WHEN MIKE Slive took over as commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, the league made plenty of money. At least, plenty of money for the realities of college athletics in 2002. Ninety-six million dollars went further then.
Slive, who is recovering from treatment for prostate cancer and back surgery, will preside over his final SEC spring meetings this week at the Sandestin Hilton. Satellite camps, graduate transfer rules and the disparity in full cost of attendance payments all will be on the agenda, but the tie that holds all of this week together is money.
Last season, the SEC divvied up $309.6 million dollars. This year, it is expected to hand out more as the cash faucet that is the SEC Network begins to flow in earnest. South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner suggested months ago that the increase this year could amount to more than $5 million per school, and one recent clue suggests it could be significantly more. Georgia’s athletic association just approved a 2016 budget of $117 million, up $17 million from this year.
That kind of bankroll is the reason why the minor details like satellite camps and graduate transfer rules won’t derail the SEC’s position in the college athletics pecking order. Still, there is reason to expect some changes this week.
“Obviously, as coaches we all wish we had the same rules as other coaches,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said.
The current differences are that SEC (and ACC) coaches are not allowed to host offseason camps more than 50 miles from their campus, while coaches from other leagues can host and have hosted camps in the fertile recruiting ground of the South and that the SEC requires a waiver for any graduate transfer who has been the subject of significant discipline at his previous stop or stops.
This became a point of contention when former Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson was looking for a new home. Golson, who served a one-year academic suspension at Notre Dame, would have needed a waiver from the conference to enroll at an SEC school. He ultimately picked Florida State in the ACC.
Conference officials, including incoming commissioner Greg Sankey, will either threaten to soften their rules, even the playing field or skip the threatening and go ahead and do it this week. Either way, it will be a bad look for a league that is powerful enough in every way that it could hold itself to a higher (and only barely higher at that) standard without bellyaching so much about it.
Whatever happens the next four days, though, everyone will leave Saturday with a smile and a fat wallet.