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Writer: Slive Needs To Clean Up The SEC Before The NCAA

While most in the media have been applauding the pro-reform message delivered by SEC commissioner Mike Slive last week at Media Days, David Climer of The Tennessean wonders if Slive was the right man to deliver such a message.  In his view, the commish needs to clean up his own conference before tackling NCAA issues:

“Suddenly, the nation’s cheatingest conference was taking the lead for reform.  Never mind that the bulk of the SEC can’t play by the rulebook as it currently stands, much less a revised version.

Personally, I like Slive and think he has done a very good job in nine years as commissioner.  The TV deals he has negotiated have brought a windfall to his conference.

And while I don’t doubt his sincerity, his statements come off as a bit self-serving.  If he’s serious about stiffer entrance requirements for athletes — a 2.5 grade-point average in 16 core classes instead of the current 2.0 — why not make that an SEC rule instead of waiting for the entire NCAA to adopt change?”

We think we can supply two reasons why the commissioner wouldn’t do that:

1.  Slive’s message was put together — in some part — with the help and/or go-ahead from NCAA president Mark Emmert.  Slive wasn’t speaking just on his league’s behalf last week.  He was putting forth a proposal that Emmert wanted to discuss at his upcoming retreat with 50-some-odd university presidents.  This was not Slive on a high horse — a horse that’s currently mired in some NCAA mud, mind you.  This was Slive tossing out a topic of conversation that Emmert wanted tossed out by the commissioner of the biggest, baddest conference on the block.  The fact that the “outlaw” SEC would propose such changes as higher entrance requirements sends a strong message that all the NCAA’s members want to do things the right way.

2.  Slive is also a businessman.  His job is to protect the image of the league — something he’d done spectacularly well until a year ago — and to keep the league profitable.  To be profitable, the SEC must be successful.  Setting a much higher academic standard for itself than all other BCS leagues would not be a good way to insure success and profitability.

As we heard Slive’s speech last week, we assumed that there would be some blowback.  The SEC has gone from a league that was recently probation-free in the major sports to a conference that’s been racked by scandal in the last 12 months.

But no commissioner would implement — on his own — the types of grand changes Slive proposed last week.  After all, many of those proposed changes would take place at the NCAA level… in areas where Slive has absolutely no control.  (For example, Slive and the SEC can’t just start handing out cost-of-attendance scholarships without NCAA approval.)

Slive wasn’t being holier than thou last week.  He was delivering a message that Emmert wanted delivered and that Slive happens to agree with.  Like the message or dislike the message, it’s hard to fault him for delivering a message that most NCAA presidents and administrators will support.



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