Former SEC Commissioner MIKE SLIVE, who "led the league to unprecedented success both on and off the field and managed its growth from a regional conference to national giant during his 13-year tenure," died yesterday at the age of 77 after a "lengthy illness," according to Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com. Slive announced he was "beginning treatment for a recurrence of prostate cancer shortly before he retired" as SEC commissioner in July '15. He said that he had been "first diagnosed with the disease" in the late '90s. He had been "working as a consultant to the SEC since his retirement." Under Slive's watch, SEC football teams won an unprecedented seven consecutive BCS national titles from '06-12, the league's "footprint was expanded by adding new members Missouri and Texas A&M through expansion" in '12 and it "became the richest conference in college sports by launching the SEC Network two years later." Slive will be "remembered for overseeing what is considered the golden age in SEC athletics." Overall, SEC teams "won 75 national championships in 17 sports during his 13-year tenure" (ESPN.com, 5/16). YAHOO SPORTS' Sam Cooper noted before arriving in the SEC, Slive was the "founding commissioner" of the Great Midwest Conference and Conference USA, was an Assistant AD at Dartmouth, his alma mater, and the AD at Cornell. A "memorial will be held" tomorrow in Birmingham, where SEC HQ is based (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/16).
TRUE LEGEND: USA TODAY's George Schroeder writes Slive was "one of the most influential figures in the history of college athletics." He was a "catalyst in creating" the CFP, "working toward that goal for years after an unbeaten Auburn team was left out" of the '04 BCS championship game. He also was a "driving force in achieving autonomy for the Power Five conferences" (USA TODAY, 5/17). In Birmingham, Creg Stephenson wrote at one time, Slive was "considered the most powerful figure in college sports." He also served as coordinator of the BCS from '06-08 and as chair of the NCAA D-I Men's Basketball Committee from '08-09. At "one time or another," he was also chair of the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee, president of the College Commissioners Association and served on the NCAA Management Council (AL.com, 5/16).
CHANGING THE CULTURE: THE ATHLETIC's Bruce Feldman wrote the SEC "didn’t just lap the other power conferences, it also became something of a sports phenomenon" under Slive. When he "took over," the league was bringing in $96M as a whole. Thirteen years later, when he stepped down, each school was "raking in nearly half that amount." He also "polished up the image of the conference that had been rocked by one ugly scandal after another in the decades before he arrived." One of his "proudest moments was championing diversity causes in the SEC as part of his leadership, including the hiring of SYLVESTER CROOM at Mississippi State, the first African-American football coach in league history" (THEATHLETIC.com, 5/16). CBSSPORTS.com's Tom Fornelli noted when Slive first became commissioner of the SEC, the league had "nine schools either on NCAA probation or under NCAA investigation." Slive promised that every member of the school "would be off probation within five years of his appointment, and he worked with school officials to implement reforms and hold themselves to higher standards" (CBSSPORTS.com, 5/16). YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Wetzel wrote because of Slive, across the South, the SEC "replaced NASCAR as its most popular cultural phenomenon" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/16).
MEDIA MOMENT: In New Orleans, Ron Higgins notes under Slive's leadership, the league "launched the SEC Network" in August '14, which brought "more than 1,000 events into the homes and to the mobile devices of college sports fans across the country" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 5/17). SI.com's Andy Staples noted during a round of conference realignment, Slive "targeted Texas A&M with the hope that adding the Lone Star State’s 10 million cable and satellite subscribers would make an SEC cable channel a viable option." Needing to "keep the numbers even and add more cable homes to the footprint, Slive began negotiating with Missouri as well." The additions allowed Slive to "craft the network and use the built-in demand of millions of Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Florida, LSU and Tennessee fans to ensure the network commanded a high subscriber fee and a near-perfect carriage rate when it launched" (SI.com, 5/16).
TWITTER REAX: Tributes are pouring in, remembering Slive's impact personally and professionally. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey: "I spent hours sitting with Mike Slive at this table in the @SEC Commissioner’s office. Every meeting was an honor & an education. Today, we lost a friend." The AP's Ralph Russo: "The College Football Hall of Fame usually considers only coaches and players, but it should make an exception for Mike Slive." Florida AD Scott Stricklin tweeted the SEC "will reap the benefit of Mike’s efforts and wisdom for years to come." Yahoo Sports' Dan Wetzel: "One of the most influential people in college sports history." Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari: "I am devastated tonight over the passing of my friend and mentor." ESPN's Chris Fowler: "An example to be followed. He leaves an enormous legacy in college sports." College football reporter Brett McMurphy: "The SEC never would have achieved all of its success without his brilliant leadership and guidance." SEC Network's Paul Finebaum: "His contriubtions to the SEC are countless; his legacy cemented in history." The Athletic's Stewart Mandel: "Slive will be remembered primarily for his work for the SEC, but he was also the driving force behind a 4-team playoff." ISP Sports Founder & Chair Ben Sutton: "Had as much impact on college sports as anyone."
Seeing the softer side of Mike Slive was one of the great benefits of working for him. Here he paused during a busy @SEC Basketball Media Days schedule to play with his Abigail. My favorite photo. pic.twitter.com/HY1o9Zb3u7— Herb Vincent (@SECherbvin) May 16, 2018