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First Down Kentucky: Latest from SEC Spring Meetings

Adam Luckettby:Adam Luckett05/29/24

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House v NCAA Settlement Update | Andy Staples on the Latest | 05.22.24

SEC Spring Meetings in Destin got cooking on Tuesday afternoon. Multiple head coaches spoke with the media, Paul Finebaum was live on location, and we learned more about some of the biggest issues facing the conference heading into the new 16-team era. The new logo lets us know that the next chapter will officially begin on July 1 when Oklahoma and Texas officially join the conference.

KSR’s coverage of the yearly event is shifting over to First Down Kentucky. Football coaches are making a stance regarding roster caps, Billy Napier answers questions regarding the Jaden Rashada lawsuit, and what college football’s biggest problem currently is.

Let’s dive in.

SEC coaches want walk-ons in college football

A part of the House v. NCAA settlement recently reached included how football rosters would be handled. Schools will no longer have scholarship limits but will have roster caps to limit the number of players on a team. That could mean the end of walk-ons in football, but it could allow for more scholarship players in baseball and other sports.

We are not sure what the roster cap situation will look like and that is something that must be discussed and agreed upon. For now, we’re in a holding pattern, but some coaches are speaking up on the issue.

“There’s a lot of variables that come into play,” new Alabama head coach Kalen DeBoer said. “So first and foremost it comes to health, safety and efficiency and having a successful practice that I think you want to execute each and every day. That’s important with the number that’s on your roster.”

Unlike the NFL, college football teams cannot hit the waiver wire in October to fill a position if the injury bug arrives. Head coaches must have built-in depth answers on the roster. Having just 85 players on the team could cause some serious depth issues at multiple schools.

There is also the thought that certain individuals will not get the opportunity to experience college football due to a walk-on option not being available. Texas A&M head coach Mike Elko said he is “strongly against” eliminating walk-ons. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart mentioned that both Will Muschamp and Dabo Swinney started their college football careers as walk-ons.

The roster cap issue was not something that immediately stood out in the settlement, but it is an issue that some coaches are speaking out on before a final answer is decided but this is a very fluid situation. There would be some concern within the coaching industry if schools were only allowed to fill teams with just 85 scholarship players.

Billy Napier is ready for the process — in court

Arizona State quarterback transfer Jaden Rashada committed to Georgia on April 25 and the former Florida signee filed a lawsuit less than a month later in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida claiming the Gators lied to get Rashada to flip his commitment from Miami.

Florida head coach Billy Napier, former Florida director of NIL and player engagement Marcus Castro-Walker, and booster Hugh Hathcock were named as defendants. In Destin on Tuesday, Napier was asked about the lawsuit, and the third-year head coach made his first public comment regarding the lawsuit.

“I’m comfortable with my actions,” Napier said. “‘I’m thankful for the university’s support and we’re going to keep it at that and let the process take its course.”

Napier has confidence in Florida’s legal team. What a sport. Lawsuit might as well be the unofficial nickname of college athletics at this point and the latest one feels the most interesting but is definitely not the most important. As expected, Napier did not dive too deep into the issue but it’s clear that is something that is hovering around the Florida football program heading into a critical year for the program as the Gators look to end a long three-year stretch without a winning record.

Trev Alberts might have had the quote of the week

Trev Alberts surprised many in college athletics when the former Nebraska linebacker left his alma mater to become the new director of athletics at Texas A&M after Ross Bjork left for Ohio State. The 53-year-old is inheriting an athletic department that just shelled out $26.6 million to Jimbo Fisher to not coach the Aggies anymore. The rest of that buyout will be paid in annual installments of $7.2 million from 2025 through 2031. That is something the Aggies will have to work into the balance sheet.

But this is Texas A&M we’re talking about. The Aggies have a lot of cash. Alberts is not worried about how his school will find the $20-22 million needed to pay athletes once revenue sharing arrives.

“We’ve just always had enough increasing revenue to overcome dumb expenses,” Alberts told Brandon Marcello. “I’ve said it 100 times, and I’ll say it again: We don’t have a revenue problem in college athletics, we have an expense problem.”

A&M is different, but Alberts does bring up a good point. In the SEC, every team has the financial resources to make this revenue-sharing system work. Some of the outrageous expenses will likely need to go away. The facility arms race cash might dry up. But we know how big the checks Walt Disney is writing. Each member received $51 million in 2023 from the conference. That number will grow moving forward.

The Big Ten and the SEC — and probably the other power conferences — will find a way to pay athletes.

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2024-06-20