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SEC discusses recruiting changes

    DESTIN, Fla. — The hottest topic at the Southeastern Conference's annual meetings has nothing to do with national championships or NCAA violations.
    It has to do with what league Commissioner Mike Slive calls "fundamental fairness" to recruits.
    Not all of his coaches agree.
    Two years after the trendsetting conference limited its schools to signing 28 high school prospects, the league is considering dropping the number to 25. Several coaches are against the proposal, saying it could hinder their ability to fill rosters with talent.
    "I'm very comfortable with where it is at right now," Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. "For us to turn around a year later and want to change again. ... I have my doubts about us having given it enough time to figure out if it's broke or not. I'm comfortable with where it's at."
    Oversigning has become a controversial issue in the SEC. Critics say it has led schools to "greyshirt" some prospects, making them delay their enrollment until January because there is no room on the roster. University of Florida President Bernie Machen called the tactic "morally reprehensible."
    Slive has taken a softer tone, saying he wants a more equitable relationship for both schools and recruits.
    "We'll make some changes," he said.
    The proposed legislation could be passed later this week.
    "When you read what the commissioner has said, there probably will be a change," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "The people that criticize oversigning, I'm not sure they understand why you do it and what it's all about and how you manage your roster and how you get to (the scholarship limit of) 85."
    Even though Petrino expects the proposal to pass, he doesn't believe it will be totally welcomed.
    "I don't know if there will be acceptance to it," Petrino said. "It's all how you manage your roster. I've always been one that oversigns, knowing that out of these six guys, three of them are going to get eligible and three are going to a junior college and then have a chance to come play for us.
    "It almost always plays out right. Most of the time, it's a situation where, prior to school in the fall, I've been able to put one or two walk-ons on scholarship."
    Mississippi coach Houston Nutt has been oversigning classes for years, even when he was at Arkansas.
    He signed 37 recruits at Ole Miss in 2009, a move that raised eyebrows around the conference and the country.
    He said the proposal would make coaches less likely to take chances on prospects who have borderline grades and test scores and may not gain entrance to a university.
    "I have a soft spot in my heart when a (prep) coach says, 'All he needs is you. He's had a few problems, but all he needs is you,'" Nutt said. "We've had success stories that way. But we're going to have fewer of those.
    "If you say 25 ... you can't make mistakes."
    Nutt insisted he's never actually been over the class limit by the time school started in the fall, pointing out that some attrition happens every year.
    Others, though, have ended up over the 85 total scholarship limit and have turned to greyshirting to solve the problem.
    Georgia coach Mark Richt believes the practice is acceptable as long as prospects their parents know the possibility exists when they sign in February.

"Let's say you have space for 15 and you sign 20," Richt said. "If those five guys know that if there's no room in the inn that they're going to greyshirt ... and the family knows and the high school coach knows, then I don't see anything wrong with it.

"If a kid thinks he's coming in with his class and you spring a surprise on him, I don't think that's right. Historically, though, there is enough attrition to make room for any oversigning."

Richt and his colleagues will debate the proposal in Destin, along with Slive. But it's unclear whether anything will change the commissioner's mind.

"The first amendment is alive and well," Slive said.