HOOVER, Ala. - Moments after his weighty, surprising speech at the beginning of Southeastern Conference Media Days, Commissioner Mike Slive walked out of Ballroom A in the Wynfrey Hotel and found his wife, Liz, waiting with an ear-to-ear smile, she offered words of approval, along with a peck on the lips.
“You did great,” she told her husband.
This much was clear: Slive certainly hadn’t done the ordinary.
In revealing his “national agenda for change” in college athletics Wednesday, Slive certainly strayed from the standard our-conference-is-doing-great routine.
Instead, he noted the recent rash of negative news and cases of infractions, adding that the time for fundamental change has come in college sports.
“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.
Spending more than 20 minutes at the lectern Wednesday, Slive laid out the SEC’s four-pronged agenda.
Boiled down to their essence, the four main points were as follows:
-? Redefine benefits for student-athletes, allowing universities to pay for the “cost of attendance” in addition to athletic scholarships;
-? Strengthen academic requirements for incoming athletes;
-? Revise and update recruiting rules, allowing coaches to reach recruits through text messages, Facebook and Twitter; and
- Support NCAA enforcement, while streamlining its rules and speeding up investigations.
Slive later emphasized that these were “concepts,” and not finalized plans, adding that the SEC can’t adopt them alone.
“One of the things I didn’t do, and intentionally didn’t do, was try to map out all the details of all the proposals. Because first of all, I can’t do that alone anyway,” he said.
“I think what I was trying to do was set the agenda and let people who deal with these issues sit down and begin to say, ?What are the issues? What are the problems?’ “
From there, Slive said, fellow commissioners and presidents could possibly get together with the NCAA, and get to work.
In August, presidents from Mississippi State, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida will represent the SEC at an NCAA-sponsored retreat with Emmert, the former LSU chancellor and present head of the NCAA.
The SEC’s cannon shot comes on the heels of a long, rough period for college athletics, including infractions at Ohio State and Southern Cal, not to mention ongoing investigations at Tennessee, Auburn and Oregon.
Also, just last week, the NCAA announced that Georgia Tech had to forfeit its 2009 Atlantic Coast Conference football championship for minor violations after failing to fully cooperate with NCAA investigators.
And of course, on Tuesday, the NCAA accepted LSU’s self-imposed football penalties for “major violations” in recruiting, which mostly involved former assistant D.J. McCarthy and a junior-college transfer, Akiem Hicks, who never played.
Those sorts of matters prompted the SEC’s agenda, which Slive said is designed to “stimulate a national discussion.”
“My hope is that when everybody thinks about these issues that they make sense,” Slive said. “Again, they’re ideas, and it’s an agenda. Where it goes from here, we’ll just have to see.”
Most of the ideas were bold, if not new, and they’ve rarely been broached in public by conference commissioners.
In making his case for new recruiting rules, Slive said it doesn’t seem to make sense that coaches can’t contact players through new social media.
“The way kids communicate is by text. And we tell them (the coaches) they can’t communicate with them that way. And that’s how they talk,” Slive said.
“And then you get a violation for phone calls and texting, and all of a sudden, everyone looks at you as if you’re not doing it the right way. What we need to deter is the kind of behavior we really don’t want.”
The SEC also proposed a “high school satisfactory progress rule,” which would raise minimum grade-point averages for high school players from 2.0 to 2.5.
It would also require prep players to make progress in their 16 core courses during each year of high school, rather than loading up on core courses as graduation nears.
Some coaches said Wednesday they were OK with those parts of the proposal. But South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier was not one of them.
“It seems like we’re trying to make it more and more difficult for these young men who come from difficult backgrounds and difficult academic settings,” he said. “But anyway, whatever they say the requirements are, we’ll abide by that.”
Spurrier later added: “I think the requirements are pretty good the way they are right now.”