SANDESTIN, Fla. — The SEC spring meetings conclude Friday with the presidents meeting one last time. The coaches all took off Wednesday, but not before they created a little news.
Here are five takeaways from the week:
Stirring it up: Looks like we have one heck of a rivalry, feud or whatever you want to call it brewing between two of the coaching heavyweights in college football.
After Alabama’s Nick Saban repeated Tuesday that he thought satellite camps were a bad idea because of the potential for NCAA violations, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh shot back via Twitter that night that it was “amazing” that Alabama broke rules and Saban was lecturing others on the possibility of rules being broken at camps. Harbaugh was referring to former Alabama defensive line coach Bo Davis resigning after having illegal contact with a recruit.
The next day, Saban — whose next tweet will be his first — told ESPN.com he didn’t care what Harbaugh said or tweeted.
“I say what I think is best for college football and say what I think is best for the players and the kids,” Saban said. “As I said (Tuesday), it’s not about him or anybody else.”
Harbaugh came back one more time when asked about it on Thursday at a camp and repeated it was hypocritical for Saban to be talking about potential violations when his program just ran afoul of the rules.
Can we get these two on opposite sidelines, sooner rather than later, or maybe even in the squared circle? Urban Meyer could be the guest referee.
Stormy offseason: Even for the most diehard SEC fan, it’s not a good look right now off the field.
Mississippi State is taking a resounding (and many would say justified) beating for admitting freshman signee Jeffery Simmons to school, the same Jeffery Simmons who was caught on tape striking a woman multiple times while she lay on the ground. He will be suspended for the first game against South Alabama and required to undergo counseling, but he'll be suiting up for the Bulldogs this fall if he stays out of trouble.
Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin said the decision was thoroughly vetted with several people on campus, including the Title IX coordinator, but that ultimately "five seconds of a really poor choice caught on video shouldn't preclude a young person the opportunity to go to the university he wants to go to and compete."
Ironically, just two days earlier, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey talked about the importance of tightening the league’s policy on admitting transfers into the league with a history of misconduct, specifically those players with any kind of violent past against men or women. Sankey said the new legislation would not apply to incoming freshmen and that it would be up to the individual schools to make those decisions. South Carolina’s Will Muschamp is among the coaches in the league who wouldn't mind seeing the misconduct policy extended to freshmen.
To be fair, Mississippi State isn’t the only school drawing headlines for the wrong reasons. Ole Miss is facing an appearance before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions after self-imposing sanctions, and the NCAA’s investigation continues into the Laremy Tunsil affair. Tennessee is facing a Title IX lawsuit after defendants said the school mishandled sexual assault complaints. Alabama had to part ways with Davis after he violated NCAA rules by illegally contacting a recruit, and most recently, star offensive tackle Cam Robinson was arrested on gun and drug charges.
It's never a good thing when there's this much news that doesn't pertain to football.
Upon further review: The SEC is going to a three-man command center for replay for regular-season games next season. The three-person crew in the command center will combine with the replay official at the stadium to decide whether to uphold or reverse a call.
Having more than one person in a booth at a rowdy stadium to review a play makes a lot more sense and should help in getting the call right, which is all that matters.
That said, how long before we hear from the conspiracy theorists when a play being reviewed goes Alabama’s way late in the season with the Crimson Tide bearing down on another championship? After all, the command center will be based in Birmingham.
Yes, it’s idiotic to think that way, but just wait.
"Commissioner (Greg) Sankey will not participate in a decision or make a decision," said Steve Shaw, the SEC's coordinator of officials. "Coordinator Shaw will not participate in a decision or make a decision. The conference office will not make this decision. The command center will.”
No slowing down for Saban: For the first time, Saban is starting to battle his age on the recruiting trail. He’ll turn 65 in October.
But he reiterated to ESPN.com this week that walking away from coaching is nowhere on the horizon for him.
“I really can’t imagine not coaching,” Saban said. “The only way I could imagine it was if I got to the point where I couldn’t put the same amount of work into it and couldn’t give the players the same commitment I always have. When that happens, that’s when I’ll get out. It really doesn’t have anything to do with how old I am. And right now, I’m as energetic and look forward to practice and recruiting when I get up every morning as much as I ever have.
“It’s the same way it’s always been for me. Nothing’s different.”
Rules, rules, rules: Shaw broke down some of the rules changes and points of emphasis for 2016.
And for the umpteenth time, he did his best to clarify targeting, which he said was “forcible contact near the head or neck area to a defenseless player.” Of note, he said blindside blocks will be subject to a targeting call. Also, Shaw explained that helmet-to-helmet contact is not necessarily targeting because the center and nose guard hit heads on just about every play.
One change this season is that replay can now be used to flag a targeting foul that was missed on the field. Shaw said there were two SEC games last year where replay would have discovered a targeting foul that was not called on the field.
Some other things to watch for: A player that hits a sliding player will be penalized. Tripping a ball-carrier will now be a penalty. It used to be that only tripping a non-ball carrier was a penalty. Coaches also voted unanimously for in-helmet communication for a player on offense and defense.