Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive is ready to take his league and go elsewhere if the NCAA Division I board does not adopt sweeping changes that would lend autonomy to the five major conferences.
In his 13th year as SEC boss, Slive said he has built much of the bridge to the future he set out to establish when he was hired in 2002.
At the forefront of a movement to overhaul the NCAA's governing structure, Slive unscored the pressing importance for a radical renovation of college sports and repeated his intention to break away from the collegiate sports body if a series of proposed changes are not enacted.
“If we do not achieve a positive outcome under the existing big tent of Division I, we will need to consider the establishment of a venue with similar conferences and institutions where we can enact the desired changes in the best interest of our student athletes,” Slive said Monday to open the 30th annual SEC Media Days at the Hyatt Regency in Hoover, Ala.
Slive said a vote by the board Aug. 7 involving the SEC and five major conferences, would present an opportunity to “forge a road to the future.”
“We will know soon,” Slive said.
Regarding autonomy, Slive stressed that there are ways to help athletes in ways that might not have been possible, including: full cost of attendance, multi-year scholarships, ways for players to gauge professional sports value, involving parent costs related to recruiting and attending some games.
Change is part of college football, he said, pointing to the BCS becoming the College Football Playoff in requesting a restructuring of the NCAA to evolve in a way that meets the needs of modern-day student-athletes.
“The vision includes the NCAAs enactment of a governing system that will provide greater autonomy for the SEC and the other four conferences for the benefit of student-athletes,” Slive said. “The ongoing review of the NCAA governing structure is intended to provide for the introduction of new strategies and new ideas. With the new structure in place, amongst other goals, we seek to support the educational needs of our student-athletes through the provisions of scholarships linked to the cost of attendance -- rather than the historic model of tuition, room, board, fees and books.”
Slive said he also wants expansion of health and wellness support, and post-graduate programs and development.
With enhancement of national exposure through the SEC Network, which launches Aug. 14, accelerated development of minorities and adding Texas A&M and Missouri, Slive noted much of the structure he envisioned is established but focus is on the work left to be done.
“Education must remain at the core of what we do,” Slive said.
Charged with protecting higher education, Slive said the mission is to protect the student-athletes.
“This is why it is critical for the NCAA to change,” Slive said. “We are not deaf to the din of discontent across intercollegiate athletics that has dominated the news.”
Quoting Dwight Eisenhower, Nelson Mandela and Winston Churchill and calling the future of intercollegiate athletics too important not to seek positive solutions to challenges, Slive said he will continue the call for change he first backed at SEC Media days in 2011.
“We support reform,” Slive said. “But it is essential that reform be implemented in a way that reinforces the important role college athletics plays in the lives of our student-athletes, other students, and society at large.”
Slive did not take questions, and took a chance to boast of the conference's football potency.
“As Muhammad Ali said, ‘It's not bragging if you back it up.’”
NOTES: The SEC polled more than 850,000 fans in an ongoing, multi-year initiative to gauge the needs of the conference's supporters. … The SEC Network will air triple-headers every Saturday, with Brent Musberger and Jesse Palmer working as the top team. Every stadium in the conference will host a game by the third week of the season. … The Saturday pregame show, “SEC Nation” will air two hours before the first game of the day. … South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier and soon-to-be-inducted Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, an Auburn baseball great, will be featured in the network's documentary series.