SEC meetings: Slive wants basketball programs to submit non-conference slates for review
by David Mitchell
May 28, 2013 | 5714 views |  0 comments | 57 57 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Kentucky coach John Calipari and the rest of the league coaches will have to submit their non-conference schedules to the SEC for review. (Photo by Dave Martin/Associated Press)
Kentucky coach John Calipari and the rest of the league coaches will have to submit their non-conference schedules to the SEC for review. (Photo by Dave Martin/Associated Press)
DESTIN, Fla. — The perception may be that the Southeastern Conference meetings taking place in Destin this week center on football. Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari joked about that at the conclusion of Tuesday’s meeting.

“Do they play football in this league?” he said sarcastically.

His point: There’s plenty being discussed in his sport, as well.

The primary discussion coming out of men’s basketball was the issue of scheduling better non-conference opponents.

League commissioner Mike Slive announced that schools would be asked to submit their non-conference schedules to the league for review. Slive said the process would be a bit like a stoplight.

“Some (games) will be in the green zone, some will be in the yellow zone, and some will be in the red zone,” he said.

The concern is over the league’s RPI, which is a factor in the postseason tournament selection process. Slive and the league’s coaches hope to improve the collective strength of schedule in the conference, which would benefit the teams in the long run.

The analytical review will be based on a system of metrics developed for the league by Greg Shaheen, the organizer of the NCAA men’s tournament for 12 years through 2012.

Also on the table is discussion over naming a primary site for the men’s conference basketball tournament. Slive noted the success of the football championship in Atlanta, Ga., and the baseball tournament in Hoover.

Slive said there were a number of locations up for discussion, and it was too early in the process to make any specific speculation. Asked about the tournament’s success in Nashville, Tenn., Slive smiled.

"It’s a good city,” he said.

SABAN, RICHT DISCUSS MALZAHN’S OFFENSE: Auburn coach Gus Malzahn missed during the first day of meetings Tuesday, but rival SEC coaches Mark Richt and Nick Saban shared a handful of opinions about the rookie head coach.

Most prominent from the coaches’ comments was the discussion about the extreme challenge Malzahn’s offense brings to the SEC.

“Gus is a fantastic coach and does a really good job offensively,” Saban said. “This whole concept of playing fast and not letting the defense get lined up and doing a lot of different formations and motions and sort of having things orchestrated, you know, is challenging.”

As an offensive coordinator with the Tigers, Malzahn led an offense that saw plenty of success, particularly during the 2010 season when the team won a national title.

Saban said the hope is that as players get used to playing against it, they’ll be able to do a better job and make less mental mistakes.

Richt shared similar sentiments.

“The more you see it, the better you’ve got a chance to have an idea of preparing your guys for what’s going to happen,” he said. “He’s got a lot of different twists and tempo and, you know, different than most people.”

DEFENDING JOHNNY FOOTBALL: While there is still debate over the future of the SEC schedule format, one thing that isn’t up for debate is games within the division.

For Alabama, that means recent SEC West addition and potential powerhouse Texas A&M is and will continue to be on the schedule. Last year, the Aggies handed the Crimson Tide its only loss. It provided a national stage for the eventual Heisman winner, quarterback Johnny Manziel.

“A fantastic player is a fantastic player,” Saban said. “We thought he was a fantastic player last year, and we really tried to prepare for him. But he has such a good instinctive feel for scrambling and making plays and ad libbing and making something happen when there’s nothing there. That’s kind of hard to prepare for. … I’m not sure you stop a guy like that, but to keep him from making big plays and allowing him to break down the defense, that’s something we’re going to have to continue to work and do a better job of.”

Alabama is scheduled to play at Texas A&M at 2:30 p.m. Sept. 14.

TRICKS OF THE TRADE: The SEC meetings have become a media circus, growing in popularity as the teams in the conference continue to succeed at the national level.

Some coaches, like Georgia’s Richt and Alabama’s Nick Saban, are ushered into the hallway by an athletics communications director to be swarmed by all attending media representatives. Other coaches take that as an opportunity to slip by unnoticed.

While Saban conducted his only interviews of the week, Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin quietly descended the stairs at the Sandestin Hilton, giving the group a wide berth and trying to maintain obscurity. As he passed the group, the coach, who is attending the meetings for the second time after the Aggies joined the conference before the 2012 season, gave a wry smile and noted that Saban’s news conference was the perfect time to avoid detection.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier wasn’t as successful. Spurrier, who has a conflicted relationship with reporters, ducked around the backside of the stairs minutes after Saban departed only to be noticed and cornered.

Wearing shorts and sunglasses, the coach shrugged his shoulders.

“I thought I saw a shortcut,” he said before declining to speak at that time.

David Mitchell is a staff writer for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Contact him at 706-571-8571. Follow on Twitter @leprepsports.

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