SBD/June 2, 2014/Colleges

Slive Threatens SEC Move To "Division 4" If Autonomy Not Approved By NCAA

Slive says the current state of collegiate athletics "is no longer an option" for the SEC
The SEC's spring meetings wrapped up Friday with a "strong parting shot" from Commissioner Mike Slive, who warned that the conference would be "prepared to pull out of NCAA Division I and form a new NCAA division if the five power conferences don’t receive autonomy to set their own rules on certain matters," according to Tim Tucker of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. The threat "seemed aimed" at the D-I BOD. Slive said, "If it doesn’t pass, the next move would be to go to a ‘Division 4.’ It’s not something we want to do.” But he made it "clear the status quo is not an option for the SEC." Slive: "I am somewhat optimistic it will pass, but if it doesn’t, our league would certainly want to move to a Division 4" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 5/31). Univ. of Florida President Bernie Machen said, "We're in a squeeze here. There are now six lawsuits that name our conference in them that specifically have to do with the whole cost of attendance and stuff like that. We would like to make changes, but we can't because the NCAA doesn't allow us to. We're really caught between a rock and a hard play. We desperately would like some flexibility" (ESPN.com, 5/30).

HAMMER TIME: USA TODAY's George Schroeder wrote Slive's comments were a "reminder that as decision time draws near, the powerbrokers in college sports are intent on getting what they want -- and concerned they might not get all of it." At "various points in the last year or so," Slive and fellow commissioners have "taken out a verbal hammer." If Slive's comments "didn't break new ground, they were evidence that, in his eyes at least, the process has reached another critical juncture." At least two issues "remain important sticking points for the Power Five: A proposed supermajority voting requirement, and limits on the Power Five's autonomy in the areas of rule interpretations, rule waivers and rule enforcement" (USATODAY.com, 5/30). CBSSPORTS.com's Jon Solomon wrote, "It's the SEC's turn to bring out the hammer to get what the Power 5 conferences want in NCAA governance" (CBSSPORTS.com, 5/30). In Orlando, Mike Bianchi wrote Slive is "brilliant" and an "absolute genius." The SEC is "on the verge of perpetrating one of the biggest money grabs in college sports history and he is doing it under the guise of compassion for the poor, exploited student-athlete." Slive "sounds suspiciously like a third-world dictator, doesn't he? … Either you elect to give me the power or I'll just take it. It's up to you" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 6/1). In K.C., Blair Kerkhoff writes under the header, "Power Conferences In NCAA: Play Ball With Us Or Else." The power conferences "deal from a position of, well, power," and they also have the "added benefit of being right about this issue." The "momentum to provide student-athletes more benefits is stronger than ever, and the power conferences have the leverage" (K.C. STAR, 6/2).

IN OTHER NEWS: The SEC on Friday said that it will distribute more than $300M in revenue to its 14 member schools for the '13-14 school year. The ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION's Tucker noted that is a "league-record amount that figures to increase sharply in the future" with the launch of the SEC Network. This year’s distribution of $309.6M is up from $304.7M last year, the "smallest increase in five year." But still, it is "up dramatically" from $165.9M in '09. The distribution "consists of revenue generated by football and basketball TV contracts, the SEC Championship football game, football bowl games, the SEC men’s basketball tournament and the conference’s share of NCAA Championship events." Each SEC member "will get approximately" $20.9M (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 5/31). CBSSPORTS.com's Solomon writes, "How much has the SEC's wealth grown? Just five years ago, prior to new television deals with ESPN and CBS, the SEC distributed $11 million per school" (CBSSPORTS.com, 5/30). In Atlanta, Tucker noted five "hot topics" that came out of the conference's spring meetings included seeking autonomy, football recruiting, the new College Football Playoff, the state of SEC basketball and "controversy!" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 6/1). Meanwhile, Tucker noted SEC presidents voted Friday to "permit the use of computerized sound systems and artificial noisemakers during football games except from the moment the center goes over the ball until the play is blown dead." The SEC said the change will "enhance the fan experience and provide institutions with the flexibility to appeal to their fans by the use of music and institutionally controlled noise" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 5/31).

SEC'S IMPACT ON OTHER LEAGUES: CBSSPORTS.com's Solomon noted the Big 12 on Friday announced that eight of its schools "will receive" $23M this year while newcomers West Virginia and TCU "will get nearly" $14M. Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby on Friday said that the conference "will be distributing" more than $40M per school "by the end of its TV contract in the next decade" (CBSSPORTS.com, 5/30). 
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