HOOVER, Ala. – Mike Slive stepped to the podium to open SEC Media Days on Monday, and for the first time since 2006, didn’t have a championship in college football to tout in his opening statements.
But Slive, now entering his 14th season as commissioner, doesn’t see the conference slowing down. And with a new network set to launch in exactly one month, conference revenue continuing to grow at a rapid pace and increasing power in the college football landscape, nobody is questioning the SEC’s momentum.
It is a changing landscape in college athletics, however, and Slive hit on many of the major issues that have been kicked around this offseason.
Here’s a quick recap of the big-picture issues Slive hit on in his 20-minute address:
• Continued athletic success: Yes, it was SEC football media days, but that didn’t stop Slive from hitting on the widespread athletic success of the conference in recent years. He touted national championships in baseball (Vandy) and softball (Florida), title game appearances in football (Auburn) and men’s basketball (Kentucky) in addition to placing teams in the top five of 13 of 21 sports the SEC participates in.
• The SEC Network: Predictably, there was no announcement of a deal struck with any major cable providers, though Slive did say there have been “ongoing conversations” with providers (i.e. Comcast, DirectTV) that haven’t agreed to carry it yet. Slive went into an extensive advertising pitch for the network that included a promotion of the “rare Sunday night game” between Tennessee and Utah State that will be shown on the network.
• Athletics and amateurism: Slive touched on, but didn’t dive too deeply into the amateurism debate. “We continue to believe the uniquely American endeavor of intercollegiate athletics is properly supported on our campuses as an integral and important part of higher education,” he said as he broached the hot-button issue. Though he continued by saying, “We are not deaf to the din of discontent across collegiate athletics that has dominated the news.” Slive clearly left the door open to at least entertain the option of paying players in some form in the future, as long as education remains a foundation of collegiate education.
• Power conference autonomy: As he did at the SEC Spring Meetings, Slive continued to threaten the possibility of forming a new division (that he has previously referred to as Division 4) of collegiate athletics that would give the five power conferences the autonomy they need to “enact the desired changes in the best interests of our student-athletes.” The NCAA governance steering committee is scheduled to make its recommendations to the NCAA on Aug. 7 on changes that may or may not give conferences such as the SEC additional autonomy.
• Scheduling/bowl updates: Slive re-affirmed the conference’s recent decision to remain at eight conferences games with the new requirement to play an ACC, Big 10, Big 12 or Pac 12 team on an annual basis. He mentioned Oklahoma, a team UT has scheduled for the upcoming two seasons, as one of the tough out-of-conference opponents that has been scheduled by the conference. He also confirmed that the conference, not the bowls themselves, will be placing most of the bowl-eligible teams in each bowl. Outside of the College Football Playoff, the Sugar Bowl and the Capital One Bowl, the SEC will place teams in the Belk, Liberty, Music City, Outback, TaxSlayer and Texas Bowls. If eligible teams remain, the conference has additional agreements with the Birmingham and Independence Bowls.