2013 SEC Spring Meetings notes – Days 1-2

The Southeastern Conference is currently holding the 2013 SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, FL with head coaches, athletic directors and presidents representing each school in attendance to discuss a number of league and national issues over the course of the week from Tuesday-Friday. Below are some notes from the first two days:

Quotes and information below attributed to Yahoo! Sports, the Associated Press, The Birmingham News, the Orlando Sentinel and The Gainesville Sun.

» Alabama head coach Nick Saban told a media contingent that Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp and athletic director Jeremy Foley both apologized to him following remarks made by offensive line coach Tim Davis recently at a Gator Gathering in Melbourne, FL. Despite saying he was hurt by Davis’s words and even responding to a handful of questions about the “devil himself” comment the week it was said, Saban now says “it’s nothing to get too upset about” and that what Davis said “is not a reflection of the University of Florida, Will Muschamp or the program.” Late Wednesday, Muschamp added that he “was very disappointed” with Davis’s comments and confirmed that both he (Muschamp) and Foley had spoken with Saban. Muschamp also said he spoke with Davis and did not think his words were “reflective of his true opinion” of Saban. Hopefully this is no longer a topic of conversation.

» SEC commissioner Mike Slive, on Tuesday, said the league’s athletic directors voted unanimously (14-0) to explore assigning a “primary” host site to the conference’s men’s basketball tournament. With the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA already the permanent host of the football championship and Regions Park in Hoover, AL serving as the permanent host of the baseball tournament, the league feels a “primary” (read: not permanent) host site is needed for basketball at the very least. The Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, TN is already scheduled to host three of the next six tournaments and seems to be an early favorite to potentially become a primary host site.

Continue Reading » 2013 SEC Spring Meetings notes – Days 1-2

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TWO BITS: Bailey and Anthony, SEC schedules

1 » Four-star wide receiver singee Alvin Bailey (Seffner, FL) may not be on campus yet, but he is still receiving Florida Gators-caliber training this offseason. Bailey has been working with former Florida pass catcher Reidel Anthony (career totals of 2,274 yards and 26 touchdowns) over the last year to improve his game and get ready for the next level. The Gainesville Sun caught up with Bailey and Anthony recently to see how the arrangement is working out. “It’s great to have a mentor like Reidel to put me in the receiver mentality,” he said. “He has a lot to teach me and there’s so much stuff he knows that I don’t. I’m just taking it all in.” Anthony, who compared Bailey to a young Ike Hilliard because of his size and athleticism, is equally excited for the opportunity to play the role of teacher. “He’s really enjoying what we’re doing with him,” he said. “He’s soaking it up. He takes everything in and he’s willing to learn. He will go out and do whatever we ask him to do.” Bailey should be enrolled at Florida in June and will join the football team for summer practices.

2 » The Southeastern Conference Spring Meetings are currently taking place in Destin, FL, and as usual the annual event is being dominated by one topic in particular. This year, the focus is on the SEC’s schedule and whether the league will (a) adopt a nine-game conference schedule, (b) move to a 6-2 format instead of the current 6-1-1 format, or (c) keep the status quo in either or both areas. While a nine-game league slate is unlikely to be approved at this time (as is a switch to a 6-2 format with two opposite-division games rotating each year), the latter has been a more notable topic as it pertains to the Gators. LSU head coach Les Miles continues to pine for the change to 6-2, passionately explaining that he has to play Florida every year while Alabama (for example) gets an easier annual opponent in Tennessee.

Despite Miles’s continued protests, votes will likely be cast to keep the permanent rivalries (if a vote is even held in the first place) with UF still unfazed about facing LSU on a yearly basis. “We’re fine with it,” Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley told CBSSports.com. “I understand where Les Miles is coming [from] and I appreciate LSU’s point of view. But we think it’s a great game for us and a great game for college football. Yeah, it’s a tough game but we’ve got a lot of tough games in the SEC.”

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SEC announces new football, basketball schedules; Florida remains rivals with LSU, UK

Concluding the 2012 Southeastern Conference Spring Meetings in Destin, FL on Friday, the league announced that an agreement has been reached on new football and basketball schedule formats beginning in the 2013 and 2012-13 seasons, respectively.

The SEC will continue playing eight conference games in football but will shift from a 5-1-2 format to a 6-1-1 format now that two additional teams have been added to the league and each division has expanded to seven teams.

Under this format, each conference team will play all six of their divisional opponents, one permanent cross-division rival and one cross-division opponent on an annual rotation. The previous rotation consisted of two teams on a home-and-home series.

The Florida Gators and LSU Tigers will continue being cross-division rivals in football and extend a consecutive games streak that dates back 41 years to 1971. UF is 30-25-3 all-time against LSU (23-16-2 since the teams restarted their annual game).

The other six permanent cross-division rivalries (West-East) include: Alabama-Tennessee, Arkansas-Missouri, Auburn-Georgia, Mississippi-Vanderbilt, Mississippi State-Kentucky and Texas A&M-South Carolina. Arkansas and South Carolina were paired before Texas A&M and Missouri joined the conference.

Conference basketball schedules will expand to 18 games and also feature a permanent opponent with Florida taking on the Kentucky Wildcats twice each year. Teams will play eight of the 12 remaining SEC schools once and four others twice in home-and-home series on a rotating basis each year.

UK leads the all-time series against UF 93-33; the two teams have played a home-and-home series for 48 consecutive seasons dating back to 1965.

The other six permanent rivalries in basketball include: Alabama-Auburn, Arkansas-Missouri, Georgia-South Carolina, LSU-Texas A&M, Mississippi-Mississippi State and Tennessee-Vanderbilt.

An adjustment was also made to the SEC Tournament in basketball which will now feature double byes for the top four seeds and begin one day earlier on Wednesday. The opening round will consist of two “play-in” games between the four teams with the worst league records (No. 11 vs. No. 14, No. 12 vs. No. 13).

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FOUR BITS: Beal, Harris, Martin, Donovan

1 » The 2012 NBA Draft Lottery was held Wednesday evening in New York, NY and the potential destinations for Florida Gators freshman guard Bradley Beal may come down to one of two teams. With New Orleans leaping the pack and receiving the No. 1 overall pick (they are likely to select Kentucky forward Anthony Davis) and Beal likely to be selected with the second or third overall pick, he could be headed to Charlotte at No. 2 or Washington at No. 3. Neither Charlotte nor Washington (in any of their incarnations dating back to 1961) has ever selected a player from Florida. Should Beal make it past those three teams, Cleveland at No. 4 and Sacramento at No. 5 are two more options for him. Only Sacramento has ever selected a UF player (Jason Williams, 1998).

2 » The Gators received paperwork from former South Carolina forward Damontre Harris on Wednesday officially indicating that the player plans to transfer to Florida. After informing the team of his intentions on Saturday, Harris spoke with the Fayetteville Observer and conveyed his excitement. “”The best game I had my freshman year was there, and my sophomore year, that’s probably the best game I had,” he said. “The coaches have been joking with me a lot, so I just tell them it’s the gym and their fans, the atmosphere.” Harris said his comfort with the Gators’ coaches is one of the reasons he picked Florida. It is also the primary reason he left USC after the team fired head coach Darrin Horn and replaced him with Frank Martin.

3 » Speaking of Martin, he told the Tampa Bay Times that allowing Harris to transfer within the Southeastern Conference was a no-brainer for him because in the end it is all about the best interest of the player. “If that young man does not want to be at this school, then you shouldn’t hold him hostage,” he said. “Now we’ve got to compete against Damontre and I don’t like that. But why should I block him from going to the school he wants to play at, as long as things were handled the right way? [...] As long as things are handled the proper way, as long as we all handle things like adults and educators and those kids and those families are up front and communicate with all the appropriate people, it’s no different than me getting out of my contract.” Martin knowing head coach Billy Donovan for quite some time undoubtedly helped him feel comfortable that Harris’s transfer was indeed handled “the right way.”

4 » Donovan spoke about a number of topics while at the 2012 SEC Spring Meetings on Tuesday. One particularly interesting statement he made was on redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario’s first year actually playing for Florida. “He had a lot to learn and a lot to grow up with in terms of being an everyday guy and being reliable every single day,” said Donovan, according to The Gainesville Sun. “More so than any other guy I’ve coached he’s had to deal with a lot of nagging injuries. The one injury that he’s always going to have to battle is he has a legitimately bad back. He’s had a hip flexors and a lot of different issues. He missed 25 practices so it’s hard when you miss as much time as he missed that he was able to get into a consistent rotation there. He had some good moments where I think he helped us in games and he had moments when he was a non-factor. I think playing against some of these older guys that he’s playing against right now and getting into a routine and having to come every single day and have to really play and compete, he needs that. He needs to be more consistent for us.”

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2012 SEC Spring Meetings notes – Day one

The Southeastern Conference is currently holding the 2012 SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, FL with head coaches, athletic directors and presidents representing each school in attendance to discuss a number of league and national issues over the course of the week from Tuesday-Friday. Below are some notes and quotes from day one:

» Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp said redshirt sophomore linebacker Neiron Ball, who himself said months ago that he was cleared to return to the team, has one more hurdle to overcome before being allowed to return to the field. “He’s got one more appointment with the doctor. I think he should be fine. He is in Gainesville,” Muschamp said, according to The Gainesville Sun. “You never know, something might pop up at the end. But he’s going back for one more deal to make sure he’s really cleared. Our medical people would not clear him if they thought there was an issue of any sort. I totally trust their opinion. Nor would he want to play if there was any chance for anything happening.” Ball, when mentioning that he was cleared previously, was likely talking about being able to join his team in the gym and do similar activities.

» As he noted at numerous Gator Gatherings in May, Muschamp again explained that sophomore tight end A.C. Leonard is doing everything asked of him since his arrest and is doing what it takes to make his way back onto the team. “He’s got some things he continues to do. He’s done everything I’ve asked him to do up to this point,” Muschamp said. “He’s got to continue to make good choices and decisions with regard to our football team. If he continues to do that, we’ll handle it.” Muschamp added that Leonard was technically never suspended from the team itself but rather from “team activities” such as practice and the spring game. Leonard is almost certainly facing suspension in the fall with the number of games determined by how well he does at continuing to be a positive member of the team going forward.

» South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier and LSU head coach Les Miles were both adamant Tuesday that SEC games played outside their division should not count toward a berth in the SEC Championship. The basis for their argument is that some teams have more difficult permanent rivalry games (think Florida-LSU) while other teams have it easier and that one game could be the difference between winning your division or not. Muschamp disagrees with both Spurrier and Miles, saying he believes every game should count equally.

» Despite stories from back in March stating that LSU was trying to get out of its annual game against UF, CBSSports.com reported Tuesday that the SEC plans to announce a 12-year conference schedule on Friday based on a previously reported 6-1-1 format (six divisional opponents, one permanent cross-division rival, one game on rotation). Rather than that rotational game being a home-and-home lasting two years (it would take 11 years to play every team at least once), it will change every year so the league is on a six-year rotation. The report also notes that LSU and Florida, as expected, will remain permanent cross-division rivals. The rest of the permanent cross-division games will be: Alabama-Tennessee, Arkansas-Missouri, Auburn-Georgia, Mississippi-Vanderbilt, Mississippi State-Kentucky, Texas A&M-South Carolina.

» Basketball will play an 18-game conference schedule in 2012-13. With divisions eliminated prior to last season, the SEC has decided to rely on the latest football designations to help sort out the schedule. The Gators will have Kentucky as their permanent rival that they play twice each season. Florida will then play the other 12 teams once for a total of 14 games. The remaining four games will come from a three-year rotation among the 12 teams (likely two from each “division”).

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FOUR BITS: Boynton, Hill, Collinsworth, Crowder

1 » Florida Gators junior guard Kenny Boynton has always viewed himself as a scorer, someone who was able to do everything in the high school and has liked to put the ball in from long range in college. The truth, at least as head coach Billy Donovan sees it, is that Boynton’s best characteristic right now is his defense. Boynton was a lock-down defender in 2011, forcing some of the best college basketball players in the country to struggle against Florida in big games. Going forward, his defense (especially if his offense does not improve) could be what gets him onto a NBA bench.

“He has the ability to be the best defensive player in our league, no question,” Donovan said Wednesday at the 2011 SEC Spring Meetings. “And I’m not saying his role’s going to change just to be a defender, but when you talk about him really leading us in scoring and then the fact that he’s got to guard John Jenkins twice a year, he’s guarding Jimmer Fredette, he’s guarding [Scottie] Hopson from Tennessee, he’s guarding Brandon Knight. […] If there’s one thing about Kenny that I think he’s right now is I think he’s an NBA defender. He can really guard anybody on the perimeter. I think the next step for him is decision making, assist-to-turnover ratio, being a better finisher in the lane, those kinds of things. But I think he’s working to get better.”

2 » Former Gators safety Will Hill, who declared for the 2011 NFL Draft as a junior and was not selected during the seven-round event in April, was arrested Thursday by Alachua County Police and booked at 2 p.m. on an out-of-county warrant stemming from having been cited for driving with a suspended license in Lake County. Hill had his bond set at $2,000 for the misdemeanor charge.

3 » Former Florida wide receiver Cris Collinsworth, who played in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals and is currently a color commentator for NBC’s Sunday Night Football, has been looking for something to keep him busy while the league’s lockout remains in effect. With that in mind, Collinsworth has decided to coach the wide receivers at Highlands High School in Fort Thomas, KY, where his son Jac is currently playing. Highlands has won four consecutive titles (including a 50-0 victory last year) and went 14-1 in 2010. “I just got the playbook and I feel like a first year rookie all over again,” he said on his FootballProsLive.com blog. “The plays are scrambled eggs in my brain, and I feel a little anxious. But, I love coaching. I coached many of these kids in the junior football league, and they always kept me entertained.”

4 » Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder spoke with the media recently and provided his thoughts on a number of topics concerning the current NFL lockout. Crowder, who in our opinion provides the best sound bites and quotes in sports, even comments on Raw Lewis’s opinion that crime would increase nationally if football isn’t played. You can check out Crowder’s comments in this piece from the Sun-Sentinel.

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Men’s basketball says SEC-ya to divisions

Southeastern Conference men’s basketball coaches recommended to athletic directors and university presidents on Wednesday at the 2011 SEC Spring Meetings that the conference scrap the current East-West division model for their sport and institute a 12-team, single-league format going forward. Wednesday evening the athletic directors agreed, and the changes will take place beginning in the 2011-12 season.

“It’s done,” Florida Gators AD Jeremy Foley told ESPN’s Andy Katz after the meetings concluded for the day. “The presidents don’t have to sign off on this. This is an AD decision. We will be one league effective next year.”

Under the new alignment, the SEC Tournament will be seeded 1-12 based on conference record. No longer will the top two teams in each division (regardless of record) receive byes; the advantage will instead be given to the four best teams overall.

The SEC also plans to adjust the schedule, though it is unknown exactly what changes will be made. There are options for 16-game (currently used), 18-game and 22-game conference schedules on the table that will be discussed at a later date.

SEC teams currently take on opponents in their own division twice (home/away) and teams in the other division once (site determined by rotation). An 18-game schedule would have teams facing their traditional division rivals twice, two “other division” teams twice and four “other division” teams once, while a 22-game schedule would allow every team to square off twice during the regular season.

Because the schedule for the 2011-12 season is already set, no changes will be made until 2012-13 at the earliest. Tournament seedings will be handled by the new rules.

Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari said Tuesday that one of the main goals in making these adjustments is to help more SEC teams earn NCAA Tournament berths going forward. The conference believes that the new alignment will help it appear stronger as a whole nationally; no longer will there be one dominant division that makes the other look inferior by comparison.

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SIX BITS: Oh-Fours, Donovan, Spikes, SEC, Marotti

1 » Asked his thoughts about the one-and-done mentality perpetuated by the Kentucky Wildcats, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan decided to reminisce about the 2007 season, when his National Championship-winning team decided to take the unselfish route and return to school to repeat. “I don’t know all the situations in terms of [Kentucky players] with their families,” Donovan said per the Knoxville News Sentinel at the 2010 Southeastern Conference Spring Meetings. “My situation was very, very unique. There was an incredible chemistry and bond. And coming off a championship, they also wanted to try and do it again. Three of the [starters’ fathers] were professional athletes. I think the one thing their parents talked to them about was that they would never, ever play on a team like that, and that the NBA would always be there.”

2 » Donovan also spoke about his passion for the Florida program and how he does not envision leaving anytime soon, citing how nice the Gainesville, FL, community has been to raise a family and build a life. “I’m in a unique situation,” Donovan said. “Florida’s been great to me. I still have a passion for it.”

Four more BITS on Brandon Spikes, potential conference realignments and strength coach Mickey Marotti…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Oh-Fours, Donovan, Spikes, SEC, Marotti

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