Destin, Fla. — Georgia football coach Mark Richt was obviously uncomfortable with the position he’s been placed in here at the SEC Spring Meetings. Fairly or unfairly, the perception is he has become the face of opposition for over-signing.
That’s not entirely accurate, he said, though he does favor any limits that prevent student-athletes from being wronged in the scholarship process.
“First of all, I think everybody should have a right to manage their own numbers,” Richt said before going into the football coaches meeting Tuesday. “I think every university should he able to do that. All I’ve said is if you sign 25 guys and there’s only room 20 and, after summer, you have to tell two or three of them they have to wait until January and they’re shocked, I don’t think that’s right. . . .
“That’s all I’ve ever said about it. I’ve never accused anybody of anything.”
Football coaches and athletic directors here are discussing a “roster management package” that could place further limitations on the number of football players signed in each class and address practices such as grayshirting. Just last year the league adopted the 28-25 rule, which limited to 28 the total number a school could sign while keeping the number that could enroll at 25.
Based on interviews of coaches before they went into their first meetings to debate the topic, the majority seem to believe that rule is just fine like it is.
“Obviously [over-signing] has been the big talk the last couple of weeks,” Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said. “Like any piece of legislation, I think we have to be careful not to get caught up in the frenzy and over-legislate. . . . I think the 28 rule eliminated excessive over-signing. There’s loopholes, so now let’s close those loopholes.”
Said Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt: “I think the 28 is just right. If you had a cap at 25, you better be right. That’d be very, very hard to do.”
Nutt is, of course, considered the poster child of over-signing. It was after he signed 37 players in 2009 that this issue began to receive national attention.
“I think that’s unfair,” he said of his “poster-child” perception. “I get a lot of credit for that. But if you do your research you’ll find that was the only time I did that. I didn’t have any problem with the 28.”
A recommendation will be sent to the presidents for vote on Friday.
Basketball debate (updated)
The other major issue on the front burner this week is what to do about SEC men’s basketball. There is strong consideration not only to change the seeding format for the SEC tournament. Commissioner Mike Slive said discussions of eliminating East-West divisions will continue but won’t be implemented this season since schedules are already set.
“That’s something we could do right away for next year if that’s the will of the group,” Slive said of re-seeding the tournament. “Obviously the basketball schedule is already set, but I would hope we have some dialogue throughout the fall. Our ADs meet in August and they meet in December so there’s some time to do it.”
There will also be future discussion of and expanding the conference schedule to 16-18 games.
Georgia coach Mark Fox believes change is imminent.
“I think we have to look very hard at going away from being in divisions,” he said. “Two years in a row our Western Division champion was left out of the NCAA tournament. I’m not saying we have to have change but I think it will happen.”
Florida coach Billy Donovan is a proponent of keeping divisions but then seeding the tournament based on RPI.
“That will encourage schools to play a competitive non-conference schedule, which is what the commissioner said he wants,” Donovan said.
Other stuff . . .
Speaking of over-signing, Richt said the Bulldogs were fully aware Spalding defensive tackle Chris Mayes would have to go to junior college. He does not expect any other casualties from the 2011 signing class. “They’re all in the fight,” he said of achieving freshman eligibility. . . .
Fox said he favors the baseball rule for college basketball. That is, players are permitted to turn pro out of high school but otherwise must remain in college three years.
“If they go pro out of high school, let them,” he said. “There’s not many that are really ready to do that. If not, I think three years is fair. I think there is momentum for that in college basketball. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s much momentum for it on the NBA side.” . . .
Auburn coach Gene Chizik on defending the BCS championship: “January 10th is so far in the rear-view mirror for us it’s gone. We’re not returning a lot of guys that started on last year’s team. But the guys we have are excited and passionate about trying to do it again. Our coaches and players know what it looks like now.” . . .
Florida coach Will Muschamp on being one of numerous former Georgia players (along with Mike Bobo, Brian Bohannon, Kirby Smart, Travis Jones) now excelling as coaches. : “Unfortunately for Georgia fans we’re a lot better coaches than we were players. That reflected on Coach Goff’s record. But I think we all really enjoyed football, being around the game, the mental aspect of the game. All of us were overachievers, the typical blue-collar guys that’s got to go out and work harder than everybody else to have any success on the field. I think most coaches that were players were that kind of guy. And most of our father’s were coaches. Again, you’re kind of brought up in the game.”