SEC Spring Meetings: No Significant Votes, But Meaningful Discussion Toward Solutions Happened

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DESTIN, Florida – The sun was expected to set on the SEC Spring Meetings Friday with zero significant votes taken. There was a lot of drama and significant discussion, but most of that involved the feud between Alabama coach Nick Saban and Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher, which has dissipated for now.

Until one of them makes another crack at a speaking engagement over the summer, that is.

Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher: Just A Couple of “Hillbillies From West Virginia” Feuding

“We still have meetings with presidents and chancellors and athletic directors and administrators on Friday, so to those of you from the media still here, leave us alone,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said Thursday night at the league awards banquet.

He was kidding, in a way. But that might have been a good message – two weeks ago.

The 14 football coaches, who had the most juicy items on their agendas with schedule change, Name, Image & Likeness and the transfer portal, all left without any votes.

Several coaches told reporters on and off the record that they would vote this week on a new nine-game schedule from the eight-game format that is critical with Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC in 2025, or possibly 2024. They were wrong. The four-team pod schedule formats have been discussed at length by media, but they were not discussed at any significant length by coaches.

“There are too many variables,” Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said. “New teams coming in. What year do they come in? Playoff expansion changes. We went over a number of (schedule models), but I don’t know the exact answer.”

Clay Travis: 9-Game SEC Schedule Would Work

Sankey did test the waters and decided not to hold a schedule vote because he felt it may be too close, such as 8-6 for a nine-game schedule over eight, or – worse yet – 7-7. He feels over the next few months, more coaches will come around to nine games or back to eight. He wants something closer to unanimous.

“I’ve always been for playing more conference games,” said Alabama coach Nick Saban, and he wasn’t making that up, like – for example – his supposed knowledge of how Texas A&M recruits.

“I’ve always been for trying to eliminate some of these games that you play that fans, players and supporters are not really interested in,” Saban said. Like the Tennessee-Alabama game, perhaps?

“I think the nine-game format is a start in that direction,” he said. “But what is the best model? That’s No. 1. And No. 2, are the other conferences doing the same thing? Are they going to play more conference games? Are they going to have the same kind of competitive balance?”

That was a sample of what these meetings were – questions with answers to come.

Should the coaches move to the nine-game model, they do not have to be in Destin to vote. There could be a scheduled vote at any time over the next several months remotely. It could happen after the 2022 season when Sankey meets with all the coaches in February at the league offices in Birmingham, Alabama. Sankey would like it before the 2023 spring meetings.

But, the seismic shift of the SEC with major votes and decisions that were advertised to happen during these meetings – and not pushed back by a coy Sankey, by the way – could all still happen as late as the 2023 Spring Meetings in time for the new members. The last major movement by the SEC regarding football expansion and scheduling happened late – within a year late before the 2012 season when Texas A&M and Missouri joined.

So, as far as 2022, a lot of sand, sun and shades, but not a lot of talk, but talk was not idle chatter. It will lead to eventual change.

“Had a lot of great dialogue – some of the best I’ve seen at meetings like this,” said Fisher, who used to be head coach at Florida State in the Atlantic Coast Conference. “I don’t know if we had any solutions, but we had a lot of great ideas.”

The coaches couldn’t agree on eight league games or nine.

“You think coaches can get a consensus? I want good questions now,” Fisher said as laughter broke. “No, there wasn’t because I think each team and program sees itself differently based on where it’s at and what it does. But I don’t mind nine.”

Good God, Fisher agrees with Saban. A caveat to the nine-game schedule proposals would be the SEC edict that all members must play a Power Five opponent would be lifted.

“But we would probably keep our games with Notre Dame and Miami,” Fisher said of future schedules. “You want great content, but also what gives you the best chance to get in the playoffs.”

The coaches did prove to be in strong consensus over one item that no one can get away from – NIL.

“I will say that probably of all the things discussed, almost everybody was on the same page about NIL,” Kiffin said. “Something needs to be done with that. Even some people that I or you would not think would say that, all said the same thing.”

Could Kiffin have been talking about Fisher, who parlayed his school’s rich resources and aggressive NIL approaches to help him sign the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class? Probably.

“The thing you’ve got to have with NIL is uniformity,” Fisher said. “It has to be concrete across the board.”

That is a difficult assignment as each state has different laws that weigh into NIL.

“I don’t know how you get to that,” Fisher said. “I think that will be sorted out probably, eventually in the court system. But we have to have that uniformity with how things are done. Instead of going, ‘Ready, aim shoot,’ when NIL started last year, we went, ‘Ready, shoot, aim.”

Saban and Fisher were in agreement again. The NCAA allowed its member institutions to just dive into the NIL without guardrails.

“We put a canoe on top of an SUV to go to the lake, didn’t tie it down, took off and just hoped for the best,” Saban said of NIL’s first year. “I think that’s kind of where we are right now. I always said I encouraged this whole NIL thing for players to be able to earn money. It’s just something that we need to make sure that we have equitable competition, transparency, and protect the student-athlete. We have no oversight right now.”

And the transfer portal change that allowed players to switch schools without sitting out a year coupled with NIL created chaos never or rarely been seen in the history of college football. Coaches and athletic directors were also in agreement that the portal needs change.

Call It The NCAA Quitter Portal

“The portal started out this way, and it was supposed to go this direction,” Kiffin said. “And it didn’t. The portal was going to be, ‘Hey, you go in, you look around, and then you come back.’ But I don’t think many come back once they go in. You have the combination of two things basically happening around the same time – NIL and one-time transfer portal window, and that created this monster that we’re in.”

The portal was designed originally to give athletes who weren’t playing an option to play somewhere else.

“Well, now you have NIL on top of that, so now you have really good players going in that are happy where they’re at,” Kiffin said. “But they want to go see if they can make more money somewhere else.”

This is why Kiffin recently suggested that Alabama quarterback Bryce Young – a happy player coming off the Heisman Trophy win – should have entered the portal to see if he could get more money.

“So, you have a system where you can opt into free agency whenever you want,” Kiffin said. “So, if you were in professional sports, and at the end of every season, all these great players had a chance to say, ‘Hey, I can opt in, go see what I can make, or come back?’ Then they would all do it. Nobody would say, ‘No, I’m just going to stay.’”

But the NCAA’s hands may be tied with changing the transfer rule or NIL.

“I don’t think they can because of potential lawsuits,” Kiffin said.

But the coaches want something done regarding NIL and the portal, perhaps through a federal exemption against lawsuits.

“I would say a lot of the coaches would prefer to go back to how it NIL was supposed to work,” Kiffin said. “Players were going to come in, get NIL deals based off performance, based off their marketing. Now, you have players going in, and they’re getting money – not for their marketing. They’re getting money just to go to where they go to school before they do anything. And they’re not going to do much in return.”

Kiffin saw it coming.

“I said it the fist day (last summer) when they made the rule,” he said. “Why not just make cheating legal? Now you have it.”

As far as the portal, there may be a vote Friday that would move the SEC school-to-SEC school transfer deadline from Feb. 1 to May 1 to coincide with the NCAA deadline for transfers anywhere in time to be eligible for the next season.

The transfer portal, meanwhile, has resulted in 17- and 18-year-olds making major decisions about their future when they are not ready. The graduate transfer portal, on the other hand, features older, more educated and mature players switching schools after they have exhausted their opportunities over time instead of falling into a quit-and-leave mentality.

“When we started talking about the transfer portal, there were a lot of advocates who said, ‘Man, this is great. Coaches can move. Athletic directors can move. There should be that same flexibility for athletes,'” Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne said. “I get that constantly. The idea of it is healthy.”

But what is on paper does not always translate into the real world, which is why the NCAA Transfer Portal has at times become the NCAA Quitter Portal.

“I don’t know how you were when you were 18. You made great decisions at all times right? You may be surprised, but I didn’t,” Byrne said. “I do think having things in place, learning to fight through adversity and challenges is a good thing in the maturation process of a young person. One of the things that I love being a part of is watching 18-year-olds grow into 22-year-olds, and hopefully have a little bit of a positive influence on them.”

That maturation process could be enhanced by remaining at the same school. The grass is not always greener elsewhere, and sometimes there may not even be any grass.

“There are a lot of men and women who have gotten in the transfer portal who find they don’t have another place to go,” Byrne said. “Because another young man or woman has filled that role. It’s changing the recruitment of high school kids. That’s not a good thing.”

But Kiffin warns the portal is here to stay, unless talk becomes votes and action.

“If you don’t embrace it and figure it out, you’re not going to be here very long,” he said.

The same with NIL.

“I don’t know at this point if NIL and the portal can be solved in a few days in Destin,” Byrne said. “I do think we’re going to need some help. There should be opportunities for Congress to try to create a path.”

Fisher had his doubts about Congress getting involved.

“God help us,” he said.

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

Guilbeau joined OutKick as an SEC columnist in September of 2021 after covering LSU and the Saints for 17 years at USA TODAY Louisiana. He has been a national columnist/feature writer since the summer of 2022, covering college football, basketball and baseball with some NFL, NBA, MLB, TV and Movies and general assignment, including hot dog taste tests.

A New Orleans native and Mizzou graduate, he has consistently won Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) and Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) awards since covering Alabama and Auburn at the Mobile Press-Register (1993-98) and LSU and the Saints at the Baton Rouge Advocate (1998-2004). In 2021, Guilbeau won an FWAA 1st for a game feature, placed in APSE Beat Writing, Breaking News and Explanatory, and won Beat Writer of the Year from the Louisiana Sports Writers Association (LSWA). He won an FWAA columnist 1st in 2017 and was FWAA's top overall winner in 2016 with 1st in game story, 2nd in columns, and features honorable mention.

Guilbeau completed a book in 2022 about LSU's five-time national champion coach - "Everything Matters In Baseball: The Skip Bertman Story" - that is available at, and Barnes & Noble outlets. He lives in Baton Rouge with his wife, the former Michelle Millhollon of Thibodaux who previously covered politics for the Baton Rouge Advocate and is a communications director.

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