By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
DESTIN, Fla. – The Southeastern Conference’s annual Spring Meetings get underway Tuesday in Destin, Fla., with the annual gathering of the league’s athletics directors, senior woman administrators, faculty representatives, presidents, chancellors, football coaches and basketball coaches.
Mark Womack is the Executive Associate Commissioner at the SEC, where he serves as the liaison with the league’s athletics directors. Womack sat down with the SEC Digital Network to provide insight on what takes place at the annual spring meetings, which first took place in Destin in 1985.
SEC Digital Network: How did the SEC Spring Meetings start and how have they evolved over the years?
“The spring meetings probably go back further than any of us can remember, further than I can remember. There was probably always a gathering of some type to discuss the legislation and the bylaws and rules and regulations of the conference and for the coaches to express their views on the different issues of the day and get them passed on to the athletic directors. We started in the 1970s with our ADs and our football and basketball coaches, getting them together at one time and had one business session and one annual meeting instead of two per year. We added the presidents and chancellors and the faculty reps and the senior woman administrators to the ADs and head coaches for football and basketball and that gave us what we have now, which is really a family gathering of all the SEC’s different groups that are attending the meeting and it has really worked out well.”
SEC Digital Network: What kinds of things happen at the SEC Spring Meetings each year?
“What we have is our coaches get together and meet. It’s one of two times during the year that our football and women’s basketball coaches get together and meet and the only time during the year that our men’s basketball coaches meet. What they do is look at legislative issues, whether it be conference or NCAA, depending on if there’s any sponsored NCAA legislation in a particular year. They are always reviewing the conference constitution, bylaws and the Commissioner’s Regulations, and certainly anything else that the coaches want on their agendas, that gets passed along to the athletic directors. If it’s in the Commissioner’s Regulations than the athletic directors have the final decision on it. If it’s in the constitution and bylaws, then it goes to a business session where the presidents vote on that.”
SEC Digital Network: How beneficial is it to get all of these groups together at one time to discuss these important issues?
“It’s the one time that you sit in the room face to face with the coaches and it’s their one time per year to meet with the athletic directors. We have individual sessions with coaches and the coaches come in and spend an hour or so with the athletic directors. It’s good to get to know people from a face-to-face perspective.”
SEC Digital Network: How important will this year’s spring meetings be, especially with the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M to the conference, and the changes in the scheduling formats?
“The agenda looks different at every meeting, but this is certainly a meeting that has a couple of high-profile items on it. We’re looking at where we’re going with the BCS, we’re looking at the future scheduling for all of our sports as we bring in Texas A&M and Missouri, so from that perspective, it will probably be the largest gathering we’ve ever had with the two new schools attending this meeting for the very first time. We’ll have a full plate of items for the athletic directors and presidents and chancellors to review.”
SEC Digital Network: Specifically, what is your role at the SEC Spring Meetings?
“I am the liaison with the athletic directors, so I spend most of my time with them going through their agenda, which is pretty full. Our athletic directors meet about five times a year, more so than our coaches do, but this will continue to discuss the BCS and we will continue to review our bowls, our television agreements and look at legislative issues, so it will be a full plate, but my primary role is with the athletic directors.”
SEC Digital Network: Do you have any favorite memories from the SEC Spring Meetings?
“It’s been interesting to watch it grow from 100 or so people to now where there will be over 600 people there this year. It’s a great opportunity for the families to come and spend some time and everybody get to know one another on a social basis. There have been interesting times. There have been very heated topics which make for interesting receptions and dinners, but it has been a great experience to see all the different groups change and new faces come in and out of the conference. It’s something we’re certainly looking forward to – having everybody in one place for the only time during the year.”
SEC Digital Network: One of the things that you do at SEC Spring Meetings is honor the SEC’s Davis and McWhorter Award winners along with the Professor of the Year. How special is the evening where you honor those deserving recipients?
“It’s a great opportunity to recognize those people in a very nice fashion when they’re in front of the athletic directors and presidents and chancellors of the conference. It’s a great opportunity to recognize people for really terrific achievements on their parts.”