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Volume 21 No. 39
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Family ties grow stronger with each passing year


Mike Slive’s daughter keeps a collection in her phone of some of her dad’s favorite sayings.

One of Slive's favorite sayings was handed down by his father.

Photo by: Slive Family

Anna Slive Harwood labels them “Dad-isms,” and a few of them have become guiding principles, she said.

“When I was younger, and this is something I’ll tell [daughter] Abigail, he told me: ‘Who you marry will be the single most important decision you ever make.’ That was very sound advice, and he was 100 percent correct,” she said.

Another Dad-ism in Anna’s


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.

phone is something that Slive’s father actually told him years ago, and he has used it repeatedly in interviews and speeches.

“Luck is when preparation meets opportunity,” Slive likes to say.

Other sayings that Slive is fond of, according to his daughter, each of which came into play during his time at the SEC:
“When you don’t know, you know.”

“Don’t negotiate unless you’re willing to lose.”


Slive’s wife of 47 years, Liz, has enjoyed veto power over each of Mike’s professional moves.

Even though Slive’s jump from Conference USA commissioner to the SEC might seem like a no-brainer, it was a tougher decision than one might think.

Slive and wife, Liz, are shown today and on their wedding day.
Photo by: Slive Family (2)
Once Slive was offered the SEC job, he talked it over with his longtime friend Chuck Gerber, who was an ESPN executive at the time.

“The first thing I said to him was, ‘Do they know you’re Jewish?’ We both laughed,” Gerber said. “Now getting down to it, you and Liz love your lifestyle.”

The Slives had a condo in Chicago overlooking the lake and he could walk to his office. “But if you want to leave a legacy in college sports, you can’t do it from Conference USA,” Gerber said. “You can do it from the SEC.”

The deal between the SEC and Slive was just about complete, but Robert Khayat, then serving as president of Mississippi and chief of the search committee, needed to hear it from Liz’s voice too.

“She got on the phone and I said, ‘Girl, how you doing?’” Khayat said in his thick Southern accent. “I think she got tickled. I needed to talk to her to seal the deal.”


Anyone who’s seen Slive with 3-year-old Abigail knows that “being a grandfather is a role he was born to play,” Anna said of her father.

That was never more evident than when Abigail was born in 2012.

Slive with daugther Anna Slive Harwood and granddaughter Abigail.
Photo by: Slive Family

Abigail was due May 23, the week before the annual SEC spring meetings, but as is so often the case, a first child can have a mind of her own.

“The doctors decided to induce the following week, in the middle of spring meetings,” Anna said.

So Slive left Destin, Fla., the site of the meetings, to fly to Birmingham, where his daughter was supposed to give birth on Wednesday night. Abigail finally arrived on Thursday night, and Slive held his granddaughter that Friday at 1 a.m.

“Then he says, ‘OK, gotta go.’ He calls the pilot and says they need to be ‘wheels up’ in an hour,” Anna said.

Slive returned to Destin in the middle of the night, slept two hours, met with the media, met with the presidents, and was back in Anna’s hospital room holding his granddaughter by that Friday afternoon.

“Who does that?” Anna said with a laugh. “I’ve always said that he has two speeds: high and off,” she said.

— Compiled by Michael Smith