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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)
Phillip Fulmer figures participating in the SEC spring meetings as an athletic director will be different than it was as a football coach.
"The coaches, sometimes, it's like sitting with the Russians - or at least it used to be. Nobody wanted to agree on anything," said Fulmer, UT's first-year AD and former football coach. "In the athletic directors' meetings, everybody has their reasons for doing things or voting how they vote, and everybody's protective, but there's also some feeling of cooperation for the conference sake. I've enjoyed that."
The four-day conference meetings will begin Tuesday, with ADs, coaches and university brass gathering at Hilton Sandestin Beach in Destin, Fla.
Here are some topics likely to be discussed.
Alcohol sales at SEC stadiums
The SEC's prohibition of alcohol sales in general seating areas of stadiums has been an ongoing debate and surely will be revisited at the meetings.
Currently, SEC rules prevent alcoholic beverages from being sold or consumed in stadiums except for private or leased areas of the stadium, such as premium seating areas where alcohol is permitted.
"From a stadium-wide standpoint, there are those who think that, let's just take all the restraint off at the conference level," SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said last month. "But that's not unanimous, and I'm not sure it's, right now, a majority position."
UT is a dry campus, meaning the SEC's prohibition rule is a moot point. But last summer, UT announced it was reviewing its alcohol policies.
Vanderbilt is a wet campus, clearing the path for alcohol sales if the SEC changed its rules.
Some schools in other conferences sell alcohol in general seating areas.
Nick Saban is blocking offensive lineman Brandon Kennedy, a graduate transfer, from going to another school within the SEC.
Kennedy, who has three years of eligibility remaining, reportedly would be interested in Tennessee or Auburn if he wasn't blocked.
UT coach Jeremy Pruitt, Saban's former defensive coordinator, told reporters during a Big Orange Caravan stop in Nashville last week that graduate transfers should not face restrictions.
"Generally, I think if a young man has finished his degree - if he has graduated - then he should have a choice to go and do what he wants to do," Fulmer said.
Saban says he doesn't want free agency within the league.
In 2016, he tried to block cornerback Maurice Smith from following Kirby Smart to Georgia and playing his final season there as a graduate transfer. Smith appealed to the SEC and received a waiver to allow him to play immediately for the Bulldogs.
Graduate transfers aren't the only type of transfers likely to be discussed.
In the past year, there has been discussion about allowing first-time transfers to play immediately if they meet academic requirements. The Transfer Working Group announced in April that it considered several options for changing transfer rules and would continue reviewing options. The group intends to gather feedback at spring conference meetings and reconvene in June.
Additionally, the Division I Council will vote in June on a proposal to stop schools from restricting transfer destinations
Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law requiring states ban sports gambling.
Given the high court's ruling, sports betting is now legal as long as the states allow it.
Previously, Nevada had been the only state where single-game sports betting was legal.
Gambling is illegal in Tennessee, but there are some exceptions, one of which is fantasy sports gambling.
Tennessee state Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, recently wrote on Twitter that he plans "to introduce legislation to allow sports betting in" Tennessee, with proceeds going to K-12 education.
How legalized sports gambling would affect universities is unclear.
The state of West Virginia passed a bill legalizing sports gambling. In response, WVU athletic director Shane Lyons told wvnews.com that his athletic department will hire additional compliance department staff members.
"We're going to have to step our game up," Lyons told the website.
UT's Board of Trustees athletics committee approved project plans last fall for a two-part Neyland Stadium renovation set to cost $340 million. Phase I of the project, focusing on the stadium's south end, was slated to cost $180 million and be funded by fundraising campaigns, athletic department revenues, partnerships and debt financing.
A construction date has not been set.
Fulmer said at a Big Orange Caravan stop this month in Nashville he wanted to assess stadium needs and take a responsible approach toward the project. He might discuss the project more while in Destin.
As of last fall, $50 million in funds had been raised for the project. Asked recently where fundraising stands for the project, athletic department spokesman Tom Satkowiak didn't offer a specific figure but said the project has received "a positive response from our donors."
"We were met with great support from the outset, and efforts to engage our donors continue to result in great outcomes," Satkowiak said in an email to USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee.
Meanwhile, Vanderbilt AD David Williams could be asked about his school's football stadium. Vandy announced last fall it won't move to a stadium that will house Nashville's approved MLS team.
Although the soccer stadium won't become the permanent home for football, the possibility remains of playing select games there. Williams said in 2016 that a new on-campus football stadium or major renovation of Vanderbilt Stadium, which opened in 1922, is a priority. What's the latest on that front? Vanderbilt Stadium's last major renovation came in 1981.
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