SEC commissioner Mike Slive ought to be used to this by now.
Another football season, another national championship.
Auburn made it five in a row for the SEC last month with its 22-19 victory against Oregon in the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game.
And as Slive proudly points out, Auburn was the fourth different SEC team in as many years to take home college football’s top prize.
“It’s truly a historic achievement,” Slive said in a recent interview with ESPN.com. “Everybody talks about records are made to be broken, but I can’t foresee this record ever being broken, particularly when you talk about four different teams winning national championships. I don’t know what the right words are, but it’s a historic achievement and one I don’t think will be duplicated, probably ever.”
While historic on the field, the 2010 football season also had another uglier side to it off the field for the SEC.
It started with three star players in the league – Georgia’s A.J. Green, Alabama’s Marcell Dareus and South Carolina’s Weslye Saunders -- getting caught up in impermissible agent-related matters and ultimately being suspended. Green missed four games, Dareus two games and Saunders the entire season.
South Carolina and Tennessee received official letters of inquiry from the NCAA, and those investigations remain open. LSU fired an assistant coach and docked itself two scholarships over improprieties in the recruitment of a junior college player.
Then there was the Cam Newton affair where it was confirmed that the Heisman Trophy winner’s father, Cecil Newton, tried to shop him to Mississippi State for $180,000 coming out of junior college.
The week of the SEC championship game, Auburn declared Newton ineligible for a day without making it public after the NCAA determined that his father broke NCAA rules and that a violation of Newton’s amateur status had occurred. But the next day, the NCAA reinstated Newton when it said there was no evidence to support that Newton knew what his father was doing or that any money ever exchanged hands.
The NCAA and SEC both were heavily criticized for that controversial decision, and some of the criticism came from other conference commissioners, namely the Big Ten’s Jim Delany.
Slive felt at the time the right decision was made to allow Newton to play, and he doesn’t feel any differently now that he’s had time to reflect on everything. Moreover, while some around the country might attach an asterisk to this season based on everything that was swirling around Newton, Slive does not.
“I don’t view it with an asterisk,” Slive said. “But on a personal note, to say the very least, it was an interesting fall, certainly a fall not without its stresses and strains. But looking back on it, the facts at this point and time haven’t changed. The NCAA hasn’t come up with anything that I’m aware of today that changes the facts that led to the decision to reinstate (Newton), so I am exactly in the same place as I was (when he was reinstated).
“We take pride in having the national champion and take great pride in having won it five years in a row, but the facts have not changed. It’s now time to look forward and see what legislation needs to be put in place to deal with the kind of conduct that we find reprehensible and don’t want in intercollegiate athletics.”
In a lot of ways, 2010 was the best of times and the worst of times for the SEC.
Of the latter, Slive quips, “I was glad to see 2010 go away.”
He’s the first to admit that the off-the-field issues the SEC encountered this past season were disappointing.
“But I don’t think it’s a pattern. Those things happen,” Slive said. “Our institutions are dealing with them in a way that I’m satisfied, but I fully expect, and so do our presidents and ADs, that 2011 and beyond will be different.”
With some of the unsavory things that have transpired in the SEC this past year, Slive understands the league has made itself an easy target. But he also wonders if some of the SEC’s loudest critics are living in glass houses.
“We’ve had some issues, but there isn’t a conference that’s looking at us and being critical of some of the things we’ve gone through this year that doesn’t have issues of its own,” Slive said.
“The difference is that we don’t talk about what’s going on in those other conferences.”