What could bring the SEC back to the field, is Dabo the best value in coaching? and should Clemson take on debt to build

NORTHWESTERN COMMAND – The Southeastern Conference is in position to win a seventh straight BCS national title. Alabama is favored to beat Notre Dame in the national title game.

It’s been quite a golden era for Mike Slive’s gang.

But I wonder if two changes in regard to player acquisition are going to bring the SEC back to the field a bit, along with some natural regression.

The No. 1 thing to me is the signing limits SEC presidents agreed to last year.

The practice of over-signing never got enough attention as it created de facto training camps at SEC schools. Nick Saban was a master of the signing-class math where 32 signees +27 signees +32 signess +29 signees over a four-year period = 85 scholarship players

Nick Saban can no longer be creative with his math … which should help ACC teams

Oversigning helped SEC coaches overcome faulty evaluations (which happens to every staff), raised the level of competition in spring and fall camps, thereby creating better depth.

By trimming back this practice – though it can exist to some degree with a 25-cap limit – there will be more players available to other conferences, notably its regional neighbor, the ACC.

The second thing that might level the playing field is the new NCAA minimum academic standards that will be put in place in 2016, which includes raising the minimum qualifying GPA from 2.0 to 2.3

The NCAA estimates 35.2 percent of football players who enrolled in 2009-10 would not meet the 2016 academic standards.

That’s an amazing number and less of a problem for the ACC, which has higher academic standards and more of an issue for some in the SEC.

Junior College players will require a 2.5 GPA to transfer in. This is especially problematic at places like Tennessee and Auburn which have required JUCO players to fortify their rosters in recent seasons.

Now the SEC’s brand, its fan support, its recruiting footprint will continue to make it the premier football conference.

But these factors will level the playing field to a degree, I think, which is much-needed for those in the league offices in Greensboro and Chicago.


Dabo Swinney was the sixth-best head coaching value in BCS conference this season, according to a USA Today study.

Swinney cost Clemson $204,000 per win which was a better dollar-per-win value than 90 percent of coaches in the Big Ten, ACC, SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12.

For reference Steve Spurrier won 10 games and cost USC $335,000 per win, which was also good value.
Gene Chizik cost Auburn $1.3 million per win this season.

Of course this is somewhat misleading since Clemson is paying its assistant staff $4.2 million this year. In total, Clemson paid $610,000 in football staff compensation per win this year.

Still, it’s a relatively good value. And speaks to the generally sound financial leadership of the Terry Don Phillips Era (outside of the Bowden contract extension).


We reported earlier this year that Clemson president Jame Barker thought it might be a good time for Clemson to take on some debt in regard to building facilities.

The Terry Don Phillips Era saw plenty of building on campus, but it was also largely financed one step at a time through fundraising and Phillips and CFO Katie Hill were conservative by nature when it came to spending.

New AD Dan Radakovich is considering borrowing to build the new basketball practice facility/coaching offices, according to Larry Williams. This is something coach Brad Brownell said his program needs to compete at a high level.

I’m not a financial expert but it seems like a good time to build with low interest rates, etc.

Still, I think there needs to be caution whenever taking on debt in athletics, especially when investing in the No. 2 sport in a school. Maryland got itself in financial peril, and a program is only a buyout or two coupled with a decline in ticket sales away, from falling into its reserve funds. Coaches and travel expenses are not going to get cheaper.

9 thoughts on “What could bring the SEC back to the field, is Dabo the best value in coaching? and should Clemson take on debt to build

  1. Seriously, this obsession with trying to bring the SEC down is getting old. Look, it’s not over-signing that is attracting the better players to the SEC over the ACC or grades of incoming freshman. Trust me, every college recruits the same high profile kids. Take a look at the level of teams/competitiveness week in and week out. What happened week one in college football? Tennessee beat NC State. The SEC championship game compared to ACC champ game? BCS bowl records. Head to Head games. Both Florida St and GA Tech didn’t have a chance in either games. SC once again came up with a double digit win at your high power offensive team. Vandy, yes Vandy beat Wake Forest. In summary, ACC is becoming the next Big East. Until ACC teams actually start performing, it won’t be the “over” signing that keeps the ACC down.

    • He meant that SEC schools won’t be able to take as many since schools can’t over sign. There will be a few kids that would’ve gotten in previously that can’t now. Plus the higher admission standards, which I don’t c as a huge issue. Schools will still get their kids qualified. Its just a matter of numbers. I don’t think this will, like he says, have any affect on other confs catching up tho. Only one thing does that, confs needs the coaching the SEC has. Its all about coaching & developing players and the SEC has it and the rest do not.

    • I’m not ripping the SEC. As I wrote, the SEC will continue to be the premier conference regardless if these new standards have much of an impact. But I do think they will slightly level the playing field. … And the SEC is not going to win 50 straight national titles, sorry

      • Who said the SEC was going to win the next 50 national titles? They’re still heads and tails above every other conference in football with no end in sight. As far as the academic change from the NCAA, that doesn’t apply to Clemson because their standards are as low as anyone else when it comes to athletics. If CJ Spiller can make the Deans List and graduate from Clemson, then they need not compare themselves to Duke and Wake academically.

  2. Completely agree, Travis. This oversigning/academics advantage that the SEC has had for a while is hopefully coming to an end. I’m skeptical about how strong the enforcement is going to be, but it’s going to have a tangible effect. Is the ACC, top-to-bottom, ever going to be able to compete with the SEC? No. But this should level the field a bit.

    Would be interesting to see what would have happened over the years if JUCOs could have played at some of the “marginal” ACC schools.

    • Agreed. …. Dabo doesn’t want 20 JUCOs on his roster but he wants to be able to supplement with a few elite JUCOs, like de facto free agency. Clemson could have really used some JUCO help on the DL this season.

      JUCOs can make a difference: see Cam Newton and Nick Fairly on the 2010 Auburn team.

  3. It’s a little funny how you mention the pro’s of TDP’s conservative financial decisions at the end of one paragraph and lead with Radakovich’s (going to take me awhile to get that one memorized) aggressive approach to take on extra debt in the next one. Personally, I’m of the TDP mindset: spend conservatively to get what you want. And while the plans look awesome, I’m not sure how on board I am with spending on basketball facilities at a football school. Clemson will never be able to “compete at a high level” on a consistent basis with the UNC and Dukes of the conference. Spending just to spend is never a great idea.

    • I’m not a financial planner, but TDP’s and Katie Hill’s approaches seemed pragamtic and rationale. On the other hand, I believe Memorial Stadium was expanded with debt spending in the late 1970s/early 1980s — and Clemson’s sold a lot of tickets because of it in the upper decks — so that approach can also work.

      What’s strange to me is wasn’t the the annex supposed to solve this issue? The Littlejohn annex is not an old addition. It must have been planned horribly for basketball to really need a new facility.

  4. Dabo the “best value in coaching”? Are you kidding? He gets $200k per win but how many of those are quality wins? None this year that’s for sure. The Clemson spin machine in full effect. Travis, you must get your salesman tactics from the former insurance salesman, Dabo. What a laugh.

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