BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Mike Slive made it clear he’s still the boss of the Southeastern Conference, even with his successor seated next to him.
The outgoing SEC commissioner said it will be “business as usual” the final three months of his tenure after undergoing radiation and chemotherapy treatment for prostate cancer, along with back surgery. Slive stressed he won’t hand over the reins of the powerhouse league to his longtime No. 2 man, Greg Sankey, until Aug. 1.
“The presidents and chancellors made it very clear that I am the commissioner,” Slive said Monday, speaking at a Southeast Regional APSE meeting. “As a matter of fact, now that I am getting further and further away from chemo, I’m getting more and more feisty. I don’t hold back on my opinions. Over 13 years, Greg and I have consulted on all major decisions. There’s really nothing different going on now than has gone on for the last 13 years.”
The 74-year-old Slive is retiring July 31 but will still have a voice in SEC business, saying he will remain in Birmingham and be a consultant to the conference.
Slive has remained mostly out of the limelight since announcing in October that he had cancer and setting a retirement date. He still looked a little frail during the 56-minute question and answer session but was in good spirits.
“I feel as good as I’ve felt in a very long time,” he said, joking about saving money on haircuts and razor blades in recent months after undergoing chemo.
Sankey frequently gave Slive first dibs on fielding questions about present and future issues facing the league and the NCAA. He’s also not sharing details of his plans for running the league that he laid out during his job interview — not while Slive is still in charge.
“I spent a lot of time on those issues, and I’ve been intentionally careful because my approach has been that Mike is still the commissioner and will be, and I’m certainly not inclined to overshadow his next couple of months as we head into Destin,” said Sankey, referring to spring meetings in Florida.
Both Slive and Sankey addressed a number of issues facing the SEC and college athletics.
Slive read from his highlighted copy of a speech at SEC football media days in 2011 after being asked about Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney’s February comments raising the possibility of freshman ineligibility in football and men’s basketball. Slive advocated for steeper standards for freshman eligibility in that talk. “We called for a national discussion and we are delighted that the Big Ten wants to continue that discussion because we think that’s important,” he said. Sankey said the issue needs to go beyond the one-and-done rule requiring basketball players to play at least a year in college before entering the NBA draft.
Cost of attendance transparency
Slive and Sankey are still pushing for transparency in cost of attendance payouts that will vary from school to school. The Big Five conferences voted in January to pass NCAA legislation that increases the value of an athletic scholarship by several thousand dollars to cover the federally determined actual bill of attending college. “We proposed at the NCAA convention that there be transparency and for reasons that still escape me, I don’t understand why that didn’t pass,” Slive said. “We will address that as an issue in Destin, (Florida) at least within the conference.”
Both SEC honchos took digs at Penn State after James Franklin served as a guest coach at various camps in the Southeast last summer. Notre Dame also sent some coaches to the South, drawing complaints from some of their SEC counterparts. “We’re going to have a camp at Penn State,” Slive quipped. Sankey said SEC coaches have indicated that they’d like NCAA legislation requiring camps to be held on campus. “I’m not sure that the others want our coaches going to places like State College, Pennsylvania,” he said, adding that the camps aren’t about teaching. “What we’re now talking about is recruiting tools. Let’s just be clear about what we’re really talking about here.”