SEC men's basketball to eliminate divisions next season

DESTIN, Fla. ( – SEC basketball coaches got busy a at the league’s annual business meetings on Wednesday when they proposed to abolish the two six-team divisional races in the upcoming season.

SEC commissioner Mike Slive, a former chairman and member of the NCAA tournament selection committee, felt the proposal that calls for one 12-team division with the teams seeded one through 12 for the conference tournament with the four teams owning the best league records getting first-round byes, would be approved by the league’s presidents on Friday.

Kentucky coach John Calipari, chairman of the SEC men’s basketball coaches, said the intent of the proposal is simple.

“We want to get more teams in the (NCAA) tournament and make sure our best teams have high seeds,” Calipari said. “It’s about the SEC winning national titles. We’ve got to make sure the top four teams in our league get high seeds. Our goal is to have eight teams every year in the discussion when the NCAA tournament selection committee starts choosing teams.”

Also part of the proposal by the coaches is that the league would play its current 16-game conference schedule this year. An eight-man task force of four coaches and athletic directors will be formed to study if the SEC should expand to 18 or 22 league games in subsequent years, or figure out a formula to remain at 16 games that would not hurt a team’s RPI.

Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said he and his fellow league coaches have changed their views on the importance of maintaining divisions, which the league has had in football, men’s basketball and baseball since the league expanded to 12 members in 1992, and split into two divisions.

“Times have changed, because we’re the only BCS league that has divisions in basketball,” Kennedy said. “It used to be if you won a division championship, then you were put on the NCAA tournament board by the selection committee."

In other items on an action-packed day on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico:
*A touching story told by Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen to his fellow coaches about the importance of the cowbell to his school swayed the coaches to okay a proposal to extend the one-year rule passed by the SEC allowing their fans to ring cowbells at home games.

Because the coaches passed it, the athletic directors passed it and it’s now moved on to the presidents. The rule, as passed a year ago by the SEC, said State fans could not ring their cowbells during a live play. They were allowed to ring it until the offensive team for either team approached the line of scrimmage to start a play. Mullen related the story to the coaches that the cowbell is more than just a noisemaker.

“When I arrived at Mississippi State a couple of years ago, the cowbell was sort of an amusing thing to me,” Mullen said. “That all changed when I learned the symbolism and tradition of it.

“This past season when I buried one of my players (defensive end Nick Bell, who died of cancer), his mom stood over his coffin and rang her cowbell as they closed her coffin. It gave me a totally new perspective of what the cowbell means to Mississippi State University.”

“Our fans adapted to the rule and we got better as the year went along last year,” State athletic director Scott Stricklin said. “I think there’s a lot of misconceptions about the cowbells. I think the coaches understand it doesn’t impact the game. You hardly hear them on the field. The cowbells add to atmosphere, and atmosphere makes the SEC special.”

*Football coaches all said that they’d like the oversigning limit to stay at 28, although they understand that loopholes may be removed by the presidents on Friday.

“We all like the 28-player limit,” Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said. “It has been in effect just one year. We’d like to see it play out a bit. As long as we’re upfront about oversigning to the players we sign, I don’t see anything wrong with it.”

*South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier proposed to the league athletic directors that football players should be pay $300 per game for every game during the season.

He drew up a petition and he signed it along with six of the league’s coaches – LSU’s Les Miles, Ole Miss’ Houston Nutt, Mississippi State’s Mullen, Alabama’s Nick Saban, Florida’s Will Muschamp and Tennessee’s Derek Dooley.

“I told the coaches who didn’t sign it that the first thing I would do is show the media this so they would know who didn’t sign it,” said a raspy Spurrier, who showed the petition to a group of media surrounding him.

“I thought it was something we needed to get out there. We all make so much money as coaches, it’s like about $300 each for 70 players, or about $21,000 a game if you play 14 games. That’s almost $300,000 for the season ($294,000).”

“I just wish there was a way to give our players a piece of the pie, it’s so huge right now. Fifteen years ago, there wasn’t any kind of money and our players got full scholarships. Now, they are still getting full scholarships and the money is in the millions. Football brings in all the money. They are the performers.”

When asked the reaction of the athletic directors to his petition, “Like always, they said they’d talk about it later.” SEC commissioner Mike Slive said his reaction to Spurrier’s proposal was Spurrier made “a generous gesture.”

Thursday is mostly a play day with golf and tennis tournaments scheduled. School presidents begin arriving in late afternoon. The league's annual awards banquet, honoring the men's and women's Boyd McWhorter Scholar-Athletes of the Year, is set for Thursday night.

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