By Jimmy Hyams
SANDESTIN, FLA. – The debate has raged for a good 15 years.
The SEC will adopt a policy that it feels is right, regardless of whether other conferences or the NCAA follows suit.
SEC coaches, mainly in football, cry foul, saying it leaves them at a competitive disadvantage.
For example, said Alabama coach Nick Saban: “I don’t think we should penalize ourselves as a league and allow people to transfer to other places and they can’t transfer into our league.’’
Yet, since 2003, the SEC has won nine national championships in football, lost in the title game two other times and made the College Football Playoff semifinals another time.
That doesn’t appear to be a competitive disadvantage, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey would point out.
Sankey said since he’s been in the league as commissioner and associate commissioner (since 2002) there has been a divide between the SEC adopting a firm stance and coaches not being on board.
“I don’t pick winners or losers,’’ Sankey said when asked who wins the we-have-a-different-policy arguments. “I pick the right decision and I think we’ve made the right decisions based on our history or the circumstances.’’
The SEC has historically had more stringent rules than the NCAA requires. It has tougher academic requirements for junior college transfers. It has penalty for taking a graduate transfer who doesn’t meet academic requirements. It has denied transfers who had past discipline issues. It restricted distance from campus for football satellite camps. It also fines teams for allowing fans to storm the court or field.
“The great news is, you look at the competitive history of this league and it doesn’t seem that those policies inhibited success in a significant ways,’’ Sankey said. “I can probably point to some other issues like coaching transitions or the change in maybe some of these transfer patterns.’’
Sankey makes a fair point. This year, the SEC has won four national titles and has a chance to win four more – baseball, softball and men’s and women’s track and field. All 13 softball teams made the NCAA Tournament. The women’s basketball national title game featured two SEC teams.
Sankey pointed to a policy that affected men’s basketball, which in the mid-2000s did not fare well in APR scores.
“We were not in good shape,’’ Sankey said. “Compare that to today.
“I would represent some of the policies decisions we’ve made, although they may be different from other conferences, have helped put us in a very healthy position from an academic performance of our student athletes.
“That doesn’t mean everybody appreciates those. But I’ve been open to say we can make our own decisions for our own reasons.’’
Even if some SEC coaches, or even athletic directors, object.
“Why do we have different policies?’’ Sankey said. “That’s a conversation I’ve been having for almost 15 years at these meetings. I think we’ve made the right decisions and I think both the competitive outcomes and the academic outcomes over the last 10 years demonstrate that to be correct.’’