SEC MEETINGS NOTEBOOK: SEC divides pie between schools, doles out record $20.7M each; Uniform drug policies, stipends for SEC athletes discussed as meetings close

DESTIN, Fla. — The SEC will distribute a record $289.4 million to its member schools for this fiscal year, more than twice as much as four years ago, conference commissioner Mike Slive said Friday.

That translates to about $20.7 million per school — “a pretty healthy number,” Slive said.

The money comes from the league’s revenue-sharing pool, which includes funds from football and basketball television contracts, the SEC Championship football game, bowl games, the SEC men’s basketball tournament and the league’s share of NCAA Championships revenue.

The total distribution is up about $45.4 million — or 19 percent — from last year’s $244 million. It will be divided 14 ways, rather than 12, this time because of the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M to the league. Still, the share per school increased by about $400,000, from last year’s $20.3 million.

SEC revenue has soared in recent years, largely because of increases in TV contracts. This year’s distribution is up 118 percent from $132.5 million in 2009.

More revenue jumps likely are ahead. The conference, in partnership with ESPN, plans to launch a national cable television channel, the SEC Network, in August 2014. The SEC will share profits with ESPN, and SEC schools expect to see a major revenue boost after ESPN accounts for start-up costs.

This year’s increase in SEC revenue was believed to be largely attributable to changes in TV deals related to the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M.

The distribution is for the fiscal year that ends Aug. 31. It doesn’t include about $15.1 million retained by member schools for bowl participation and academic enhancement.

UGA's Adams leads charge for SEC to improve drug-testing policies

DESTIN, Fla. — The SEC wrapped up its spring meetings with commitments to keep eight-game league football schedules through 2015 and to push hard for stipends for college athletes.

No action, however, was taken on a proposal advocated by outgoing University of Georgia president Michael Adams to create a conference-wide substance-abuse policy with consistent penalties from school to school.

Adams had called on the SEC to “provide national leadership”.

Adams said the SEC needs to be the first conference to adopt a substance-abuse policy standardizing penalties across the league for athletes who test positive for drugs. Currently, individual schools decide on penalties, which vary significantly, potentially creating competitive disparities.

But Adams’ view on the issue was in the clear minority among SEC presidents and chancellors, and the matter was tabled, as it also had been at the league’s 2012 spring meetings.

“What we’ve been asked to do is to continue to be attentive to the policies in place on campus(es), and we will do that,” SEC executive associate commissioner Greg Sankey said. “We will look at the policies that exist and review those from time to time, and one of the requests is to make sure those are being applied in a consistent and appropriate manner. That’s our strategy at the present time.”

SEC coaches and athletic directors discussed a possible policy this week under which penalties for a first positive drug test would be the same at all conference schools and penalties for each subsequent positive test also would match from school to school.

“I think that would be healthy,” said Adams, who steps down as UGA president June 30. “But I don’t think we’re there yet as a group.”

Currently, individual schools determine the penalties for violations of their substance-abuse policies for athletes, potentially creating competitive disparities. Georgia’s penalties are among the strictest, according to studies, starting with a suspension of 10 percent of the season — one game in football — for a first violation.

“I’ve been in this long enough that I remember when there was a much harder drug-use prevalence in frankly the ‘80s and through maybe the mid-’90s,” Adams said. “The last decade, the things have been usually regarding lesser drugs, without getting into details. But there does seem to have been some resurgence in the last couple years of drug use.

“I think it’s a question of health. I think it’s a question of what’s best for student-athletes, even more from where I sit than a question of law.”

STIPENDS ARE HOT TOPIC IN FLORIDA: The coaches spoke clearly on the issue of stipends, which would give athletes spending money — “full cost of attendance” money in NCAA parlance — beyond the tuition, fees, books, room and board covered by their scholarships.

“Both the football and basketball coaches were unanimously in support of me pushing as hard as I possibly can” for the stipends, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said.

Stipends would require NCAA approval, and past efforts by the SEC and others to get that have been stymied. The NCAA Division I board of directors approved a measure in October 2011 to give colleges the option of providing $2,000 stipends, but the measure was put on hold several months later when many schools objected, most because of concerns about cost.

This week, SEC football coaches — long led on the issue by South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier — proposed annual stipends of about $4,000.

“The amount of money (football and basketball players) bring in is enormous,” Spurrier said. “And they need to share in it.”

The issue continues to cause tension within the NCAA membership.

“If we are unable to accomplish something that we think is important and really not that complicated in a reasonable period of time, then I think we should sit down and decide how we go forward,” Slive said. “I know there have been discussions by other people about another (NCAA) division, but whatever the mechanism, I think it’s very important that we let everybody in the Association know that this is an issue that really is not going to go away and we need to satisfy it.

“The conferences that are fortunate enough to have the wherewithal to help student-athletes need to have the ability to do that.”

Auburn’s Malzahn: Rivalry vs. UGA needs to be preserved

DESTIN, Fla. — With all the talk about moving to a nine-game schedule — which could spell an interruption of the annual rivalry between Auburn and Georgia — Auburn football coach Gus Malzahn echoed his support for the South’s oldest rivalry at the SEC Meetings this week, saying that the annual game with cross-division rival Georgia is a prime concern in the scheduling talks.

“That’s very important,” he said. “One of the oldest rivalries in football. It’s important to our fans, and I know it’s important to our coaches and players, too.”

Athletic director Jay Jacobs shared Malzahn’s feelings.

“There’s certain things about college football, just because you change something doesn’t mean it’s better,” Jacobs said. “So, the South’s oldest rivalry, that’s important. The other thing we have to continue to think about is the gameday experience. What brings our fans to campus? And certainly, our Auburn-Georgia rivalry is a big thing.”

Georgia coach Mark Richt spoke in favor of maintaining that rivalry on Tuesday, saying it was a game the school wanted to keep at all costs.

SEC WANTS NCAA TO RAMP UP SAFETY TALKS ON CONCUSSIONS: The SEC, after a year of study by its “Working Group on Concussions,” said it will formally ask the NCAA to take the lead on the issue of head injuries in college athletics.

The SEC said it wants the NCAA to organize a national research effort and examine possible revisions of playing rules in football and other sports.

“There is much work to be done,” SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said. “And while the conference has a role to play, prevention and treatment of concussion injuries is a national concern that needs and deserves a coordinated national effort."

The SEC said its working group, which included Georgia trainer Ron Courson, gathered information about concussions, identified best practices and standards of care, and provided such information to schools around the league.

Bowl deals: The SEC is working on deals for new bowl tie-ins to replace the Chick-fil-A and Cotton bowls, both recently named part of the semifinal rotation for the College Football Playoff that begins with the 2014 season. The Belk Bowl in Charlotte, N.C., and the Texas Bowl in Houston are the likely choices.

Slive said the conference expects to have "more say-so" than in the past in deciding which teams go to which bowls. The SEC also intends to negotiate a lower minimum for the number of tickets that bowls require participating schools to purchase.