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June 2, 2011

HURT: Change in roster limit a certainty

DESTIN, Fla. | The Southeastern Conference presidents managed to maintain a fairly unified front Thursday - when it came to not saying much.

About all the presidents would confirm after a lengthy afternoon meeting with SEC Commissioner Mike Slive was that the roster management issue - "oversigning" - was discussed at length at the session, part of the SEC's annual spring meeting at the Sandestin Resort. The actual voting on issues will take place today around noon, but nothing changed the general consensus that there will be some movement on the issue, perhaps all the way to an annual limit of 25 signees, even though the league coaches came out in favor of the 28-signee status quo on Wednesday.

"We would love for the SEC to take a leadership role," said South Carolina president Harris Pastides. "How is the vote going to go? I don't know. We had some vigorous discussion and I think we all want to go back and discuss it with our (athletic directors)."

Still, Pastides indicated that the discussions were not about whether the SEC would move from it's current position - that seems a certainty - but just how far that movement would be.

"We think what is good for the SEC is good for the nation," Pastides said. "Most of the discussion was around not wanting to be so far in front that we do something restrictive.

"But we are going to do what is best for the kids."

It is unlikely the SEC would go beyond imposing a "hard cap" of 25, but if the league is unified in that stance, it is likely that the Big 12 would follow suit in forming a national consensus, at least among the major conferences. If that happens, NCAA legislation along the same lines would likely follow, and the SEC would like to be perceived as being ahead of the curve, or at least not far behind.

NCAA president Mark Emmert was in Destin on Thursday, and while his discussions with the presidents centered on other issues, he likely served as a sounding board on roster management as well.

Alabama president Dr. Robert Witt rarely reveals his thinking mid-discussion at SEC meetings, and he kept things typically close to the vest Thursday.

"We had good discussions," Witt said. "I am still anticipating more discussion tomorrow."

Alabama - and most of the schools in the SEC West - have signed more than 25 players per year over the past five years, although UA was under that number in its 2011 class (22). The league coaches argue that a 28-player limit allows "flexibility" and creates a safety cushion in the event of attrition, but it seems likely that the 28 limit will go by the wayside.

Football, and the men who coach it, are important to the presidents, but they answer to more than one constituency. Don't be surprised if the results, when Mike Slive announces them, reflect that fact.

Cecil Hurt is sports editor of The Tuscaloosa News. He can be reached at cecil.hurt@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0225.


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