HOOVER, Ala. – Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive had seen enough.
“We don’t have the luxury of acting as if it’s business as usual,” Slive said Wednesday as he began his 10th school year at the helm of arguably the most successful sports league in the land.
Slive normally gives a state-of-the-SEC address to open the conference football media days. In this case, his opening salvo was basically a series of suggestions to overhaul the way college sports does business in terms of scholarships, recruiting and academic requirements.
Slive made his speech on the heels of a particularly bad stretch for college athletics, from the suspicions surrounding Auburn of the SEC during its BCS title run to the fallout at Ohio State to the allegations against Oregon to just Tuesday, when the NCAA announced final judgment against SEC-member LSU for violations that put that school on probation for the next year.
“As NCAA president Mark Emmert has observed, the events giving rise to these headlines indicate that intercollegiate athletics has lost the benefit of the doubt,” Slive said.
Slive listed four areas of change, including extending scholarships, raising the academic bar on eligibility requirements for incoming freshmen and junior college transfers, modernizing recruiting rules by taking into considering the ever-changing world of texting and social media – “It’s time to push the reset button on the regulatory approach to recruiting,” he said — and stepping up enforcement.
“We should have a national discussion on establishing athletic scholarships as multi-year awards,” Slive said, “with full consideration of the implications associated with this model, including appropriate academic and behavioral conditions.”
Not all of his coaches agreed.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said simply, “No, that’s a terrible idea, commissioner” which drew laughter from the large gathering of print and internet reporters in the room.
“The commissioner and I agree on a lot of things, but not that one there.”
|Commissioner Mike Slive|
|Florida coach Will Muschamp|
|Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino|
|South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier|
|All Access: Miss. St. coach Mullen|
Slive wants the minimum grade-point average to go from 2.0 to 2.5 in the 16 required courses and “consider establishing an annual satisfactory progress rule at the high school level.”
“I kind of agree with the thought of toughening the college requirements,” Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. “Let’s make these guys all take the same classes their freshman year. Let’s take care of our business in college … I’ve never felt like we should put things back on the high schools. Let’s just make sure we do it on the college level.
“To me, it’s hard to justify you need a 2.0 or a 2.5 coming out of high school but to be eligible after your first year of college it’s a 1.8. That’s where I struggle a little bit.”
Making too many phone calls and/or texting recruits during times not allowed by the NCAA was an area addressed by Slive, who suggested permitting “the effective use of personal electronic communications between prospects and institutional staff members to include phone calls, text messaging, Facebook, Twitter and other social media avenues, as well as other communication means yet to be developed.”
He also said the recruiting calendar should be simplified and made less prohibitive.
Slive has an ally in Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen, who said it’s important to get the message across to high school coaches and counselors.
“We’re trying to develop champions in life,” Mullen said. “I think one of things we’re trying to do is stay out in front of the college football world in the Southeastern Conference and Commissioner Slive does a great job of leading us. The biggest challenge is making sure we’re doing enough to help these young people meet those challenges on the back side.”
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