This week, I’m taking over the “10 for Tuesday” segment with ten things I think will happen during this week’s SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, Florida. If you’re not already aware, representatives from each of the league’s 14 schools are convening at the Hilton Sandestin to talk about all of the issues facing the league right now, from scheduling to the college football playoff, and of course, the SEC Network. Unfortunately, the KSR budget didn’t include enough for me to cover the events in person (BTI is expensive, y’all), but I put on my bathing suit and wrote up this preview anyways. Grab an umbrella drink and enjoy.
1) There will be plenty of talk about the SEC Network
The SEC Network was announced earlier this month with about as much subtlety as Kim Khardashian’s baby shower. The network means money, money, money (mon-ey!) for the league, but before the coaches and ADs get all Scrooge McDuck in their giant piles of money, they should probably figure out what’s going to play on the 24-hour channel. Last week, Paul Finebaum joined the party, and hopefully we’ll get some more announcements about the type of programming to expect. (No word on whether KSR will get the 2-3 a.m. time slot we applied for.)
2) The coaches will discuss going from eight conference games to nine
One of the biggest topics of debate will be whether or not to go from eight conference games per season to nine. Only one coach in the league supports that: Nick Saban. And that’s because Alabama’s pretty much the only team good enough to handle another SEC game. Saban argues that teams should improve their schedules because “if we all played good teams, it would be easier to quantify who the best teams are,” and another league game will bring in more revenue (if teams don’t make their schedules tougher, Saban says fans “are going to quit coming to the games”). While that’s true, adding another league game is a serious blow to the mid- to lower-tier SEC teams’ postseason chances. Kentucky has one of the the toughest schedules in the nation next season. Adding a league game would likely mean the end of the Louisville series because the staff will want to keep as many easy wins on the schedule as possible. The move to nine games isn’t expected to come to a vote this week, but Saban may have a powerful ally in ESPN, who wants as many prime league games as it can get for the SEC Network.
3) Steve Spurrier will sun his guns
And in turn, the women at the Hilton Sandestin will spend more time at the spa and less time around the beach bar.
4) Bret Bielema is happy to be at the big kids’ table
Former Wisconsin head coach and new Arkansas front man made it very clear today that he’s happy to be out of the Big 10 and hanging with the big boys. This morning, Bielema was reminded of a comment he made over a year ago about Urban Meyer’s recruiting tactics, in which he said “I can tell you this: we at the Big Ten don’t want to be like the SEC — in any way, shape or form.” Bielema’s response? He told reporters that “in the Big Ten, we disliked the SEC because of the success they had.” If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em?
5) Les Miles will suggest eliminating a league permanent opponent
For now, the league says it plans to stick to its 6-1-1 conference scheduling format, meaning six divisional games, one cross-divisional permanent opponent and one cross-divisional rotating opponent. However, as previously mentioned, Saban wants to go to nine conference games, and Les Miles wants to eliminate the permanent opponent because he feels its unfair that LSU has to play Florida each season while Alabama gets to play a weaker Tennessee team. The college football playoff starts in 2014, and with that, coaches are very worried about strength of schedule.
Also, some reporter will make a joke about Les Miles eating grass, and will likely get a sassy snarl in return.
6) Everyone will insult Urban Meyer
This morning, Nick Saban made the argument for tougher schedules, and in the process, got in a nice jab at Urban Meyer. Saban praised the strength of the SEC last season (at one point, the league had six teams in the top ten) and said asked what would happen if Ohio State had to play an SEC schedule: “How many would Ohio State have beaten? Would they have won three? I don’t know.”
7) There will be some kind of rookie initiation
Four coaches will be enjoying the SEC Spring Meetings for the first time this week: Butch Jones, Tennessee; Bret Bielema, Arkansas; Gus Malzahn, Auburn; and of course, our own Mark Stoops. This will be Malzahn’s first appearance as a head coach, which means he’ll still probably be included in the rookie initiation that, in my head, most certainly happens. Whether it’s bringing Nick Saban his morning coffee or being forced to put sunscreen on Steve Spurrier’s pimply back, the coaches must have some way of hazing the new guys.
8) Mark Stoops will get sunburnt
With that red hair and freckles, it’s bound to happen. Pack the SPF 50 and a hat, coach.
9) The SEC may get some new bowls
The college football playoff is coming in 2014, but there is still a lot of uncertainty about how it will work, especially after the announcement of the “Champions Bowl,” an annual postseason game between the SEC and Big 12 Champions. The Chick-fil-A and Cotton Bowls will join the playoffs, which means the SEC may need to find two new bowls to partner with. The Capital One, Outback, Gator, and Music City Bowl will likely remain SEC bowls, and there’s talk that the Belk Bowl (Charlotte) and the Meineke Car Care Bowl (Houston) will join the mix. Rumor has it that the league has brief bowl officials about a pool between the Belk, Music City, Gator, Meineke Car Care and Outback Bowls in which the league would have more say on which teams played in which games than in the past.
10) Nick Saban will not have any fun.
Seriously, is there a coach you’d want to go the beach with less than Nick Saban? Saban will probably go to bed at seven, wake up at five, and complain about the sand every hour in between.