SBD/July 15, 2014/Colleges

SEC's Mike Slive Renews Call For Autonomy, Threat Of "Division Four" If Reform Fails

Slive aims to support D-I student-athletes while preserving the collegiate model
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive yesterday "renewed his call for changes in how college athletics are operated, starting with a vote on governance restructuring" on Aug. 7, and "renewed the threat of a breakaway division if those reforms fail," according to Mike Herndon of the BIRMINGHAM NEWS. Mentioning "specifically the expansion of scholarships to cover the full cost of attendance and harkening to the spectre of more radical changes possible from the Ed O'Bannon antitrust case, Slive opened SEC Media Days by touting reforms aimed toward 'enhancing the support enjoyed by Division I student-athletes while maintaining and preserving the collegiate model.'" Slive said, "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 that it is "important the steering committee on governance, which will present its recommendations to the full NCAA board for the Aug. 7 vote, 'continue its support' for Power 5 autonomy and 'proper voting thresholds to allow for the enactment of meaningful change.'" But autonomy and reform "weren't the only issues touched upon" by Slive yesterday. He said there are "ongoing significant conversations" with major TV providers not already carrying the SEC Network, which launches Aug. 14. Slive also announced the creation of a "fan experience working group" to better understand the expectations of SEC fans. The SEC "led the nation in attendance for the 16th straight year with an average of 76,000 fans per game and set a new conference record with a total attendance of 7.5 million" (BIRMINGHAM NEWS, 7/15).

ON THE MIKE: The AP's David Brandt noted Slive during the SEC's summer meetings in June said that the Big Five -- which also includes the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 -- would "consider forming a 'Division IV' if they weren't granted autonomy on some NCAA governance issues." Slive was "optimistic then, and also on Monday, that such a drastic measure won't be needed." Slive "didn't make any references" to Division IV yesterday. But he "wasn't afraid to pull from the history books to make a point on the rapidly changing world of college athletics, quoting Dwight Eisenhower, Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela at different moments" (AP, 7/14). In Atlanta, Tony Barnhart wrote the "failure to act" on Slive's request for autonomy, will "result in something very, very ugly as the big schools could be forced to go off on their own, leaving the NCAA behind." Slive’s suggestion that the "big schools would have to seek another 'venue' to realize their goals is going to be unsettling to some people in the college athletics community," and he will "get some pushback." But this "day of reckoning has been put off long enough." Now that the "millions generated by college athletics has become billions, the institution must change before a judge steps in and forces change" (AJC.com, 7/14). ESPN Radio's Mike Golic said, "There is going to be a change coming, but I don't think the big five are going to separate from the NCAA. What I think is going to happen is they're going to get all or close to all of what they want" ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 7/15).

NOT SO SUBTLE
: In Tennessee, Jay Greeson wrote Slive was "as subtle as a chainsaw" yesterday. If the NCAA "forces the big five's hand, here's believing the big five would outlast the rest of college sports -- and focus on the message and the simple fact that the NCAA has failed" (CHATTANOOGA TIMES FREE PRESS, 7/15). ESPN's Jesse Palmer said, "If I'm a student-athlete, I love what Mike Slive is saying. You're going to get me more money and you're going to get me more time to get my degree." But he added, "When I look at it and take a step back and think about the good of the game, I'm not so sure it's the best thing. We're creating a much bigger rift" between the larger and smaller schools. ESPN's Danny Kanell said, "One thing I like about Mike Slive's comments is he's not saying we need to completely blow up the model as we know it" ("College Football Live," ESPN, 7/14).
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