Mike Slive Tells The NCAA To Get It Together, Or Else


Mike Slive has always struck me as “your adorable grandfather.” He’ll sit you on his knee, peer at you over his Santa-Claus glasses, ply you with a pocketful of caramels and regale you with quaint stories about growing up in the back of a jalopy during the Dust Bowl.

No one since has made picking fruit sound like so much fun. They “were just happy for the work,” he’d assure you. Thanks, Grandpa, for making me feel like a terrible person every time I complain about traffic in my air-conditioned car for the rest of my life. And like your PopPop, every once in awhile he’ll quietly say something that really translates to, “hey! Shut up and listen!”

Slive made one thing clear on day one of SEC Media Days this year: the SEC will continue to lead a national conversation in an effort to bring about change for the benefit of all in college football.

After beginning his opening comments with an anecdote about how this past Monday was his wedding anniversary – and some schmo named Hank Aaron hit a ball or something – Slive said, “it is critical for the NCAA to change. And to change in accordance with the vision proposed for the 21st century by the five conferences.”

“We have created the initiative to restructure the NCAA, in accordance with our vision for the 21st century with the support of student-athletes at it’s core”  – Mike Slive

Firstly, the phrasing of “the five conferences” has an unfortunate-sounding New York mob feel. Secondly, for a man who is known for choosing his words carefully, Slive is essentially calling for nothing short of an overhaul of the system which governs collegiate athletics and scholarships.

Anyone paying attention knows about the enormous revenue generated by collegiate athletics. Well, at least that’s the perception.

Sure, in all but a handful of states, the college football (or basketball) coach is the highest paid public employee in every state. TV networks are inking deals for the exclusive rights to conferences’ games for outrageous sums. However, the overwhelming majority of institutions either lose money on athletics, or break even. Only a few programs turn a profit, Alabama being one of them.

The revenue-generating sports pay for the other sports. A contributing factor to this is Title IX. But this isn’t the forum for that discussion, mainly because I love women’s volleyball.

“We are not deaf to the din of discontent across intercollegiate athletics that has dominated the news,” Slive continued. “We have created the initiative to restructure the NCAA, in accordance with our vision for the 21st century with the support of student-athletes at it’s core … This is not a new effort on our part. The SEC’s call for change was introduced at Media Days in 2011, and will continue until we’ve realized our desired outcomes. Over the last year, we, along with our colleagues at the ACC, Big 10, Big 12 and PAC 12, developed this new vision for intercollegiate athletics for the 21st century. The vision includes the NCAA’s enactment of a governance system that will provide greater autonomy for the SEC and the other four conferences for the benefit of student athletes.”

Hey, remember when the Big East was relevant?

Anyway, Slive is essentially saying to the NCAA, “you work for us; start acting like it.” And furthermore, “you need us way more than we need you.” Slive would not have made these statements if he hadn’t discussed the possibility of breaking away from the NCAA with the other commissioners of the five families first.

You’d better believe whatever the SEC decides to do will dictate the landscape of college football. Something tells me money will be the deciding factor. If you don’t believe me, take a look at which conference generates the most.

After Slive’s statement, Cecil Hurt, Sports Editor for the Tuscaloosa News, tweeted:

No one is saying benefits should allow for Reggie Bush’s family to play Showcase Showdown with every NFL agent, so save the slippery slope argument. Slive went on to say the benefits should cover the actual cost of attendance.

Detractors of the ‘cost of attendance’ argument always say, “If that becomes the case, smaller schools won’t be able to compete with the bigger schools for recruits because they can’t afford it.”

Have you checked the score lately? Small schools can’t compete with the big schools. I’m pretty sure that’s why they’re referred to as “smaller schools.” And to that argument, the University of Miami (FL) has an undergraduate enrollment of 10, 500 and Miami University (OH) has an undergraduate enrollment of 15,000. If money is an issue, go open your eyes wide and find it. And don’t you dare pass the expense on to the students. If some schools really cannot afford the expense, then, just maybe, there shouldn’t be 125 FBS schools.

The underlying point behind Slive’s statement on Monday was essentially, “why do we need you?”

The NCAA forces schools to employ compliance officers. For what? They basically get hassled for nothing at all. The most glaring case I have ever encountered was this year when Oklahoma self-reported several players for receiving more pasta at a function than they were allowed by NCAA regulations. They were suspended by the University (out of fear for the NCAA) and ordered to pay five dollars and change to a charity of their choice to get reinstated.

We talkin’ bout practice; not a game. We talkin’ bout practice, man.

Again, no one is saying we should go back to the Big 8 and SMU days of the 80s. But when Alabama self-reports players from several sports for improper acquisition of textbooks from the bookstore, suspends those players during the investigation and suspends them further upon the conclusion of the investigation; the NCAA vacates every win in which those players participated and take away scholarships, you can see why one of your biggest earners is growing frustrated.