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Volume 21 No. 39
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Coffee Boys rise early, tackle problems of the day

Any time Mike Slive had a meeting with the SEC’s athletic directors, he prepared by talking to the chairman of the ADs council, which in the early 2000s was Mississippi State’s Larry Templeton.

Both Slive and Templeton were notorious early risers, so they typically met at 6 a.m. for coffee to go over the agenda for the ADs meeting. When Slive hired Chuck Gerber to be the league’s TV consultant, Gerber began joining them for coffee.

They became known as the original Coffee Boys. The threesome grew by one when the SEC’s chief operator, Greg Sankey, another pre-dawn riser, joined in.

Templeton, Gerber and Sankey were more than Slive’s best friends. They formed his inner circle — his closest and most trusted advisers. The original Coffee Boys shared their thoughts about Slive in their own words.


As our relationship grew professionally over the years, we also developed a very personal relationship, almost to the
Larry Templeton (left) and Chuck Gerber are among Slive’s closest friends and trusted advisers.
Photo by: Slive Family
point where I’m part of his family and he’s part of my family. Now we talk every morning very early.

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Really early in his career, we were getting ready to enact a recruiting restriction that would only affect SEC coaches and would handicap them, but it was the right thing to do. There was a lot of apprehension in the room among the ADs.

When things would get tense,


SBJ Podcast:
Writer Michael Smith and Executive Editor Abraham Madkour discuss Mike Slive's impact on college athletics, his management style and what the former SEC commissioner's future holds.

he’d say “Let’s take a break.” It would give him a chance to get outside the room and talk to some ADs individually. We’d get back in the room and talk a while and if there wasn’t a consensus, we’d take another break. Before the day was over, it was a unanimous vote. The guys saw what was best for the league.

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I’ve never left a meeting with him where somebody felt like they had been railroaded or that they felt their voice had not been heard.

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When I retired, Mike knew that I needed something more than running around the house working on the honey-do list. I stayed on the TV committee, he asked me to come to AD meetings, and we worked on scheduling. Then Texas A&M joined the league and I chaired the transition committee. What I thought was going to be one day a week turned into three or four days a week.

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Now I’m training him on how to be a consultant.


He’s left a legacy within the conference and he’s left a legacy across intercollegiate athletics. The legacy in the conference is the lack of NCAA violations, diversity of coaches and making academics more important than they were.

The legacy in intercollegiate athletics is certainly the College Football Playoff. And what the future will be for the student athlete.

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When I got to ESPN, one of the guys said, “There’s a commissioner you really need to go meet with at Conference USA.

He’s really hard to deal with. He’s Mike Slive in Chicago.” I said OK, let’s go. I walked into his office and he had this stand-up desk with an air freshener because back then in 1996 you could smoke a cigar in the office. We hit it off immediately. When his father died a year or two later, I just showed up in Utica for the funeral. We’ve been very close ever since. Then we changed college football together.

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I’ve dealt with every major conference in the country and there’s always a couple of schools that are the big bear in the room. You’ve got Michigan and Ohio State, you’ve got Texas and Oklahoma, you’ve got USC and UCLA. And there’s three or four that could be that way in the SEC, but none of them ever take that approach. There’s just one voice. I’ve never seen an SEC school vote in its own best interests instead of the league’s best interests. And that’s the way Mike does business. They consider themselves family.


I still remember the first time we met. It was 1992, in the fall, at the Big Ten offices in Chicago. The next time we saw
Greg Sankey
Photo by: Getty Images
each other, he asked me where I’m from. Turned out we’re both from upstate New York, and my first job was at Utica College, which is where Mike was born and raised. So that probably knocked down some walls.

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When he was at Conference USA, he offered me a job and it took me six months to say no. He was very persistent. But it probably foretold me coming here to the SEC.

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He doesn’t eat lunch. I eat lunch. He’d say, “Let’s meet at noon.” He just drank coffee through lunch. He’d eat protein bars and drink coffee. I can’t do that. Coffee makes me hungry.