What to Watch For at SEC Spring Meetings
Memorial Day weekend may be the unofficial start to summer, but it also serves as a reminder that football is around the corner.
SEC coaches, officials and administrators will head to Destin, Florida, this week, as the conference will hold its annual spring meeting session at the Sandestin Hilton.
Unlike years past when scheduling and realignment were hot-button topics, this year's event will take a different turn and new storylines will undoubtedly be pushed to the forefront.
What should you expect from the SEC spring meetings this week?
Campaign Season in the Push for Autonomy
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive will use this week as a de facto campaign kickoff for what his ideal world under the new age of autonomy will look like.
The "power five" conferences—ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC—are pushing for their own set of rules under the NCAA umbrella, because it has become abundantly clear to the power brokers over the last decade that the financial "haves" should be playing under a much different set of rules than the "have nots."
But what specifically does that mean?
Slive has been pushing a $2,000-$4,000 per student-athlete per year stipend to cover full cost of attendance for quite some time now but can't get it approved. It needs to be the centerpiece of the "power five" campaign for autonomy, and the power brokers need to agree on a real, concrete, final dollar figure.
It also stands to reason that other issues associated with autonomy, including transfer restrictions, agent contact/education and player health care, will be a hot topic on the white stand beaches of the Gulf Coast.
Despite the panic you may have if you are a subscriber to a cable provider that doesn't currently have a deal worked out with the SEC Network—which is set to launch on Aug. 14—the network has already enjoyed a tremendous amount of success getting providers on board.
AT&T U-verse, DISH Network and Google Fiber already have agreements in place, making this launch more successful than the Big Ten Network's launch with more than two months to go before the SEC Network hits the air.
The pressure dialed up by ESPN and the SEC has been a big reason why. U-verse was announced as a carrier when the creation of the network was announced, Joe Tessitore was announced as the host of the SEC Nation pregame show the day before the 2013 SEC Championship Game, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Tim Tebow was announced as an analyst leading up to ESPN's coverage of the 2014 BCS National Championship Game and it was announced that former LSU stars Booger McFarland and Marcus Spears will serve as analysts during LSU's 2014 spring game.
The network likes attention, and the SEC spring meeting session will provide the biggest spotlight of the spring, leading up to SEC Media Days this summer. Expect some personnel decisions and perhaps some updates on the progress of carriage deals.
There will be no in-conference scheduling drama this weekend in Destin after the SEC announced last month that it will stick with the 6-1-1, eight-game format through 2025.
But that agreement also includes a mandate for at least one "power five" out-of-conference matchup per year starting in 2016, and news leaked last week that the SEC and ACC are working on an informal agreement for programs that don't have an out-of-conference intra-state rival.
How much will the conference help out? Are there new home-and-home series on the brink of consummation that will make a splash?
There's no time like the present to announce them.
Y'all Play Nice
Destin was the setting of Slive's most infamous closed-door sit-down with coaches who were verbally sparring in public, when he told former Florida head coach Urban Meyer and former Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin to knock it off prior to the 2009 season.
This offseason saw coaching drama of its own, most notably the 10-second rule debacle that saw old-school coaches like Arkansas' Bret Bielema and Alabama's Nick Saban square off against new-school guys like Auburn's Gus Malzahn, Ole Miss' Hugh Freeze and Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin.
James Crepea of the Montgomery Advertiser surmised that a conference rules committee may prevent something similar from happening in the future and ensure that the conference is on the same page when it comes to legislative discussions pertaining to football.
But more importantly, expect the commish to tell his coaches to stop the bickering. If there's an issue, take it behind closed doors. If there's a controversial issue out there, take it up privately.
That's no fun for fans and media, because let's be honest, public shots are fun. But they aren't fun for the commissioner, so expect him to put his foot down again.
The SEC spring meeting session will wrap up Friday, when the conference will announce its payouts for the 2013-2014 season. Last year, the conference set a record by doling out $289.4 million to its members (an average of $20.7 million per school).
What will be the haul this year?
The SEC likely won't eclipse the Big Ten or Pac-12 in terms of per-team payout. Big Ten schools took home a cool $25.7 million last year according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Pac-12 took home around $21 million according to the San Jose Mercury News.
Those two conferences have networks that are already up and running, so it's a stretch to think that the SEC can beat them out right now. But if it's in the ballpark, that's huge news for the conference. Because once the SEC Network hits the air, the SEC will fly by its competitors in the battle on the bottom line.
* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report.