DESTIN, Fla. — The 2015 edition of SEC spring meetings are in the books, and it has been an interesting year for the high-profile conference.
The SEC Network launched in August and was the most successful cable television launch in history. SEC Commissioner Mike Slive will hang up the briefcase this summer and coaches suddenly feel threatened by satellite camp restrictions that allow coaches from other conferences to recruit during times when it typically isn't allowed.
What went down on the white sand shores of the Gulf Coast this week?
Here's a notebook:
Rollin' in the Cash
The question heading into spring meetings wasn't "How much of an impact the SEC Network would have on the bottom line," it was "How much of an impact will it have?"
The answer: a big one.
The SEC announced a record distribution of $435 million out of a total revenue of $455.8 million on Friday—an average of $31.2 million per school. Last year's record-setting distribution was a "mere" $20.9 million per school.
Does the SEC Network deserve most of the credit? Slive would not specify just how much of an impact the Network had on the bottom line, but he did admit its success certainly contributed to the NCAA-record distribution figure.
"You can't have the most successful launch of a television network in cable history and not have an expectation that there would be some revenue to go along with that," Slive said.
That's pretty remarkable considering the startup costs associated with starting a network—some of which were mitigated by ESPN's previously existing studios in Charlotte. What's more, the network wasn't rated during its first year of existence.
The future of the SEC looks incredibly bright. In a green tint, of course.
Going Out in Style
Spring meetings marked the last official event for Slive, as Greg Sankey will take control of the conference on Monday, June 1—two months earlier than initially scheduled.
Slive is credited not only for the SEC's rise to power, but for the new landscape of college football that includes full cost of attendance scholarships and the College Football Playoff. He went out in style this week, as the conference honored him at its annual awards ceremony Thursday night.
"When I came (in 2002), it was 'who's that guy coming from some place up North and what he's doing here,'" Slive said. "I had never been on an SEC campus. The only thing I knew about the SEC was that when I was commissioner of Conference USA, they were beating us all the time. These folks were not happy with where they were. Roy [Kramer] did a fabulous job and set the stage for me to be successful. It was clear right away that people were going to do the right thing. It takes a village for us to do the things that we accomplished.
"These have been the best 13 years of my life."
The "recovering lawyer" from New York will be remembered as a visionary. He was the man that, in 2008 here in Destin, became the first college football decision-maker to seriously push the idea of a "plus one" playoff.
"In 2008, he put the four-team playoff on the table," SEC Network analyst Tony Barnhart said (via SECSports.com). "It was referred to as a 'plus-one,' but essentially it was this change to the postseason mechanism. He knew that even if it didn't pass it would start the discussion about what the postseason should be like."
His "national agenda for change" unveiled at his state of the SEC address at media days in 2011 set the stage for the new era of college football. It accelerated the goal for full cost of attendance stipends, increased the focus on long-term player health and brought recruiting rules into the 21st century.
He was more than the commissioner of the Southeastern Conference. He was college football's most important power broker.
"I always felt that I was a trustee of a sacred public trust," Slive said.
He will be missed not just by the SEC, but by college football.
The conference is in good hands, though.
"I think Greg is a very talented, bright, articulate and bright young man, and the perfect person to be the commissioner," Slive said. "The issues that he faces are different than the issues I have faced. This is the breaking point, and it's the right thing to do.
"Greg knows where we've been. He knows why we got there and he knows how to get better."
Satellite in My Eyes
Like it or not, satellite camps took center stage this week in Destin. The SEC and ACC currently prohibit coaching staffs from "guest coaching" at smaller school camps during the summer, when coaches aren't allowed to recruit.
Midway through spring meetings, Slive and Sankey began using the term "recruiting camps" in an attempt to re-brand the camps for what they truly are.
They also won't be banned for long.
The SEC will propose national legislation similar to the SEC's current rule, which prohibits coaches from holding camps outside state borders and a 50-mile radius from camps. If that doesn't fly, the SEC coaches will be let loose.
"Our folks would be free to fan out all over the country and have at it," Slive said.
Sankey reiterated that stance.
"[The coaches] talked very specifically about their intent to canvas the nation if we're in the same circumstance next year," he said.
Some coaches have already made plans.
"Should that not be a violation, I promise you, we'll do it all summer next year," LSU head coach Les Miles said. "Next year, we'll be in all different locations."
There is a happy middle ground.
It's unlikely the NCAA will adopt the SEC's version. All FBS conferences get a vote, and the Power Five's votes count twice. With the Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12 all able to host, and Group of Five schools benefiting from high-profile coaches working their camps, satellite camps are likely here to stay. All they need to do is fit within a specific time window or be capped at a specific number per year.
At that point, everybody's happy (and working more).
What Time Is It? Game Time
The SEC announced several early-season kickoff times this week, with a surprise announcement that CBS—which typically doesn't carry games until Week 3—will get games during the first two weeks of the season thanks to a sublicense agreement with ESPN.
Here are the games CBS announced this week:
- Sept. 5: Auburn vs. Louisville (in Atlanta), 3:30 p.m. ET
- Sept. 12: Georgia at Vanderbilt, 3:30 p.m. ET
- Sept. 19: Auburn at LSU, 3:30 p.m. ET
- Oct. 31: Florida vs. Georgia (in Jacksonville, Florida), 3:30 p.m. ET
- Nov. 7: CBS Doubleheader, 3:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. ET
- Nov. 14: CBS Doubleheader, noon and 3:30 p.m. ET
- Nov. 27 (Friday): Missouri at Arkansas, 2:30 p.m. ET
The topic of player discipline came up early and often in Destin, due in large part to the ill-fated Jonathan Taylor experiment at Alabama.
Taylor, a former defensive tackle at Georgia, was kicked off the team last year after being arrested for felony domestic violence. With that case still pending, Taylor played at Copiah-Lincoln (Mississippi) Junior College, and enrolled at Alabama in January.
He was arrested in March on domestic violence charges and promptly dismissed from the program.
The conference passed legislation brought forth by the University of Georgia that prohibits schools from accepting transfers who have been disciplined by their universities due to "serious misconduct." In this case, "serious misconduct" is defined as sexual assault, domestic violence or other forms of violence.
"The sentiment was very clear," Sankey said. "There wasn't a lot of debate in the end."
When asked if he felt other conferences would adopt similar legislation, Sankey said, "We view it as a leadership opportunity."
Hold Me Back
For the most part, field-storming by fans in the SEC is only reserved for special occasions. Auburn did it after the "Kick Six," Missouri did it that same night in 2013 when it clinched the SEC East and Ole Miss fans flooded Vaught-Hemingway Stadium when it upset then-No. 1 Alabama in 2014.
It's going to be costly in the future, though. As in, $50,000 for the first incident, $100,000 for the second and a whopping $250,000 for the third. The conference also eliminated the three-year window that would reset the fines, so every incident after the third will incur a $250,000 fine.
The previous fine for first-time offenders was $5,000, while second-time offenders were docked $25,000.
"It's designed to be a deterrent," Slive said. "When we first did it, $5,000 had a little ring to it. Given where we are now, it's not much of a deterrent."
Next time your team springs that big upset, your athletic director might need to pass the hat around the field to try to cover that fine.
When the idea of full cost of attendance was floated a half-decade ago, it was a nice theory.
"Hey, let's give student-athletes a stipend to cover the actual cost of attending college."
Now that the rubber has met the road, it's not so simple. The government-mandated formula reported to the United States Department of Education spits out a wide-ranging figure for each school, which could create some problems on the recruiting trail.
"There's going to be some disparity there," said Florida athletics director Jeremy Foley. "I'm not sure that's easily fixed. At the end of the day, it is what it is and is still a positive step for student athletes. To me, that's not going to be the determining factor of why a young man or woman is going to pick a school."
Alabama head coach Nick Saban preached for the need to be on a level playing field, but that's not going to happen. Coaches on the low end of the pay scale will just have to get used to a new sales pitch in the living rooms of prospects.
"I would say that it's an equal number and that the final spending money [the prospect] will have in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, will spend exactly the same as it would at some other school," LSU head coach Les Miles said. "That [disparity], in fact, is inconsequential."
The conference did pass legislation that requires all schools to disclose their methodology for determining "other expenses related to attendance at the institution," effective immediately. That report requires certification by the president of the university, as well as a senior financial aid officer.
The days of complicated signals, flip cards featuring SportsCenter anchors, iPhone icons and 20th-century technology on the sidelines could be coming to an end.
NFL-style technology, including earpieces in the helmets of quarterbacks and still photos on the sidelines, was discussed by coaches in Destin, and the league is considering taking the rules changes to the next level.
"The NFL model is something that I think is probably coming quicker than a lot of people think," Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin said. "We're talking about training guys and putting a better product on the field, but also training them for the NFL...and that's what they do.
"I think it's something that has a chance over the next couple of years."
Will an ear piece in his quarterback's helmet crank up the tempo of the already lightning-quick Aggies offense?
"Me?," Sumlin joked. "I'd probably slow them down."
SEC Coordinator of Officials Steve Shaw sat us down for an hour-long seminar, complete with video examples, of rules changes this year in the SEC and college football.
- Eight-man officiating crews will be in effect at all SEC games in 2015. The conference used one eight-man crew in 2014, with the majority of the crews having seven members.
- Overbuilt facemasks have been outlawed due to the risk of players having fingers stuck in them and the weight of the facemask tilting the player's head forward more than it should.
- Crop top shirts and exposed back pads will force players to sit out at least one play or until the equipment malfunction is rectified. More consistency with the uniforms allows officials to identify player numbers easier.
- Illegal blocking by an onside kicking team is now reviewable.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.
Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.