- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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As SEC coaches, presidents and athletic directors grab their sunblock and sandals for a week in Destin, Florida, they'll likely hear one word over and over inside the Sandestin Beach Hilton: autonomy.
Yes, with the creation of the Power Five conferences, SEC commissioner Mike Slive and a couple of other conference commissioners have made it a point to be a little more vocal about having autonomy among the five power conferences going forward. The goal is for the country's most powerful conferences to have their own legislative process. That means the SEC, ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 would have their own power when it comes to the well-being of student-athletes, such as funding the full cost of scholarships, handling health care issues for student-athletes, redoing transfer rules for student-athletes, providing money to student-athletes' families for travel to sporting events, and decreasing the demands on student-athletes during the season.
The NCAA already is working on a new governance plan for the five bigger conferences to allow them to make some of their own rules in the future. This proposal would require a two-thirds vote by the 65 schools in the five power conferences to pass. The NCAA board of directors is expected to vote on a restructuring in early August.
For Slive, who has been very outspoken about giving more to student-athletes over the years -- especially financially -- he wants all the schools in the country's most powerful conferences to have more power when it comes to taking care of student-athletes.
"Our presidents and chancellors have unanimously supported this effort to create autonomy in these areas that are related to student-athletes, so I anticipate that we will continue to support it," Slive told The Associated Press last week. "And I do anticipate that we will also want to see that the proposed model is modified so that that autonomy really means autonomy, that the five conferences can determine how their own legislative process will work.
"This isn't about five commissioners, this is about 65 institutions and their presidents. I'm optimistic that these changes will occur and that we will be able to fully support the model going forward."
That's why these meetings are a chance to not only discuss autonomy with the rest of the league, but to pump it up before the August vote.
But autonomy won't be the only thing up for discussion this week. There's also the business of the prospects of an early signing period in college football. The ACC proposed an early signing period at its own spring meetings earlier this month, and would like to see that date be Aug. 1. An early signing period would definitely accelerate the recruiting process, making summertime on-campus visits and spring evaluations that much more crucial. However, not all of the SEC coaches have stood together on this issue, and the general consensus from the ones who wouldn't mind an early signing period is that they would prefer the date be at or near the end of the college football regular season.
Alcohol sales in SEC stadiums also could come up for discussion. LSU athletic director Joe Alleva said earlier this month that he sees alcohol sales happening in Tiger Stadium in the future, but there hasn't really been leaguewide support of this. Still, it's a plan to bring in more money, so it's bound to be brought up in Destin.
Then there's the talk of the SEC Network, which is set to launch Aug.14. The league is still looking to add to its current distributors -- AT&T U-verse and Dish -- but an announcement on that likely won't come this week. Still, we should know about the progress on that.
Will there be scheduling talks? Likely, but with the conference format set for the foreseeable future, those talks likely won't be very long. Although, it will be interesting to hear from coaches about the new 12-year rotation format for nondivisional opponents that the league announced last week. And maybe some coaches and ADs will open up some about their future nonconference scheduling when it comes to fulfilling that required Power Five opponent starting in 2016.
The SEC got out in front on its issues before this spring's meetings, so the load could be light for everyone. But never count out the SEC when it comes to a surprise or two during this time of year.
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