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SEC meeting: Push for autonomy, says Auburn's Jay Jacobs

May 27, 2014

Auburn's Jay Jacobs says it's time for major powers to have more control 

By Charles Goldberg

DESTIN, Fla. -- The Southeastern Conference will use its spring meetings to tell the rest of the college athletics it's time for the major conferences to ban together and rethink the one-size-fits-all NCAA. 

The SEC spring meetings officially kick off Tuesday morning, but the groundwork for change has already been discussed, said Auburn Athletics Director Jay Jacobs, the chairman of the league's athletic directors. 

"We need to make sure conferences that have strong goals and visions all work together," Jacobs said. "It's not the 'haves' versus the 'have-nots,' it's the simple thing of what's best for our student-athletes based on where they're competing." 

Last year's spring meeting centered on the possibility of a nine-game conference football schedule and an effort to beef-up basketball schedules. This year's meeting will be spiced with comments about a proposed 10-second rule to slow fast-paced offenses, like the one used by Auburn's Gus Malzahn. But the 2014 meeting will be more big picture, with "autonomy" promising to be the buzzword of conference officials, and the needs of student-athletes being a reason for change. 

"The big message is we have to keep reform within the NCAA," Jacobs said. "We've got to be able to meet the needs of our student-athletes in an official way.  That's not necessarily going to happen in this meeting, but you have to keep moving forward to get that done." 

Jacobs said other conferences are moving in that direction, too. Specifically, the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12, plus Notre Dame, will push for change. 

How serious is the SEC? League commissioner Mike Slive says autonomy means "the five conferences can determine how their own legislative process will work." 

The proposals being discussed would allow for major powers to spend more money on the welfare of players, including the full cost of attending school, travel expenses for family members and other issues that would benefit players, such as the meals provided, the cost of meals and other restructuring issues. 

"You've got to keep doing things for student-athletes," Jacobs said. "That's what we've got to get done. What we need is a solution moving forward for them." 

Jacobs said change is "the direction we're going." 

"It's not big versus small. It's what is best for the schools and the conferences. The student-athlete's needs are different. We've got to make sure we take care of the student-athletes." 

No one is proposing the end of the NCAA. Just change. 

"It's been the same way for a long time," Jacobs said. "But we now have to address the changing times we live in, whether it's athletics or business or what it may be. You have to be adjust to the external demands." 

Jacobs said there's no other "hot" topic at the meetings, especially since the SEC recently announced earlier it is keeping its eight-game, 6-1-1 conference football schedule. It even announced it rotating conference schedule through 2025. 

The SEC also said all league teams have to play at least one-quality non-conference opponent each year. Auburn has Kansas State in 2014 and Louisville in 2015. Jacobs said Auburn is close to naming such an opponent for 2016. 

"We're talking to a school about '16 and '17, and I think we'll get it done soon," he said. 

The league will again push for basketball programs to schedule tougher non-conference opponents, a move that will help the SEC's RPI when it's time to fill out the NCAA bracket. New Auburn coach Bruce Pearl is working on a tough non-conference schedule without any prodding. 

"You have to play folks, and Bruce is a competitor, and he wants to get his team ready for the SEC schedule. I think that's where everybody in the league," Jacobs said. 

The league will also push the SEC Network, which includes 45 football games this fall, including Auburn's season-opener against Arkansas in Jordan-Hare Stadium. 

The meetings will wrap up Friday with distribution of another record payout to member schools. The SEC will announce this year's prize money then. Last year, the total distribution was $289.4 million with each school receiving an average $20.7 million windfall.

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:
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