HYAMS: SEC Spring Meetings

Which SEC team has the best combination of a football and men's basketball coach? Considering no SEC school has had both coaches for more than three years, the evaluation process is filled with conjecture.

For example, how do you rate new football coaches Urban Meyer at Florida, Les Miles at LSU and Ed Orgeron at Ole Miss? And how do you compare Meyer with Auburn's Tommy Tuberville? How do you rate men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl at Tennessee compared to Jeff Lebo at Auburn or John Brady at LSU?

 

We polled 19 media members at the SEC Spring Meetings recently in Sandestin, Fla., and found some intriguing results.

 

One person rated Mississippi State second overall while another had the Bulldogs last. Alabama was third in one poll, 10th in another. Arkansas was fourth on one ballot, 11th on another. Auburn was as high as first and as low as ninth. LSU got one vote for third and two for ninth. Likewise, Georgia was as high as third and as low as ninth.

 

Florida received 12 first-place votes of a possible 19 (one voter split his first-place selections) and had just two votes lower than third. The Gators totaled 28 points, with one point for first place, two for second, etc.

 

South Carolina nudged Tennessee for second place. The tandem of Steve Spurrier and Dave Odom was deemed better than Phillip Fulmer and Pearl. The Gamecocks got four first-place votes and 52 points to UT's three first-place votes and 60 points.

 

Our panel felt Auburn has the fourth-best combination with Tommy Tuberville and Jeff Lebo. The Sporting News incredulously listed Tuberville as the ninth-best coach in the SEC, even though he just went 13-0, dominated the SEC and was ranked No. 2 in the nation. Most of our panel had Tuberville in the top four.

 

Much debate centered around Kentucky. With Tubby Smith considered well ahead of his coaching brethren in basketball, one voter argued you can't put the Wildcats worse than sixth. Yet, three voters had Kentucky ninth and two had the Cats eighth.

 

Arkansas and Vanderbilt are the only schools that have had each coach for at least three years. Arkansas got one vote for fourth but was listed ninth or worst on 10 ballots. Vanderbilt and Ole Miss were rated no better than 10th.

 

My vote: South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss.

 

Here's the list from the media panel with first-place votes and total points:

 

1. Florida (12)              28

2. South Carolina (4)     52

3. Tennessee (3)          60

4. Auburn (1)               83

5. Georgia                  109

6. LSU                       123

7. Kentucky                128

8. Alabama                 141

9. Mississippi State      144

10. Arkansas              173

11. Vanderbilt             211

12. Ole Miss               219

 

 

The SEC has won eight national championships and could win a ninth, if an SEC team captures the College Baseball World Series.

 

Tennessee and Florida are playing for the baseball title in Omaha, Neb.

 

The national titles were in women's indoor track (Tennessee), men's indoor track (Arkansas), men's outdoor track (Arkansas), women's gymnastics (Georgia), men's swimming and diving (Auburn), women's swimming and diving (Georgia), men's golf (Georgia) and equestrian (South Carolina).

 

The SEC also had a football team (Auburn) go 13-0 and finish second in the nation and two women's basketball teams in the Final Four (Tennessee and LSU).

 

In 1990, the SEC distributed $16.3 million to its 10-member schools through the league's revenue-sharing plan.

 

Recently, the SEC announced it would distribute $110.7 million, an average of $9.22 million per team. That doesn't include $7.1 million kept by schools participating in bowls and $600,000 divided among the schools for NCAA academic enhancement.

 

The financial growth through the years has been astounding: from $9.5 million in 1983 to $34.34 million in 1993 to $58.9 million in 1997. The biggest jump was from 2001 ($78.1 million) to 2002 ($95.7 million). The SEC topped $100 million for the first time in 2003.

 

The most recent breakdown: $45.4 million from football television, $20.2 million from bowls, $12.4 million from SEC Football Championship -- that's $78 million from football alone -- $11.6 million from basketball television, $3.3 million from SEC men's basketball tournament and $17.8 million from the NCAA Championships.

 

Other news that came out of the SEC Spring Meetings:

-- Memphis will make a pitch to host the SEC baseball tournament after the league's contract with the Hoover-Met expires after the 2006 event. It's unlikely the tournament will move from the Birmingham area, considering it attracted 199,000 fans last month and 320,000 over three years. Also, the SEC will discuss in August expanding the SEC tournament field from 8 to 12 teams.

 

-- Only five of the 12 SEC football coaches have a vote in the coaches' poll: Auburn's Tommy Tuberville, Arkansas' Houston Nutt, Georgia's Mark Richt, LSU's Les Miles and Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer.

 

-- Commissioner Mike Slive said he wants the 12th game to be a quality opponent to benefit TV inventory and fans. The SEC is not considering adding a ninth league game. The Pac-10 will play another league foe when the schedule expands to 12 games in 2006.

 

-- Some SEC schools proposed each institution adopt an attendance policy that would require suspension from play based on number of classes missed. But the SEC voted to allow each school to deal with attendance however they chose. One president said you shouldn't have an attendance policy just for athletes and not regular students.

 

-- A proposal by some coaches to make basketball a one-semester sport – starting in mid-December – got no support from athletic directors or presidents.

 

-- A proposal to admit four men and four women who would have been deemed partial qualifiers (an ACT score below 17) was defeated. Because of the sliding scale introduced several years ago, schools can take a student-athlete who makes as low as a 10 on the ACT as long as he has a GPA of about 3.8 in a core curriculum.

 

-- In response to an inordinate number of arrests in the SEC, Commissioner Mike Slive announced the league has hired Northeastern University Center for Study of Sports in Society to visit with each school and visit with student-athletes about anger management and making the proper decisions. ``I see it as a national problem and the SEC is trying to take the lead (in prevention),'' Slive said.

 

-- Two SEC schools – South Carolina and Vanderbilt – were fined $5,000 when fans stormed the court or field in violation of the league's new crowd control policy. A second offense results in a $25,000 fine and a third in a $50,000 fine. Each subsequent offense is a $50,000 fine. The SEC also asked schools to check with attorneys to see what punishment can be levied against fans for boorish behavior. ``We don't want to dampen enthusiasm,'' Slive said, ``but we want the behavior to be civil and appropriate.''

 

-- Don't be surprised if the SEC partners with the Liberty Bowl (in place of the Independence Bowl) but fails to reach an agreement with the Gator Bowl because of the exclusive rights held by the Capital One Bowl that prevents another bowl with an SEC tie-in to start within two hours of the Capital One's 1 p.m. kickoff on Jan. 1.

 

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Auburn's Toney Douglas, who ranked fourth in the SEC in scoring as a freshman, has received a release to transfer to any school outside of the SEC.

 

Auburn coach Jeff Lebo had clearly grown tired of dealing with Douglas' father, Harry, who blasted Lebo during a press conference in which Toney announced he was declaring for the NBA draft. Toney likely will return to college, considering he wasn't invited to the Chicago pre-draft camp.

 

``Toney is a good kid,'' Lebo said. ``Unfortunately, there were some unrealistic demands and expectations placed upon Auburn basketball and the coaching staff.''

 

Those would have been placed by Harry Douglas, who said Auburn should have allowed his son to shoot more – even though he was second in the SEC in shot attempts – that his son should have played point guard and that Toney didn't have a good supporting cast. Auburn had the smallest team in Division 1 last year.

 

"He doesn't feel he has a future at the point guard position,'' Harry Douglas said.

 

If he transfers, Douglas would be the fifth player Auburn has lost since Lebo took over last year. Marco Killingsworth and Lewis Monroe transferred to Indiana, Dwayne Curtis went to Ole Miss and Brandon Robinson was academically ineligible. Ryan Daniel, who followed Lebo from UT-Chattanooga to Auburn, is likely to leave as well.

 

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In the past five years, three coaches who eliminated Alabama and Mark Gottfried from postseason play were hired by the SEC.

 

At Kent State, Stan Heath beat Alabama in the NCAA tournament and was hired by Arkansas.

 

At Tulsa, Buzz Peterson beat Alabama in the NIT final and was hired by Tennessee.

 

Last season at Milwaukee-Wisconsin, Bruce Pearl beat Alabama in the NCAA tournament and was hired by Tennessee.

 

``I wish you hadn't told me that,'' said Pearl, aware of the struggles of Peterson and Heath.

 

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The SEC might lose as many as 10 players early to the NBA, including two high school signees – Monta Ellis and Louis Williams. That takes much of the starch out of a league that was down last season.

 

``The league has done a good job of recruiting and to a certain point, too good of a job because we've got so many kids looking to go to the NBA early,'' said Florida coach Billy Donovan. ``Losing one or two players can change the whole dynamics of your team.''

 

Recently, Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said he expects to lose Randolph Morris, who projects to be a first-round pick even though he didn't average double figures as a freshman. And Florida guard Matt Walsh has said he has hired an agent, ending his chances of returning.

 

Of the dozen players the SEC stood to lose, only three – Jamareo Davison of Alabama, Olu Famutimi of Arkansas and Douglas – figure to return.

 

Mississippi State is the only program in the country to lose three high school signees to the NBA. Bulldogs coach Rick Stansbury vowed to avoid recruiting someone likely to go pro out of high school, but Ellis, a guard from Jackson, Miss., played his way into declaring for the pros.

 

EXTRA POINTS: Tennessee men's athletic director Mike Hamilton was paid almost $330,000 last year and received a one-year extension that takes his contract through June 2008. Hamilton's base was $236,900. He has a $19,500 business expense account, got $62,500 based on sports performances and another $16,000 based on academic performances. … Georgia starting linebacker Derrick White has been dismissed from the team after a DUI charge, his second arrest in three months. He earlier was suspended for two games for his involvement in a bar fight. … Ole Miss running back Vashon Pearson will miss this season for academic reasons, meaning junior Jamal Pittman gets the starting nod. … LSU got a commitment from Alex Cate, a quarterback from Utah. It is LSU's seventh commitment. … Georgia has 11 commitments, picking up two running backs and a fifth offensive line prospect. … The All Sports Association of Fort Walton Beach, hometown of former Florida Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel, is starting a national honor in Wuerffel that will go a college football player who best exemplifies community service with outstanding academic and athletic achievement. … For the first time, South Carolina's first three games will be televised nationally: Central Florida Sept. 1 on ESPN, Georgia Sept. 10 on ESPN, Sept. 17 Alabama on CBS.

 

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Jimmy Hyams is a featured columnist in Tiger Rag and the program director for WNOX in Knoxville, Tenn. Hyams, one of the most respected sports personalities in the SEC, can be reached by e-mail at jimmy.hyams@citcomm.com.

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