DESTIN, Fla. - I'm writing this from the lobby of the Hilton hotel. A few feet from me is BCS commissioner Bill Hancock. Texas A&M football coach Kevin Sumlin just walked by with his family. Tourists seem oblivious to the big names walking around, such as last night when Nick Saban trudged through the lobby.
Although this is still an important event, it's still an informal gathering. Jerri Spurrier said hello yesterday while I was in one chair, and after a day of moving around and interviewing, I just happened to be in the same chair when she saw me again.
"You haven't moved all day!" she kidded me.
My pleas to the contrary fell on deaf ears.
Tuesday was kind of a fluff day, as coaches and others met, talked and laid the groundwork for possible votes later this week. I'm hoping that Wednesday will produce a bit more hard news. So stay tuned to this spot for that.
Here are a few things I think (with apologies to Peter King ) after one day of SEC meetings:
1. I've heard about 50 different opinions now on whether we'll know much by Friday on future football scheduling. Every time somebody tells me one thing - such as there will definitely not be a set 2013 schedule this week - someone contradicts that. All that seems certain is they will produce a scheduling model.
2. Everyone expects that model to be a so-called 6-1-1 format: Six games against fellow division opponents, one against a permanent cross-division opponent, and one against a rotating opponent.
3. There also is a building consensus that the rotating cross-division opponent will NOT be a home-and-home series. This way (for example) Georgia and LSU wouldn't go eight years without playing each other in the regular season. So if Georgia plays at Alabama in 2013, then that doesn't mean Alabama will automatically return the trip to Georgia in 2013. Instead Georgia would host, say, Texas A&M.
4. But why is football scheduling back in flux, after it seemed they would announce a 12-year plan, with charts and grids, this week? I think there's a good chance that behind the scenes there is some push-back from the schools not involved in traditional cross-division rivalries. (Georgia, Auburn, Tennessee and Alabama are pushing to keep their permanent games, while some of the other schools, while not seeking to end those rivalries, are looking for some concessions in return.) South Carolina and LSU, for example, are pushing Steve Spurrier's proposal to only have division records count. What kind of concessions? I can only guess. But commissioner Mike Slive seemed very cautious about confirming evevn the most obvious scheduling news on Tuesday - such as that the SEC is staying at eight games. And Slive is a consensus builder, so what seemed to be happening was Slive letting the schools say their piece, and then at some point this week the expected consensus will occur.
5. While we may not officially know Georgia's 2013 schedule by the end of this week, there's a decent chance it will leak out. A lot of people are assuming the Bulldogs will play at Alabama, because that game was pushed back this year to make room for Missouri. But we shall see.
6. I've tried not to give Spurrier's division proposal too much attention, because I think it's just a sideshow, and even he knows it doesn't have much chance of passing. But I'm a much-racking journalist and I guess sometimes it's hard to resist. I'll give Spurrier credit, he presented a decent case on Tuesday, arguing that the mega-conferences make it less fair. But Mark Richt's counter-argument was even better: Head-to-head and division record are the first tiebreakers, so doesn't division record already carry more importance anyway?
7. Basketball scheduling is a major agenda item here too, and probably getting too little attention. (But such is life in the SEC for hoops.) While football has at least basically settled on a scheduling model, basketball has expanded to 18 games and is still trying to settle that. Kentucky's John Calipari is pushing for something that has all the top teams play each other every year, so as to help their RPI ranks. Problem is, how do you ensure that?
8. Mark Fox is pushing for Florida and Auburn to be Georgia's natural rivalries - i.e., play twice a year - in basketball. Florida is kind of a natural, because of natural rivalry, it helps the RPI, and it's a good draw. But Auburn's a bit more interesting. It's not like that's a great rivalry in basketball.
9. As for the playoff debate, everybody here seems on the same page about the major details: That it should be a four-team event, incorporating the bowls somehow, and that it shouldn't be limited to conference champions. The only real public disagreement has been on how to select the four teams (BCS formula vs. selection committee) but even that seems minor. I suspect the SEC won't have any trouble formulating a statement this week that presents a unified front.
10. Last year expansion wasn't on the agenda at these meetings. A few months later, Texas A&M and Missouri joined. This year, expansion is only being whispered about. But behind the scenes, and I doubt this will be admitted publicly, I'm sure the subject is coming up. The SEC isn't actively looking for any new members, but it is preparing just in case the dominoes start to fall elsewhere.
11. It's kind of cool seeing the newbies from Missouri and Texas A&M here. The writers for one, who we're trying to initiate into SEC world. But even the coaches: Sumlin is new to his school anyway. But Missouri's Gary Pinkel is adjusting, as evidenced by Tuesday night; Pinkel was wandering around the Hilton lobby, right in the open. Obviously his fellow coaches need to apprise him of the back staircases and exits, so he can avoid the public and media. (But sometimes it's unavoidable. Saban had to walk through the front lobby to get to his car. He kept his head down so nobody would recognize him.)
12. This year's meetings are much less contentious than last year, when the over-signing stuff pitted one cluster of schools against another. This year everyone is largely on the same page because of the playoff stuff, and even the scheduling debate, and Spurrier's proposal, aren't producing heated debate. Missouri's A.D. told the Kansas City Star he was struck by how everyone gets along, as opposed to the Big 12.