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Recap: SEC Spring Meetings

While it lacked the spark of a polarizing issue like oversigning or the sizzle that accompanies fresh conference expansion speculation, this year's SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, Fla., was not without its own significant moments.

But if nothing else, the SEC got its own house in order a little bit this week for new roommates, cleaning up and finally green-lighting future schedule formats to include Missouri and Texas A&M.

Here is a summation with highlights from another year on the Gulf Coast ...

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Friday's presidents' vote didn't feature much drama at all. The biggest question was the selection of a football scheduling format, and it had long been expected -- even after a spirited debate in the coaches' meetings -- that the 6-1-1 system supported by the athletics directors would be adopted.

And so it was Friday, when the presidents' voted to approve a 6-1-1 future scheduling format for football

The '6' stands for six divisional opponents each year. And '1' means a permanent cross-divisional opponent, and the other '1' means a rotating cross-divisional opponent.

As a result of the 6-1-1 being adopted, permanent rivalries between Georgia-Auburn and Tennessee-Alabama are safe for now. Other schools will have an annual cross-division rival as well. These games: Florida-LSU, South Carolina-Texas A&M, Kentucky-Mississippi State, Vanderbilt-Ole Miss and Arkansas-Missouri.

As for the other cross-divisional rivalry game, that opponent will be chosen at random to start and rotated every year, not every two years. In other words, it won't be home-and-home games as before.

Note that the league has now approved the format to be used in schedules, but actual opponents have not yet been finalized, which means schedules are not going to be released just yet.

Also note that Commissioner Mike Slive told reporters that the football schedule will probably operate on a three-to-four year window, so this could be revisited at that point.

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The topic of BCS playoffs is a major discussion point for college football, but it really wasn't one in Destin. The reason is everyone was on the same page before the SEC meetings even started.

Yes, all SEC coaches, administrators and officials seem to be firmly unified in the preference that the BCS uses the nation's top four teams (regardless of conference standing) when the four-team playoff is instituted.

Decisions for this will continue in national circles in June, and if nothing else, it's now very clear (and predictably so) where the SEC stands.

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Switching to hoops, the men's basketball scheduling format described earlier this week by coaches was approved by presidents Friday.

It will be 18 games with every conference team meeting at least once. Each school will also have one fixed head-to-head opponent for the next three years and four rotating head-to-head opponents each year.

As we reported Wednesday, Georgia's three-year permanent opponent will be South Carolina. Others in the league are: Florida-Kentucky, LSU-Texas A&M, Alabama-Auburn, Arkansas-Missouri, Mississippi State-Ole Miss and Tennessee-Vanderbilt.

So it is certain that the Bulldogs will face the Gamecocks in a home-and-home series the next three seasons, while four other opponents will also be chosen and rotated each year for a home-and-home series on UGA's schedule. Those have yet to be determined.

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The SEC men's basketball tournament, again as expected, will add another day on a double-bye system.

Play starts Wednesday for the 11-14 seeds, while the top four teams still have byes all the way until Friday.

Tourney brackets (for men and women) are now as follows ...

Day 1 - 12 vs. 13; 11 vs. 14
Day 2 - 8 vs. 9; 12/13 winner vs. 5; 7 vs. 10; 11/14 winner vs. 6
Day 3 - 1 vs. 8/9 winner; 4 vs. 12/13/5 winner; 2 vs. 7/10 winner; 3 vs. 11/14/6 winner
Day 4 - Semifinals
Day 5 - Finals

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Georgia's annual fixed opponent in the new 16-game schedule for women's basketball will be Florida. Other matchups are: Arkansas-Missouri, Kentucky-South Carolina, LSU-Texas A&M, Ole Miss-Mississippi State and Tennessee-Vanderbilt.

In addition to everyone playing everyone, SEC women's hoops will have two rotating head-to-head opponents (rather than four for the men).

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Been a while since we've heard about Mississippi State's cowbells, but there was this statement Friday from MSU ...

Southeastern Conference presidents and chancellors voted Friday to continue a policy established in 2010 that allows the use of cowbells in Davis Wade Stadium at Mississippi State University. They also lifted the annual sunset provision in the rule. This action will enable Bulldog fans to continue to use the artificial noisemakers, with restrictions, on a more permanent basis.

Under the rule, it is permissible to ring cowbells during pre-game activities, at halftime, during timeouts and after MSU scoring plays. Mississippi State Athletic Director Scott Stricklin stressed the need to continue to observe the policy and noted that a violation would result in a penalty of $50,000 per game.

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There was nothing new this week on the league's television negotiations, which Slive said are ongoing with ESPN and CBS. While the idea of a full-time SEC Network is still out there, it could be a while yet.

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Interesting note: Florida president Bernie Machen told Rachel George of the Orlando Sentinel that the league's presidents briefly discussed drug testing in Destin and that it will be on agenda for a meeting in October.

Slive also passed along that the SEC will create a group to evaluate concussions and perhaps formulate a policy. This is for all sports, and the committee will be chaired by Ole Miss chancellor Dr. Dan Jones.

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A largely off-the-radar battle was won this week by the combo of Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas A&M.

Equestrian, which those schools offer as an intercollegiate sport, was approved as an official SEC-sponsored sport this week, which means a conference championship will be offered in equestrian now.

"That for our program and the other three programs is really important," UGA athletics director Greg McGarity said. "Seriously. I know that gets lost in the shuffle, but it's very difficult when you have a sport and people can't identify with that."

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The Southeastern Conference will distribute approximately $241.5 million to the 12 league institutions in the revenue sharing plan for the 2011-12 fiscal year, which ends Aug. 31, 2012, Slive announced.

That's the highest total ever and represents a 9.8 percent increase from the $219.9 million distributed in 2010-11.

Per the league office, the $241.5 million was derived from $116.6 million from football television, $34.2 million from bowls, $15.3 million from the SEC Football Championship, $31.2 million from basketball television, $4.9 million from the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament, $24.9 million from NCAA Championships and $14.4 million in a supplemental distribution.

The average amount distributed to each school was $20.1 million.

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And finally, as always in Destin each year, there are memorable moments and discussions that don't result in any actual policy changes or consensus stances by coaches.

Certain recruiting issues -- like talks about an early signing period -- deserve a brief nod here.

But the award for most memorable idea without legislation again goes to South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, who made headlines by suggesting and supporting his belief that only divisional games should count toward determining who plays in the SEC title game each year.

Spurrier's plan didn't have the legs because it ultimately didn't enjoy much support when the coaches hashed it out.

But he made some waves publicly. The idea received as much attention and debate among the public Tuesday as any other topic in Destin this week, much like his suggestion of payments to players at last year's meetings.

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