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July 17, 2013

Spurrier has plan to provide expense money to players

HOOVER, Ala. -- Steve Spurrier has a plan. It's more ambitious than even his goal of leading South Carolina to a Southeastern Conference championship this season.

He wants to find a way to compensate players with expense money in addition to their athletic scholarships, and he has the support of his fellow coaches.

"It's something that I believe in," Spurrier said at SEC Media Days on Tuesday.

Spurrier said the conference football and men's basketball coaches voted unanimously earlier this summer to support a proposal that would give expense money to players in those revenue-producing sports. Football players would receive $300 a game under the plan, while men's basketball players would receive less per game.

That amounts to a total of $3,600 to $3,900 a year for football players, which Spurrier says the football coaches would be willing to pay. That would cost each coach about $275,000 a year. He doesn't consider it pay-for-play, but expense money to allow players to help their families travel to games or to cover basic needs outside their scholarships.

"They could pro-rate that out where the basketball players got $3,600, $3,900," Spurrier said. "This is tiny compared to the money that's coming in now. I think we all know that."

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said in his address to open the day that while the conferences has made strides in recent years, it still has not been able to support its student-athletes as it would like to.

Slive has previously said the SEC would be in favor of giving athletes scholarships that would cover the full cost of attendance at a university, including expenses outside tuition and books. He's found support from commissioners in other conferences in recent conversations.

"The NCAA has not been successful in meeting the full cost of attendance of our student-athletes, whether through the so-called miscellaneous expense allowance or some other model that provides broad access to additional funds," Slive said. "Conferences and their member institutions must be allowed to meet the needs of their student-athletes."

Slive said later in his address that while the SEC continues to support the NCAA as college sports' governing body, the league will continue to push for what's best for its student-athletes. That was before Spurrier took to the podium with his plan.

"I'm going to keep fighting for our guys," Spurrier said. "I don't know what will come. If President Obama would say 'Spurrier, you and those coaches need to quit fighting for your players, they get enough full scholarship,' then I'll shut up about it. But I just believe that these athletes, because of the enormous amount they bring in, just a little bit to help out with their parents watching games and so forth."

Will Muschamp took an aggressive stance when asked about player discipline in his time at the podium. In the wake of a handful of behavior issues, the Florida coach's response stood in stark contrast to comments made by his predecessor.

"You're 100 percent responsible," Muschamp said. "When you sign a student-athlete to come to the University of Florida, I look at his parents, guardians, whoever is important to him in his life, tell them it's my job to be an extension of what's already happened at home."

Discipline issues have been a hot topic in the SEC of late. Former Florida tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was recruited by and played for Urban Meyer, was arrested in connection with a murder investigation in Boston in late June. He also reportedly had disciplinary issues during his time in Gainesville.

More recently, Vanderbilt dismissed four players during an ongoing sex crimes investigation in Nashville. The issues, particularly those surrounding Hernandez and the investigation and Nashville, became so high-profile that Slive addressed them on Tuesday.

"We are not nave enough to think we can put an end to all unacceptable behavior," Slive said. "But that doesn't mean we won't continue to try, try, try."

Meyer has issued only brief comments on Hernandez's situation. Muschamp's first year at Florida was 2011, a full year removed from when Hernandez was drafted in 2010.

He doesn't think it's realistic for a coach to be completely aware of his players' behavior at all times, but he also said it's irresponsible to not take ownership of situations when they arise.

"I can't possibly know everything that happens every single night with our football team," Muschamp said. "You also can't stick your head in the sand and pretend everything is OK, either."

It seemed unlike that Spurrier and Hugh Freeze would form a bond after last year's SEC Media Days. Spurrier quipped that he'd rather play the Rebels, coming off a 2-10 season, as a cross-divisional opponent than traveling to face LSU.

Unknown to Spurrier at the time, Freeze held a certain admiration for the old ball coach. When he started his career as a high school football coach in Memphis, Tenn., he began wearing a visor in emulation of Spurrier.

"When I was a high school coach, I wanted to be like Steve Spurrier," Freeze said. "That's the truth. Ever since then, Steve and I have become really good friends. He liked that story. He calls me his visor guy."

Spurrier was flattered when he learned that, and found common ground with Freeze.

"Hugh and I have a lot in common," he said. "We both play golf. We both wear visors. We both call plays. How could you not like a guy like Hugh Freeze?"

Kentucky's first two home games are set after their start times were announced on Tuesday morning.

The Wildcats' home opener against Miami of Ohio will kick off at noon on Sept. 7 and air on FSN. UK's rivalry game against Louisville will kick off at noon on Sept. 14 and air on ESPN.

Kentucky's season opener against Western Kentucky on Aug. 31 at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., had already been announced. It will kick off at 7 p.m. and air on ESPN News. The only other game for Kentucky with a known start time is a Thursday night matchup at Mississippi State on Oct. 24. That game will kick off at 7:30.

--Slive announced the next installment in ESPN Films' SEC Storied will be titled "The Book of Manning," focusing on the lives of the Manning family.

"The Book of Manning" will focus on the personal and professional life of Archie Manning as he and his wife Olivia raised their three sons. All three sons -- Cooper, Peyton and Eli -- played in the SEC. Peyton and Eli Manning went on to be drafted No. 1 overall in 1998 and 2004, respectively.

"I don't like the perception that it was a plan (to raise quarterbacks)," Archnie Manning said in a news release. "You know that I was an NFL quarterback for a while and then I've got these boys and I'm going to mold them into being NFL quarterbacks. Not so. You might can do that and they might can be an NFL quarterback, but I'm not sure you're going to have a great father-son relationship. That's what I wanted."

--Muschamp said he's been pleased with the addition of former Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips, who joined the staff as wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator.

"That's something that I think gives you great ideas and benefit from a guy that has sat in the chair before," Muschamp said. "Certainly when I was defensive coordinator of having guys in the room that have called it before and they see the big picture."

--Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace resumed throwing four weeks ago and was cleared to participate fully in drills a week ago after suffering an injury to his collarbone last year. He missed all of spring practice while recovering from shoulder surgery.

Wallace said he's confident in his shoulder and is ready to return to practice. The Ole Miss staff was granted a special waiver to spend time with Wallace during the summer to monitor his progress.

"I think his throwing motion changed some throughout the rehab process, so we were concerned," Freeze said.

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