SEC presidents had long meetings yesterday to talk about a number of issues, but Mike Slive's proposal for regulations on oversigning and roster management was the biggest of them. They will vote this morning on what changes the conference will enact going forward.
Most of the presidents didn't say much, but Harris Pastides of South Carolina was more glib. In his comments, he said a couple of times that the presidents will vote based on what is best for student-athletes. That's as PR-friendly a sound bite as they come, and no matter what comes out of the meetings, I'll bet you a Cockaboose that's what they'll all say. However, that's not all that Dr. Pastides said was part of the considerations.
Take note of these two passages. One:
"I think most of the discussion was around if we go first and we do something that is viewed as restrictive and conservative, would that be a challenge to the rest of the country and the other leagues?" South Carolina President Harris Pastides said. "Or might we be left out there as the only league? We decided to do what we felt was best for the college athlete, and I think that's how we'll vote tomorrow."
"We'd love the SEC to play a lead role in doing to right thing," Pastides said. "But we would hope the NCAA would adopt whatever we do. I think that's what our ADs and our coaches are hung on. They don't want us to be so far out in front that we're the only league that clamps down on that. So we're interested in seeing parity relative to what happens in the nation on that particular topic."
So that's it, huh? They're willing to do what's best for student-athletes, but not if the SEC is the only conference doing it. They don't want to put their coaches at a competitive disadvantage by voting in more regulation that what other conferences have to deal with.
Of course coaches and ADs are going to make that argument, as they get hired and fired based off of wins and losses regardless of what the national competitive balance is. It's another thing entirely for the presidents to make that a primary concern, as they should be above that fray. After all, athletics exist to serve the institution, not the other way around.
It sounds as though they haven't done much research on this anyway, as none of Slive's proposals dealing with scholarships go as far as the Big Ten's rules do. Big Ten institutions cannot sign more players than they have scholarships available under the 85 roster limit on National Signing Day without petitioning the league office, and even then they can only sign up to three additional players. Nothing that SEC presidents will be voting on has anything to do with the 85-scholarship limit, so they won't be going above and beyond the Big Ten's rules much less be "left out there as the only league."
Ultimately, what Dr. Pastides has said here is that coaches' concerns about the national competitive landscape were not insignificant factors in the presidents' discussion. While I would expect nothing less, I had hoped for more. The presidents should have been considering what is best for athletes, full stop. If they step on their coaches' toes a bit, well, tough. Coaches get paid millions of dollars a year, so they can stand on their talent evaluations.
So which will it be? Will the presidents better protect athletes and adopt some level of meaningful level of regulations and oversight on roster management, or will they cave to coaches' demands? We'll find out later today.