To be face to face with Bobby Petrino is to stare into the eyes of the murderous cyborg sent from the future to rip your heart from your chest. The weapons you need to stop him won’t be invented for another half century. If the eyes truly are the windows to the soul, then Petrino has long since blackened his over. Like those on a sandwich joint that will be converted into a video poker hall or truckers-only strip club once the local economy tanks.
But if you wish to confront the gears of the machine, such opportunities are offered this week in the galactic gravity well of the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa, a sprawling, sun-baked tax dodge where the Southeastern Conference spring meetings are underway.
Stay awake for three days straight, buy a glass of cheap hooch, throw on a glossy lanyard and bored expression—presto—now you have your official member-of-the-working-press disguise and can move unhindered through the concentric circles of hell where SEC Commissioner Mike Slive keeps his plans for a future conference-owned television channel, one of the two major topics of discussion.
Were the SEC to buy a corner of Lucifer’s Dream Box, one wonders what exactly they’d do with it.
Surely the Big Te(leve)n’s television channel has left them intrigued in concept if uninspired in delivery. Most of the programming decisions seem based on which lacrosse player’s parents will be home to watch on a given night.
Conference-owned channels will always be less-than-secondary venues for the most desired events. The hoops ESPN is jumping through to get this year’s Alabama at Georgia game only illustrate how tight the grip of network television still is. However, said network’s contact is set to expire soon. With rumors of Fox wanting to reach their cultured hand further into the underpants of college football, the SEC is likely wanting their own suitor in the room, if only to make sure someone seals the deal.
Topic numero two concerns the Great Leader and the new (SEC-initiated) NCAA bylaw that unofficially bears his name.
The Saban Rule, as it is called, is an update of the Bump Rule, as it was called, which outlined the limited parameters under which a head football coach may interact with a prospective football recruit at said recruit’s high school during the NCAA-defined spring evaluation period, the “bump” nicknamed derived from coaches only being permitted no more than unplanned bumping into the players.
In the modern era of college football, how someone like Nick Saban—or Urban Meyer or, hell, even the Cybernetic Bobby Petrino Coaching Unit—is supposed to enter a high school without it being the event of the season was never addressed under the loosely defined Bump Rule.
Enter the Saban Rule. Now every stray thread of the Bump Rule’s definition has been neatly tied—the bumps have been flattened into the hard macadam: coaches may not enter the premises during the spring.
It is tempting to foist this panic’s source onto the usual suspects, like the mahogany-desked overlords of the NCAA or the cartel of the Big Ten (after all, really, who gives a shit if Joe Tiller comes to your high school?). But, mi amigos, this was an inside job all the way.
As was dropped in above, this rule change was proposed from within SEC itself, by coaches in the Ara Parsegian mold who would rather not fight on if it meant they could leave with a tie.
Crabs in a damn bucket.