SEC commissioner Mike Slive sent a ripple across campuses all over the country last month at the SEC media days when he unveiled several sweeping proposals aimed at cleaning up college sports and bringing the focus back to what happens on the field.
Amid some of the scandals that have rocked college football over the past year, Slive proposed everything from raising GPA requirements for incoming freshman athletes, to doing away with some of the petty recruiting rules, to making scholarships a multi-year deal.
He also advocated full-cost-of-attendance scholarships, which would bump up the value of scholarships for all college athletes.
Obviously, he’s been a busy man.
He’s also like any other SEC fan. He can’t wait for football to start and took some time recently to tackle some of the most pressing questions out there as we get ready for what will be the 20th season since the SEC expanded and split into two divisions in 1992:
What type of reaction have you received, both good and bad, from some of your proposals?
Mike Slive: It’s really covered the spectrum. There were a lot of people who thanked me for doing it and getting the ball rolling. Obviously, some people disagreed with various parts of it. For example, some of our coaches were concerned about the 2.5 GPA, but were very pleased that someone would bring up the text messaging and phone calls and bumps in recruiting and getting rid of legislation that really isn’t at the heart of what we’re concerned about. So there was something for everyone in there. But most of all, I had a sense that people were glad that someone stepped up and said, ‘Let’s start this dialogue. Let’s get a national agenda for change and maybe give everyone something to chew on at the upcoming presidential retreat.’ ”
When might we see some of these proposals put into place, within the next year or much further down the road?
MS: That’s the 64-dollar question. It will be interesting after the retreat how NCAA president Mark Emmert decides what the process will be for moving ahead. I’m not sure. It’s his prerogative as the president of the NCAA to make that determination.
Where’s your pride level in seeing the SEC win five straight national championships in football?
MS: We take great pride in the five in a row. At the same time, what makes it even more astounding is that we’ve won three national championships in baseball in a row at the same time. And in this past year, we won an additional five national championships. So the pride actually is not only in the football record, but in the quality of what all of our kids are doing in all of the sports.
With the success on the field, there have also been a number of NCAA investigations involving SEC football programs and multiple SEC schools now on NCAA probation. How disappointing is it to see that after making the proclamation earlier this decade that the SEC would be probation-free?
MS: It absolutely has been a priority of mine (to avoid NCAA trouble), and we made significant progress up through 2008 when we had just one track program on probation, and we’ve had some setbacks since that time. Am I disappointed? Yes. Do I want to put an end to it? Yes. If there’s a positive, it’s how our institutions have handled it. I think LSU is an example here recently of how our institutions have reacted to these matters. I was very pleased to see that LSU was rewarded for that. What’s of concern, as I said in my talk, is that we have issues from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the Gulf to the Great Lakes. These cases have brought things to a bit of a head, and we have to rely on the NCAA enforcement process to deal with the issues going forward. But what’s clear now is that this is not an SEC matter. This is now a matter for all conferences.
What do you make of the Auburn investigation remaining open, and do you feel Auburn’s frustration that it has lingered for as long as it has?
MS: As I said in my talk, part of the enforcement process that needs serious attention is the timeliness, and one of the suggestions I’ve made is that let’s make sure we know what we really want to focus on so that the enforcement staff can be clear and utilize their resources in cases in which it goes to the heart and soul of integrity and not on some of these other issues we’ve been spending a lot of time on.
The Big Ten recently announced that it would go to a nine-game league schedule in 2017. Do you see any chance that the SEC would follow suit and go from eight games to nine games?
MS: Since I’ve been here, there’s been no sentiment to go to nine. It’s come up a couple of times, but not in depth. So as we talk here today, there have been no serious discussions about going to nine.
Where do you think expansion is as it relates to the SEC, and do you expect to see the league add teams in the next two or three years?
MS: Let me go back to where I was last year when I had my little quote on the card I kept reading, and basically that is that we’ll be thoughtful and strategic about it. So I think it’s the same, but I can tell you that we’re going to do what is in our long-term best interest for our conference.
How many games will you get to this season?
MS: Up until last year, I went to every campus. Last year, I went to a few games, but spent more time in our command center (in Birmingham, Ala.) because every game is on television. So when I go to our command center from 11 o’clock in the morning until 11 o’clock at night, I see every single play of every single game, and that’s very helpful.