The annual Southeastern Conference spring meetings in Destin, Florida, took place May 31-June 3, as the conference’s presidents, athletic directors, football coaches and other representatives met to discuss the future of SEC football.
Historically significant issues crowd the college football landscape as the season draws closer: players compensated for their name, image and likeness (NIL), collectives, the transfer portal, possible playoff expansion and the lack of regulations from the NCAA for any of it.
The event marked new Gators head football coach Billy Napier’s first time attending since taking his new job.
The agenda of these meetings focused on the topics conference leaders could control, such as scheduling, and how the SEC must make legislative decisions without waiting for the other Power 5 conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12). The discussion also included the possibility of in-conference playoffs and which division would gain Texas and Oklahoma, two schools scheduled to join the conference before 2025.
Wednesday, several athletic directors voted to keep playing one non-conference Power 5 opponent if the SEC approves the nine-game plan. With all 16 conference programs scheduled to play 182 games against Power 5 opponents from 2025-2037 in a new agreement, Florida could potentially be forced to play a full 12-game schedule against all Power 5 foes if all out-of-conference games are accounted for.
No SEC team has ever played such a regular season schedule, and the possibility depends on whether the College Football Playoff committee favors a Power 5-laden schedule.
Stricklin said in a 247Sports article he isn’t sure the conference will play 12 Power 5 teams a year, but refused to rule the possibility out. He also expressed frustration at current scheduling patterns.
“The fact that we schedule games out a decade from now is kind of ludicrous in and of itself, but we’re in a model that forces us to do so,” Stricklin said. “So you’d love to see the model adapt over time, and maybe we can make little smarter decisions that are a little bit more current.”
Coaches seemed to agree that they want players to benefit from NIL while avoiding paying student-athletes as employees. Napier believes that NIL will be a strength for the program, but said the legislation still provides unknowns to navigate.
“There’s a ton of gray area,” Napier told 247Sports. “What can you do, what you can’t do, there’s no manual, no parameters, no guidelines. We’re living in a land with no laws.”
Napier shared his research with the media that found, since the 1990s, each SEC institution received $1.3 million a year from the league, and 13 years ago it was around six to seven million. With money getting more involved in college football, student-athletes will benefit.
“I’m a firm believer that this is a positive,” Napier said. “It's foolish to say that the players don’t deserve a piece of the pie.”
However, time will tell how Florida adjusts as NIL approaches its one-year anniversary. Either way, the Gators will be a part of discussions with the SEC’s future.
Brandon Hernandez is a student at the University of Florida studying journalism. He is a writer for The Alligator and for PlugTalkSports. You can find most of his work on his Twitter (BranH2001) and on his podcast, “The Courtside Podcast,” on Spotify.