SEC writes Dawgs $10 million check

DESTIN, FL – The Southeastern Conference announced Friday it will distribute a record $127.2 million to its 12 schools this year, and more is on the way.

 Friday capped the league's annual business meeting, which was dominated this year by talks about the team's future TV deals. The current TV contracts end after the 2008-2009 and the conference power brokers spent several days here listening to suitors who want to be part of the new deals.

 The SEC currently has a network deal with CBS, a national cable deal with ESPN and a regional cable deal with Raycom Sports. All three of those parties are interested in reaching new agreements with the league, and "other entities" also made sales pitches, SEC commissioner Mike Slive said.

 "There is significant interest by the various parties that are interested in talking to us," Slive said.

 Asked about the league's bargaining power considering it has won the last two BCS football titles and two of the last three men's basketball titles, Slive said: "If you could publish my smile, you would get my answer."

 Of the $127.2 million the league is distributing this year, $50.6 million comes from football television deals. The new deals are expected to move that number even higher.

 The SEC still is considering starting its own television network, which would replace a regional cable deal.

 "We'll be getting into serious negotiations as soon as we get home and organized again," Slive said. "We are entering into a very sensitive time."

 In other news Friday:

 -- The early football signing period that was proposed by the conference's head coaches was voted down "big-time overwhelmingly" by the presidents and athletics directors, Slive said.

 "I just think it needs to be discussed a little bit more before we move forward with it so we understand all the consequences that go along with it," Georgia athletics director Damon Evans said.

 Several athletics directors and presidents said the measure could be discussed next year, Florida athletics director Jeremy Foley indicated he would never be in favor of it.

 The early signing period would have been in late November and would have not been open to any athlete who had made an official visit. That caveat was the reason the football coaches supported it, and the reason the administrators opposed it.

 "(The presidents) want to encourage students and parents to come to the campus, and this was going in a different direction from that," Slive said.

 -- Georgia baseball coach David Perno won a victory before the first pitch of his team's NCAA Regional in Foley Field, and it was a win for all college baseball coaches as the SEC presidents voted for an increase in baseball scholarships from 11.7 to 14.

 The proposal still needs to be ratified at the NCAA level, where Georgia president Michael Adams promised to champion it.

 "For states that don't have scholarship programs (like HOPE), it's a parity issue," Adams said.

 -- The was no formal discussion about a college football playoff, only what Adams described as "hall talk."

 "We need to let this issue rest for a while," he said.

The doesn't mean Adams thinks the issue is dead, far from it.

 "When 75 percent of the public wants something, it will happen eventually," he said. "I think there is a lot more (public) talk out there than there was a year ago and there are a lot more people who realize that something needs to be done. Sometimes change comes slowly in this business."

 Slive, who earlier this year proposed a Plus One system to add to the bowl system, does not support a playoff, he said.

 "I don't ever use the P word, ever," he said.

 -- The conference announced it came up $1.2 million short of its expected revenue from the SEC basketball tournament because of the storm that forced it to be postponed and moved from the Georgia Dome. Almost 11,000 fans received refunds on tickets, SEC associate commissioner Mark Womack said.

 Several members of the SEC staff are taking a bus with catered barbecue to Atlanta next week to host a party for officials at the Dome and Georgia Tech who helped the conference keep the tournament running after the storm.

 "We're excited about going down there to say thank you personally," Slive said.

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