June 3, 2005

SEC presidents concerned about discipline issues

DESTIN, Fla. -- For two days at the Sandestin Hilton, SEC athletic directors and football and basketball coaches have discussed their concerns and opinions about the state of athletics in the Southeastern Conference. Now comes the time for the SEC school presidents to listen to those proposals and submit new policy. While the presidents didn't come to any formal decisions on their first afternoon of meetings, some key issues look to be finalized on the final morning of the 2005 spring meetings.

"Nothing was resolved today but we do have plans for tomorrow (Friday) and we will announce them then," said SEC commissioner Mike Slive after presenting recommendations from the athletic directors to the presidents.

It is highly likely that the university presidents will implement a Character Development Program for the conference members. Obviously the rash of arrests and misconduct by football players from several schools in the off-season has contributed to the presidents' concerns, but they still feel good about the overall conduct of student-athletes in the conference.

"Any (arrests) are too much, but when you look at over 500 student-athletes, it is still a very small percentage," said University of Georgia President Michael Adams, chairman of the presidents during the meeting.

The presidents are not talking about any organized class that would be mandatory for a student-athlete, but more of a program that is built into the fabric of a team's overall guidelines. While no president could site any studies that have shown a program of this nature as successful, it is still a popular idea among the presidents.

"There is a much stronger focus on pushing values and principles which motivates athletes," said LSU Chancellor Sean O'Keefe. "It can really have an (positive) effect."

While there will likely be a program for all members of the conference, presidents are leery of making any universal guidelines for all 12 schools.

"I think Georgia should discipline Georgia and South Carolina should discipline South Carolina," added Adams.

When the meetings conclude mid-day on Friday, university presidents are expected to release a proposal.

Other notes from the meetings ...

While presidents appear unanimous in a Character Development Program, do not look for a mandatory attendance policy to go into affect for the student athletes. The presidents have been making efforts to move student-athletes more into the mainstream of other students and feel this would be a step backward.

Other presidents say that many of the schools have attendance policies already and with new academic reform policies in place, athletic directors and coaches are already aware of the situation.

Some university presidents are already using the word that is synonymous with the BCS, "tweaking," with regard to the new APR, Academic Performance Ratings. Presidents voiced a unanimous vote of support for the new guidelines but do seem to have sympathy with the coaches over some of their concerns.

During the meetings this week, SEC head coaches of all sports raised concerns about transfers and early departures to the pro ranks as an element that could hurt them in the future.

As expected, commissioner Slive stated that it will be another record year for the SEC financially. While numbers are expected to be released on Friday, Slive and the presidents were pleased with another financially successful year for the conference.

University presidents began discussion on Thursday afternoon about television contracts, a major source of revenue for the conference. SEC television deals with CBS, ESPN, FOX, and Jefferson Pilot are set to expire in 2008-09 and the presidents want to have a new deal finalized "a couple of years" before that time.




 

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