU. For those of you scoring at home, that leaves the latest SEC West opening at Ole Miss.
4. Big Ten becomes king of the (monetary) hill: If it's all about money -- and frequently it is all about money -- the SEC has some work to do. The Big Ten earlier this month announced a 48 percent increase in revenue, making the Large 14 the richest conference in history -- by far. This means a lot to the SEC, if only from a pride standpoint. The two leagues have separated themselves from the rest of college sports in terms of money … and championships. The leagues have combined for 10 of the last 13 football national titles. (OK, the SEC has nine of those.)
5. Here's to the next 10, Nick: It was 10 years ago that Nick Saban won his first national championship at Alabama. That started a run of five titles in a decade. Is 2019, will it be a continuation of the same, or was the Clemson game a sign of things to come?
6. NCAA transfer portal: Among coaches, the 7-month-old. It isn't going away, but that won't stop the league's coaches from weighing in. A couple of years ago, anticipating more transfer freedom, Saban said, "Am I going to have to change the way I coach?" The answer is the same for all coaches: Yeah, maybe. At least check 106 SEC football players had put their name in the portal. That's an average of more than 7.5 per school.
7. Stadium alcohol policy: Schools long ago began serving alcohol at sporting events nationwide. The total now stands at approximately 55 FBS schools that serve alcohol at games. The SEC remains an outlier. It is the only major conference that has a policy against alcohol sales to the general public. Social mores have loosened. The NCAA now allows drinkage at its championship events. The SEC -- in the heart of the Bible Belt -- has been slow to change, but truths have emerged.
Alcohol is a significant revenue source that can be controlled. Former West Virginia AD Oliver Luck proved it when he argued that limiting beer and wine inside the stadium (two drinks per visit) were better than fans binge-drinking at halftime. The West Virginia model is 8 years old. (Security officials actually used to have a "Code Vomit" to identify out-of-control drinking in the stands before it was regulated.) The SEC's no-booze policy dates back to at least 1978, according to Sports Illustrated. There will be significant discussion this week in Destin about opening up the spigots. Time for a toast?
8. The SEC is not just for football anymore:, the SEC continued its image makeover. If nothing else, the league will celebrate its hoops success in Destin. Having one-quarter of the Sweet 16 hadn't happened in the SEC in 22 years. Auburn made a Cinderella run to the Final Four.
The general upgrade in basketball fortunes means more pressure to win. Six of the 14 SEC schools have changed coaches in the last two seasons -- four in the last couple of months. Alabama snagged up-and-comer Nate Oates from Buffalo. Veteran NBA (and Nevada) coach Eric Musselman will make his Power Five debut at Arkansas. Buzz Williams left Virginia Tech for Texas A&M. Jerry Stackhouse takes over at Vanderbilt after the surprising firing of Bryce Drew.
That's not counting Will Wade, who snagged an SEC title (and lots of FBI attention) in his second year at LSU. Kentucky remains the team to beat, but it definitely has some competition.
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