June 2, 2005

SEC Meetings Day 2: News, notes and quotes

With the 12th game a foregone conclusion and athletic directors not willing to start the season one week earlier, coaches had a different topic of concern on day two of the SEC meetings. All morning long, the 12 head coaches discussed their concerns over the NCAA's new Academic Performance Rating (APR) and how it will affect their teams. Under APR guidelines, teams could lose scholarships if they fall below the cut-off mark or have a player transfer in poor academic standing.

"I have big concerns about the APR," said Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer, the longest tenured coach in the SEC. "Not that we are being held accountable, but from the stand point of what is expected of a student athlete."

Fulmer went on to illustrate his remarks: "My daughter has a friend who is leaving school early for an opportunity in pharmacy school, but if a football player did that, we (Tennessee) would be penalized."

According to the NCAA, teams will need to stay above the 925 score to avoid losing scholarships for players that are deemed 0-for-2, meaning the student-athlete did not remain eligible for the current academic term. Even schools that are above the 925 mark are still concerned about the future and how transfers will affect their status.

"We are pleased with where we are because we have the best score in the conference," said new Ole Miss head coach Ed Orgeron whose Rebels have a score of 976. "I do want to make sure that we are not punished for a player who decides to move on to bigger and better things."

Georgia head coach Mark Richt, this year's chairman of the SEC coaches at the meetings, took a more diplomatic approach when discussing the NCAA's APR.

"We all know that it is a work in progress, but I think overall it is a good thing," said Richt. "There are some concerns that we (coaches) all have, but I'm confident that they will work out."

SEC athletic directors and school presidents will meet on Thursday to hear the coaches' concerns over the APR and how that will affect the future.

Other notes from the meetings ...

The SEC head basketball coaches discussed proposing a dramatic change to the college schedule. Concern over the current season spanning two semesters has spurred a proposal that would have the basketball season begin in December and end in April.

"It is very difficult for incoming freshmen to start practicing in October and not being able to return home for Thanksgiving, not to mention final exams," said Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried. "This way we would not have to compete with football scheduling and the players would have an easier transition."

Not all of the SEC coaches were in favor of the new idea. South Carolina head coach Dave Odom does not like the idea of having the season wrap-up at the end of April or the beginning of May.

"I don't like the idea of April Madness," said Odom, referring to the NCAA tournament. "Maybe it is because I've been coaching for a long time but I don't like the idea of changing things."

There are rumblings about the SEC returning to the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville on January 1 as one of the conferences many bowl tie-ins. SEC commissioner Mike Slive would not say that any deal was close to being reached with the bowl, but he hinted that it is a possibility.

"We're happy to talk with the Gator Bowl and have had some discussions with them," said Slive, who has also been in discussion with the Liberty Bowl and Champps Sports Bowl as other possible tie-ins.

Currently, the Gator Bowl matches up teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big East Conference and Notre Dame. It is believed that Gator Bowl officials would like to replace the Big East with the SEC when the current contract ends this year.

ACC commissioner John Swofford has also expressed concern with the runner-up of the newly established ACC title game returning back to Jacksonville in less than one month's time.

The SEC Baseball Tournament, held in Hoover, Ala., is in the final year of its current contract and could move to another host city. Slive indicated that he would talk with officials in Hoover about the possibility of renovating the current stadium to renew the contract.

No other cities have been mentioned at this time.

Quotes of the day

"I'm glad that Steve (Spurrier) is back in the league because he certainly adds some spice," said Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer on his longtime nemesis in the conference.

"This was the job that I wanted from the beginning. There was no other job in the country that I would have considered," said a confident Ed Orgeron about his new position as head football coach at Ole Miss.

"Actually, my wife indicated that she liked me better with the mustache," said Georgia basketball coach Dennis Felton on shaving his trademark mustache last week.

Also see:

Day 1 from Destin: SEC coaches not looking forward to 12th game

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