Between trips to the golf courses and white sand beaches of Destin, Florida, SEC coaches, athletic directors and officials are getting getting work done behind closed doors, as the annual spring meetings session is taking place this week at the SanDestin Hilton.
Unlike recent years, there's no realignment talk, no conference schedule debate and no news of heated discussions related to NCAA investigations going on behind those doors.
There is, however, plenty of talk centered around out-of-conference scheduling, early signing periods and rules issues that could shape the future of the conference. Here's a quick snapshot of the first two days in Destin.
Just because the conference schedule is set in stone through 2025, that doesn't mean scheduling talk is off the docket.
In fact, there's still plenty to discuss out of conference, including the status of FCS opponents.
Alabama's Nick Saban believes all 12 games should be against Big Five conferences. Will Muschamp does not see Florida playing FCS teams.— Tony Barnhart (@MrCFB) May 27, 2014
That's a tricky prospect though. Sometimes it's hard to line up games that make sense from a competitive standpoint, and if a team already has a road out-of-conference game on the schedule, getting a home game—any home game—keeps that bottom line healthy.
On top of that, the lower-level teams within the SEC footprint depend on those paycheck games to fund not just football, but other sports. There will be some pushback if there's ever a real movement to stop scheduling FCS opponents, and the decision-makers in college football know this.
On the other end of the nonconference spectrum, Georgia and Notre Dame seem to be coming close to finalizing a deal, according to Seth Emerson of Macon.com:
After previously downplaying potential Notre Dame series, Georgia A.D. now indicates it's on front-burner. http://t.co/X2vQ3uOVCZ— Seth Emerson (@SethEmerson) May 27, 2014
Whether it's as a neutral-site game or a home-and-home, which athletic director Greg McGarity stated could be the case, this matchup needs to happen.
Early Signing Period
The prospect of an early signing period has been bandied about for quite some time, but now it appears that the rubber is meeting the road.
SEC coaches were unanimous in their support for an early signing day to take place the Monday following Thanksgiving (the week of the SEC Championship Game), according to Brandon Marcello of AL.com. The early signing day would only apply to prospects who don't take official visits during the fall.
"To me the early signing is designed for a guy who knows where they want to go to school," Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen told Marcello. "It alleviates the pressure for them to be able to sign, and all the other distractions in recruiting that come with it, and allow them to sign with that school and take all the other pressures off themselves."
Not so fast.
According to Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com, commissioner the SEC attempted to slow down the early signing day momentum a bit:
SEC prefers to keep current recruiting calendar intact, but if it must change, it would like post-Thanksgiving signing— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerCBS) May 28, 2014
Ultimately, the coaches' vote doesn't matter.
This is an administrative decision alone, and while it might make sense to coaches, it probably would make more sense to the SEC if the entire conference, including coaches and administrators, were on the same page before seriously pushing for an early signing day.
That Pesky 10-Second Rule
The 10-second rule reared its ugly head again, only this time, it wasn't as contentious, according to George Schroeder of USA Today:
Gus Malzahn says "healthy debate" about 10-second rule in SEC coaches mtg. "People didn't all agree, but that's ok. It was all healthy."— George Schroeder (@GeorgeSchroeder) May 28, 2014
Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema, who is on the opposite side of the 10-second debate as his hurry-up peers, played down the controversy, according to Charles Goldberg of AuburnTigers.com:
Arkansas' Bret Bielema on concerns with Gus Malzahn's hurry-up offense: "That was probably played up a little more than it needed to be."— Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) May 27, 2014
This is how negotiations are supposed to go. You know, instead of being done behind closed doors without the input of the entire delegation at the coaches convention.
There could be a silver lining though, as this could lead to a rules committee formed within the SEC.
Is it too soon to start thinking about the opener?
Not for Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin.
The third-year head coach of the Aggies isn't too happy about opening on the road in a conference game, according to ESPN.com's Ed Aschoff. He also knows that, when South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier is quiet, that means trouble could be looming.
“A new challenge and we better get it going pretty quick because Coach Spurrier has been pretty quiet," Sumlin told Aschoff. "That means he thinks they’re pretty good. I’ve been around long enough to know that. He thinks they’re pretty good, and they are pretty good.”
Spurrier isn't as focused on the opener, according to Josh Kendall of The State:
Spurrier asked if he's ready to turn attention to Texas A&M now: "Noooo. I am ready to turn my focus on golf tomorrow."— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) May 28, 2014
Let's be real, with Kelly Plantation just a few miles west of the hotel, there's a lot of people focusing on golf at the moment.