HOOVER | Not "deaf to the din of discontent" surrounding collegiate athletics when it comes to the financial support of student athletes, SEC commissioner Mike Slive used his annual spotlight here to reaffirm his league's stance on ending such noise.
Slive reiterated his league's desire for autonomy for the "power five" conferences in college football - ACC, SEC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12 - during his address to kickstart SEC Media Days on Monday.
"In the words of former president Dwight David Eisenhower, I quote, Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him," Slive said. "With Eisenhower's admonition in mind, we have created the initiative to restructure the NCAA in accordance with our vision for the 21st century with the support of student‑athletes at its core."
In theory, that change - allowing the five major conferences to set their own rules amongst themselves - would allow the bigger programs to create a governing system that would allow those larger schools that can afford to compensate student-athletes on the full cost of attendance to do so.
"The ongoing review of the NCAA governing structure is intended to provide for the introduction of new strategies and new ideas," Slive said. "With a 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 cost of attendance rather than the historic model of tuition, room and board, fees and books."
The next step comes Aug. 7 when the steering committee on governance issues its final recommendations to the NCAA on autonomy. Slive mentioned that date, and didn't sell his desire for the NCAA to allow autonomy short. Slive implied that the big conferences would further examine a fourth division on their own, outside of the NCAA's umbrella, if autonomy isn't achieved.
"As I have said before, 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 interests of our student‑athletes," Slive said.
Among governance talk, Slive didn't leave out his yearly staples, either. It was his chance to put his league out front to a national audience. It was his chance to gloat about his league's successes; The "annual SEC brag bag" he calls it. He mentioned the league leading the nation in football attendance (more than 76,000 fans per game on average). He acknowledged the league competing for its eight straight football national championship and "coming up just one minute short" - Auburn lost to Florida State 34-31 - and pointed out that in the last three years, half of the programs in the SEC have competed for a national title in football, men's basketball or baseball.
Big wasn't just saved for talk of NCAA changes and notable achievements. Slive went big to drive his points home, quoting Eisenhower, Muhammad Ali, Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela.
"As Muhammad Ali said, It's not bragging if you can back it up," Slive joked.
Reach D.C. Reeves at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0196.