There are a few items on the SEC spring meeting agenda currently being discussed in Destin this week that will have varying impacts on Kentucky men's basketball and football.
The SEC intends to maintain its eight conference games going forward, but several coaches expressed concern today about continuing to play FCS teams. The schools advocating that position are the SEC's top tier schools who can afford to risk a victory by scheduling another FBS team instead. The bottom tier schools, like UK, don't have that luxury. Scrapping to a bowl eligible season is a grind, and most victories are hard fought. The issue appears dead as the SEC Commissioner has decided to let individual schools decide on their own. Florida has already made its decision. The status quo will likely continue in the mean time. As much as the top tier school's claim they want to schedule FBS programs instead of The University of Sisters of the Poor, there will be complications. Nick Saban admitted as much today.
I don't see the coaches having a consensus view on this topic in the near-term.
Early Football Signing Period
The SEC coaches unanimously approved an early signing day for football. The motion now moves on to the next governing body for approval. The conventional wisdom within UK fandom seems to be this would be good for UK. In the long run, I think it's more a wash.
After initially being against the idea of an early signing period, Mark Stoops has changed his mind. This implies the coaches unanimous support for the proposal states the signing period would be in early August. The problem with that in relation to UK is prospects aren't currently allowed to take fully funded official visits until their senior year of high school. Many players will wisely not sign early if they haven't at least taken a visit to UK. This will be the case for many of the prospects UK is targeting in the deep South. A highly-rated recruit, regardless of geography, would be wise to wait until NSD which most do in any case. The top tier programs will meanwhile sell players by telling them their roster spots are filling up, and they need to commit ASAP. They will adapt and get their share despite their reluctance.
(Also, the article says that if the recruit takes official visits after signing in August "they will be forced to wait to sign with a school in February." If that's truly the case, then what kind of power does the signing even have in the first place?)
UK will sign many recruits this way, but I'm not sure it will be significant in the long run unless the NCAA allows earlier official visits. For example, if the early signing period was in effect last season, I'm not sure UK would have gotten Florida offensive lineman Derrick Kelly to sign prior to his senior season; and therefore prevent his eventual signing with FSU. Would Kelly have signed without ever visiting UK? I'm skeptical.
I'm for the early signing day though. Anything that gives prospects more choices is a good thing in my book. It'd also inject some fun in the slow news days of early August.
Men's Basketball Implications
Aside from two years - one in St. Louis, and another in Tampa - the SEC tournament will be held in Nashville through 2022. Playing the SEC tournament in Bridgestone Arena is essentially a home game for UK. That's also the case if the tournament were in Atlanta, but the crowd is less of a factor in the much larger Georgia Dome. It will be loud, and UK will have the definitive advantage.
Also, the SEC will now have three permanent rivals instead of one. Looks like UK will add two more teams for a home-and-home during the regular season in addition to Florida. Tennessee is a no-brainer to be added going by history, but I'm curious what everyone else thinks. Who should be the third team? I'd like Arkansas.
The Big Five conferences will begin pushing the NCAA for special privileges, and the SEC seems at the forefront. The NCAA will vote in August on the matter. Numerous topics are under discussion for reform, and could come to fruition in the next year if the NCAA allows autonomy. Mike Slive has publicly mentioned agent reforms and numerous student-athlete changes. Those reforms include a $2,000-$4,000 stipend, academic life, and transfer restrictions.