Joe Medley: Slive signals impatience with NCAA loudly, clearly
by Joe Medley
jmedley@annistonstar.com
Jul 16, 2013 | 2772 views |  0 comments | 33 33 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HOOVER --- Mike Slive doesn’t make threats. The SEC commissioner doesn’t have to.

But that “agenda for change” he announced at SEC Media Days in 2011? Yeah, he meant that.

Two years later, at the latest version of the same event, his dissatisfaction with the NCAA’s progress in key areas of the agenda came across loudly and clearly.

Meanwhile, talk of major conferences breaking away from the NCAA and doing their own thing is always present and ever growing.

So, who needs to make threats, let alone the guy who has presided over the conference with the past seven major national champions in college football and four of the past seven Heisman Trophy winners?

“With that said,” Slive said during what he called his “annual brag bag” to open SEC Media Days on Tuesday in Hoover’s Wynfrey Hotel, “we have supported and continue to support the NCAA as the appropriate governing organization for intercollegiate athletics.

“But at the same time, however, we will continue to push for changes we believe are in the best of our student-athletes.”

I-65 connects Birmingham, home to the SEC office, and Indianapolis, home to the NCAA. The asphalt bakes on a July day, but the air in the middle chilled Tuesday.

The threat that the SEC and other major conferences could take their ball and leave hangs there, if the NCAA drags or resists reform as defined by power brokers like Slive. As his “brag bag” morphed into a his State of the Agenda on Tuesday, it became clear he sees dragging --- at best.

To review, Slive used his 2011 talk ---- fiery, as Slive speeches go --- to announce the agenda. The agenda featured calls for full-cost and multi-year scholarships, stronger academic eligibility requirements for freshmen and junior college transfers and modernizing of recruiting rules.

Tuesday, Slive lauded progress toward multi-year scholarships but panned progress toward full-cost scholarships, a sticking point for vast majority of have-not NCAA members who say they can’t afford it.

“Conferences and their member institutions must be allowed to meet the needs of their student-athletes,” Slive thundered Tuesday. “In recent conversations with my commissioner colleagues, there appears to be a willingness to support a meaningful solution to this important change.”

Slive noted progress in strengthening academic eligibility requirements, though they fall short of what he proposed in 2011, but used mocking language to lambast progress toward modernizing recruiting regulations.

“Facebook, Twitter, text messaging, early recruiting, club sports, cell phones, Internet access, distance learning, 3-D printers will continue to become more and more commonplace,” he said. “The current regulatory approach would be more at home in the era of Johann Gutenberg’s printing press than in our current, fast-paced, technology-driven society and will no longer serve to functionally govern recruiting behaviors moving forward.”

Ouch.

Slive went to throw support toward the NCAA’s review of its own governing structure, and his brag bag/colorful rebuke turned into a grab bag of historic quotes.

“As Albert Einstein once said, we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them,” Slive said.

Let’s not forget Teddy Roosevelt and the “Gordian knot” of problems facing the NCAA and collegiate athletics.

“In the words of James Baldwin, not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it’s faced.” Slive said.

The clear takeaway is that the most powerful commissioner in the most powerful conference is growing impatient, and that nuclear option always exists.

Talking to reporters after his speech, Slive softened … a little.

“I hear that a lot,” Slive said about talk of major conferences bolting from the NCAA. “I’ve never been in a meeting with my colleagues where that issue has really been on the table.

“I meant what I said, and I think I do speak for my colleagues when I say, we all want the NCAA to be an effective organization, and the conversation stops there.”

Is it effective now?

“In some ways it is,” Slive said. “In some ways, it isn’t.”

And how impatient is he growing?

“Two years is a long time to wait,” he said.

Sports columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576, jmedley@annistonstar.com. On Twitter @jmedley_star.

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