“He told me there were only four teams in the SEC he would play,” said Odom, the men’s basketball coach at South Carolina.
The message was clear: Two-thirds of the SEC’s 12 schools should be avoided because they played loose with the rules.
Acknowledging its reputation as a renegade conference, the SEC approved a policy Wednesday that is designed to reduce the sort of cheating that has put a constant stream of schools at odds with the NCAA.
The policy is designed to streamline the process for reporting violations and make schools more accountable for keeping their people in line.
“Obviously, we needed do something,” Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville said. “I think this is the right road to take. We’ll see.”
Four SEC schools — Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn and Kentucky — are currently on probation.
Georgia and Mississippi State recently admitted to rules violations but have yet to be sanctioned by the NCAA.
Over the past decade, nearly every league school has been accused of malfeasance, some more than once.
The SEC’s reputation for athletic excellence has been tarnished by recruiting scandals and academic fraud.
“This is the first time in the history of the league that we’ve all come together in the process, looked each other in the eye and acknowledged the issues we’ve had,” SEC commissioner Mike Slive said. “We don’t want them to happen anymore.”
At its annual spring meeting on Florida’s gulf coast, the SEC unanimously approved the recommendations of the “Task Force on Compliance & Enforcement.” Slive has set a goal of having all SEC schools off probation by the summer of 2007.
A centerpiece of the new policy: If one school suspects another of violating NCAA rules, they must follow a strict protocol for reporting the allegations.
For instance, if a coach at School A believes someone at School B has broken a rule, he must report those concerns to his own athletic director.
The AD would determine if the information should be reported to the SEC office, which would make a similar decision before passing along the allegations to School B.
That school must conduct its own investigation and report back to Slive within 30 days.
The new policy, which might become known as the “Phillip Fulmer Rule,” is supposed to give coaches a clear-cut policy for dealing with suspicious behavior by a rival school.
The SEC is now urging schools to shy away from hiring coaches who have run afoul of NCAA rules at other institutions.
In addition, the SEC plans to spend more time educating everyone involved in its athletic programs — from presidents to secretaries — on the importance of complying with NCAA guidelines.
“The commissioner is very committed to helping clean things up,” Georgia football coach Mark Richt said. “No conference is perfect. But certainly we want to do a better job.