SEC commissioner Mike Slive will retire next summer after 13 years leading the league and plans to begin treatment for a recurrence of prostate cancer.
The 74-year-old Slive said his retirement will take effect July 31.
"I have been blessed in more ways than I can count and I will have as much passion for this job on my last day as I did on my first," Slive said Tuesday in a statement released by the conference. "I consider my health situation a temporary detour in a remarkable road that has allowed me to meet amazing people, experience incredible events and celebrate historic victories. I will relish my final year in this position and look forward to being the biggest fan of the SEC for many years to come."
The statement said Slive's recurrence was diagnosed after back surgery in August.
He will continue to carry out his responsibilities from the SEC office and his home office in Birmingham, Alabama. His travel and appearances may be limited, the conference said.
Among those to take to Twitter in praise of Slive was Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari.
"Commissioner Slive has a brilliant mind. He's one of the most thorough and forward-thinking leaders I have ever been around," Calipari tweeted. "He's a man with integrity who has built an unbelievable brand and legacy in the SEC."
Slive has become one of the most powerful men in college sports during his time leading the SEC.
He took over the SEC in 2002 and it has become the nation's top football conference. The SEC had a run of seven consecutive BCS titles.
Under his leadership, the SEC has landed huge television rights deals with CBS and ESPN and launched the SEC Network in August. League revenues have grown from about $96 million when he took over to $310 million last year.
Vanderbilt chancellor Nick Zeppos says the SEC will begin a search for a successor. The conference says Slive will become a consultant to the SEC.
When Slive left Conference USA to take over the SEC in 2002, the conference was in disarray with nine of its 12 members either on probation or being investigated by the NCAA. Now only three of the SEC's 14 schools are on probation.
He guided the conference through expansion, bringing on Texas A&M and Missouri to expand the league's footprint into new markets. And he pushed for a four-team playoff in major college football years before it was finally adopted.
In 2011, Slive was among the first commissioners to call for massive NCAA reform that has led to the five most powerful Division I conferences -- the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Atlantic Coast Conference and Pac-12 -- being allowed to pass legislation without the approval of the other conferences.
Slive called for increasing the value of athletic scholarships to include cost of attendance, guaranteeing a four-year scholarship and for more long-term health care and educational opportunities for athletes. Now with autonomy for the Big Five in place, those changes are close to becoming a reality.