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May 29, 2012

Rivalries, schedules and TV talks keys in Destin

DESTIN, Fla. --- Preserving key rivalries, working through scheduling issues in all sports --- particularly football --- and continuing to press towards a resolution on television issues are perceived to be among the more pressing and visible issues this week at the Southeastern Conference's annual spring meetings.

"We've made a lot of progress over the many months that we've been discussing," University of Tennessee Vice Chancellor and Athletics Director Dave Hart said. "And it is the clear intention of Mike, as the commissioner, and his staff and all the athletic directors and the chancellors and presidents. I'll be very surprised if we come out of Destin without resolving that. That's the goal, at least, and everybody is optimistic that we can meet that goal."

The SEC has found both motive and need to reexamine its television package, signed at the time as a landmark deal with ESPN, now that it has expanded to 14 teams with the additions within the past year of both Missouri and Texas A&M from the Big 12. While the league continues its relationships with both ESPN and CBS, it is also once again exploring the launch of its own network.

Beyond that, scheduling is believed to be a major agenda item this week across all sports. The SEC has announced its football schedule for the coming 2012 season, somewhat out of necessity due to both team and fan travel plans. However, many other schedules in sports have not yet been revealed and the changes last year to the basketball divisional format --- or lack thereof on the men's side --- as well as the team additions likely means substantial changes in hoops.

Many teams accustomed to hosting, say Florida and Kentucky each year in a home-and-home for basketball, will find themselves without that typical guaranteed box-office draw.

On the football side, many folks are making clear their intentions to preserve longstanding rivalries such as the Alabama-Tennessee and Auburn-Georgia annual showdowns, as Hart told VolQuest.com little more than one week ago. More football scheduling items also will be addressed this week, such as the layout of the conference calendar.

Hart, for his part, is looking forward to carrying Tennessee's agenda into the week but knows that compromise is always on the table.

"I think that's part of it and part of being in a leadership role and I've always felt strongly about that. Because my first obligation is to the University of Tennessee," Hart said of bringing UT's needs to bear this week. "And everybody in that room pretty much has the same feeling, I think, in comparable positions that we all sit in. Having said that and having been a part of this conference for the past almost four years now, that at the end of the day people want to do what's best for the conference to the extent that that's feasible.

"That's an important philosophy that we share collectively. You may not win the day on a particular issue relative to your university because it may be in the long run best for the total SEC that you move in a different direction, but I think we'll come out of there with a win-win in most instances relative to that goal."


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