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Record payout, talk of a Division IV for the SEC

May 30, 2014

Auburn and the SEC cash in on the success of football

By Charles Goldberg

DESTIN, Fla. -- Money talked at the Southeastern Conference spring meetings, where the league distributed a record $309.6 million to its 14 schools for the past year of success, and where the league said it would move to create a super Division IV if it doesn't get reform in the current makeup of the NCAA.  

The SEC and four other major conferences want more autonomy so they can establish a new rules designed for the welfare of their student-athletes.

Commissioner Mike Slive threw down the gauntlet as the spring meetings ended Friday, saying it was time for change in the NCAA to allow bigger schools to operate differently. 

"If it doesn't pass, the next move would be to go to a Division IV," Slive said. "It's not something we want to do.  We said we want to stay in Division I and we want to be with everybody in Division I. Access to championships won't change and the revenue distribution will not change. Within that structure, we want the ability to have autonomy that has the nexus to the well-being of student-athletes." 

Slive said he would be surprised if the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 don't "feel the same way."

Auburn President Jay Gogue said he's OK with a quick move toward autonomy.

"I think the public will expect more than anything is that all of us have sort of fussed about long it takes to get things done," he said. "If we create this new deal, we've got to get things done in a hurry, too."  

Auburn Athletics Director Jay Jacobs said his school would have to calculate the cost for each student-athlete and that could be ready for 2015.  

The talk of a Division IV overshadowed much of what had come before this week among the coaches, who were asked about an early signing period in football, scheduling, camps and alike.  

The SEC and its member institutions apparently have money to spend. Part of the call for autonomy is to provide student-athletes more money toward the full cost of going to school.  

On average, each SEC school received $20.9 million for the past year. More riches could come from the new SEC Network, though Slive said any amount would only be "speculative" now.  

Big schools want to spread the wealth. If they're not allowed to, a new division could be next.  

"By going to Division IV you would create rules for your division just like you create rules for Division I. Division II has its own rules," Slive said. "But we think the NCAA is better served, and college athletics is better served, if we could all stay together in Division I.  

"This is a way to retain the collegiate model. I think it would be a disappointment, and in my view, a mistake, not to adopt the model.  

"We've said we believe the NCAA is the appropriate umbrella organization for intercollegiate athletics. Everything we've done and thought about has been in the context of being in the NCAA."  

But, Slive added, "We need to face up to change.  

"I do believe this is a historic moment. If we don't seize the moment, we're going to make a mistake."  

Slive said the league reluctantly approved a fallback plan for an early signing period if the NCAA approves one. But Slive stressed the SEC does not want an early signing period.  

"Our proposal is to keep it the same," Slive said. "Let's not get confused. Our proposal is to keep the question of the early signing date the same as it has always been. We do not want the early signing date." 

The SEC would accept an early signing day for the first Monday after Thanksgiving. Some conferences want it earlier. The SEC also wants to put restrictions on official visits an early signee could take.  

"We think our proposal is better than the other proposals," Slive said.  

The SEC Network is still trying to line up new providers. Only two have signed up, and that's why the league is hesitant to discuss added revenue.  

"We've never said anything about that. ESPN has never said anything about that," Slive said. "We're optimistic. We believe the product is so good, we believe the network is so strong, we believe the network will be national, we believe it will generate revenue as it grows over the next decade. But to speculate how much that will add to the revenue through the conference is really speculative." 

The coaches grabbed the headlines early in the week. But what was discussed by the athletic directors and president were more procedural, except for the early signing date for football.

The SEC did approve:

The use of institutionally-controlled, computerized sound systems, including music, and institutionally-controlled artificial noisemakers and traditional institutional noisemakers (read Mississippi State) can be played and/or used at any time except from the time the center is over the ball and until the play is dead. 

An easier transition for a graduate school transfer to become immediately eligible. The basketball coaches pushed for this.  

To increase bowl revenue distribution. The league also said all institutions are financially responsible for the purchase of guaranteed bowl tickets.

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