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Slive: Roster Management Push About “Fairness”

The SEC spring meetings kickoff in Destin today — coaches early in the week, presidents and administrators later in the week — and commissioner Mike Slive has granted one last pre-meetings interview.  Tony Barnhart of caught up with the league’s Numero Uno Honcho and pressed him to explain why he wants to tackle the issue of oversigning now.

“People talk about ‘oversigning’ and ‘grayshirting’ the most, but we’re going to look at proposals that deal with everything including early admits, mid-year admits, summer admits and medical hardship cases,” Slive said.  “Philosophically, we want to make sure that our rules are fair to the student-athlete.  That’s the context.  This isn’t about what gives us a competitive advantage with other conferences.  We have to be fair to the kids who want to come to our institutions.  It will be a good conversation.”

When told that most of the league’s football coaches will balk at any major proposed changes, Slive seemed to suggest what Ole Miss AD Pete Boone said this weekend — that the SEC isn’t looking at radical changes.

“I have read that (about coaches’ misgivings) but it’s not a question of messing with (the current system).  It’s a question of making sure that we are fair to everybody.  We tried to adjust things by limiting the number of signees to 28.  Then it was adopted as a national rule.  I’m just not sure that change served the fundamental basis of what we wanted to accomplish.  Look, roster management is not a science.  It is just an issue of fundamental fairness.  We want to make sure that it is a more equitable relationship for both sides — the institution and the students who we recruit.  So we’ll have this discussion.  We’ll make some changes.  if the changes don’t work we’ll come back in a few years and make some adjustments.”

Sounds like Slive knows he’s already got enough presidents in his hip pocket to make the changes he desires.

Barnhart — the Venerable Bede of the SEC — also got the commish’s take on a few other topics…

Increasing the value of scholarships: “The time for the discussion of this issue has certainly come.  For the longest time our focus on intercollegiate athletics has been to try and maintain a ‘level playing field’ for all the institutions involved.  But now I believe we need to discuss whether or not those of us with the resources should be able to provide the needed help to athletes when the cost of attendance exceeds the actual value of the scholarship.  Academic scholarships have for a long time provided this kind of support based on the need and based on the location of the campus.  At this point we don’t know if it’s workable but you can’t make that decision if you don’t sit down and talk about it.  So it’s time for us to at least talk about it.”

(Re-read those second and third sentences.  When Jim Delany of the Big Ten first ignited this conversation two weeks ago we immediately said that the underlying goal here was to further separate the haves from the have-nots.  Sure sounds like we were right on that one.  Slive did go on to say that he does not view this as a “competitive issue,” but you can bet the non-BCS leagues will see that differently.)

Television contracts: “First of all, our contracts are written in such a way that the rights fees have escalators in them.  So we feel good about that.  Secondly, they have ‘look-ins,’ so that every so often we revisit the contract and ‘look-in’ at our current deal to make sure that we are remaining on top of our game.  We look forward to these ‘look-ins,’ but we also feel very good about the final 12 years of our deal.”

(In other words, the league knew what it was doing when it inked its pacts with CBS and ESPN.  If the SEC falls too far behind any other leagues, expect it to get a raise… just as long as it’s still providing eyeballs to the networks.)

Would the SEC play on Sunday due to NFL strife: “No.  We like Saturday afternoons and Saturday nights.  We do two Thursday night games per season.  We are happy with that.”

(This one was media-generated hooey from the get-go.  We said as much when many others began speculating about moving SEC games to Sunday.  The fact is, the NFL lockout could end at any time and force the SEC to move games back to Saturdays on short notice.  More importantly, fans have their travel plans and accommodations already lined up.  This was not going to happen in the SEC.)

Is Slive ready to retire: “Next year will be my 10th anniversary as commissioner and unless something unforeseen happens I don’t expect it to be my last.  I feel good.  There are some things I want to work on to finish up over the next couple of years.  It is a great time to be a part of the SEC.”

(Okay, so we’re not right all the time.  As we’ve pointed out, Slive will be 72 when his contract expires next summer.  Previous commissioner Roy Kramer retired at 72 after 12 years as the league’s top dog.  Times have changed, people retire later in life these days.  If Slive says he still has work to do, we’ll obviously take him at his word.)



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