DESTIN, Fla. — Not long after Mike Slive announced another record-setting year of revenues for his conference, someone asked the SEC commissioner if he knew what the financial numbers would like next year.
“Yes,” Slive said, smiling.
After a long pause, Slive was asked to reveal those projected figures. He refused — and just kept smiling.
Despite mandatory furloughs and millions in budget cuts at many of its universities, the money machine known as the SEC keeps rolling through the recession.
At the conclusion of its annual spring meetings, the SEC on Friday announced approximately $132.5 million in revenues — a four percent increase over last year’s take and an average payout of $11.1 million per school.
But the financial figures for 2009-10 — when the SEC begins its 15-year, $3 billion TV deal with CBS and ESPN — will dwarf this year’s numbers. Some projections estimate next year’s payout will be between $18 million and $19 million per school.
While Slive insists the SEC is not recession-proof — “There’s no safe harbor for anyone,” he said — the conference discussed only a couple of cost-cutting initiatives at its four-day meetings at the Sandestin Hilton.
Rather than follow the lead of several Big Ten schools that will no longer print media guides, the SEC will ask the NCAA to adopt a proposal allowing schools to continue printing guides but stop distributing them to prospects.
The SEC will pay $200,000 to teams hosting Thursday night games (down from $300,000), while eliminating the payout to visiting teams in Thursday games. USC, which has played at least one Thursday night game in each of Steve Spurrier’s first four seasons, opens the season at N.C. State on a Thursday and will host Mississippi on Sept. 24 in a Thursday night matchup.
Conference officials said they support two national cost-cutting initiatives: the elimination of the NCAA regional track meets and the overseas summer basketball tours. USC athletics director Eric Hyman said the school spent about $150,000 last year when Darrin’s Horn’s team traveled to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria for games.
Otherwise, Slive said the SEC would allow its schools to implement their own cost containment strategies. “We have not imposed from the conference level cost-cutting measures for our institutions,” he said.
Among the proposals kicked around this week in Destin, USC president Harris Pastides said the one that generated the most discussion in the presidents meeting was the cap on football signing classes.
The measure was introduced after Mississippi signed 37 players in February — or a dozen more than the 25 scholarship players the NCAA allows schools to bring in each year.
The SEC’s athletic directors wanted the cap at 30, although the presidents agreed to place it at 28 signees.
“We wanted to avoid the gratuitous signing of large numbers of athletes, knowing that we can’t hold them or knowing that they won’t qualify,” Pastides said.
Other legislation that was passed included:
A ban on junior varsity football games against prep schools or junior colleges, which some coaches viewed as a recruiting edge for schools that scheduled jayvee games. USC played two jayvee games against Georgia Military under Lou Holtz.
A policy that would require graduate assistants to be no more than seven years removed from their college graduation, a move designed to keep football programs from getting around the limit on on-field coaches by putting veteran assistants in GA roles.