In an interview with the Associated Press, SEC commissioner Mike Slive has stated that he has “agreed with the league that I will stay at least a couple of more years, and then we’ll sit down and decide what happens after that.” The man many view as the most powerful figure in college sports then added: “Don’t forget it takes two. It’s not just me making a unilateral decision. Both of us need to make that decision.”
With the money and exposure Slive has helped bring into the SEC, don’t expect the 14 presidents and chancellors of the league’s universities to do anything other than beg Slive to stay. The commissioner — who turns 72 early next month — is making $1 million per year through a contract that was due to expire July 31st. Sounds like a new deal is soon to be announced.
Currently Slive is renegotiating new television deals with CBS and ESPN. The deal with ESPN could culminate in the creation of a new SEC network. The commissioner said “there is no fixed timetable” for completing those talks.
“We believe that the expansion (of Missouri and Texas A&M) has increased our value for the purpose of television. It’s one of the many benefits that we believe we will derive, particularly in the long-term, from this expansion.”
Slive also spoke of the new playoff system that he helped create, saying that he envisions a committee like the NCAA Tournament basketball selection panel using data and statistics to help choose the field. Interestingly he did not mention “conference championships” as part of the criteria, which most likely would have been the first words out of any other commissioner’s mouth. Okay, maybe not Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby’s mouth, but everyone else’s.
The history of Slive’s 10-year SEC reign has been inked in green and gold. Since his arrival, the Southeastern Conference has raked in once-unheard of money, broken ground with new television deals, and won championship trophy after championship trophy. Until recently, he’d also helped clean up the league’s shoddy reputation — built mainly in the 70s and 80s — on the NCAA front, too. A number of high-profile scandals have undone a bit of that good work the past couple of years.
At MrSEC.com, we believe Slive’s greatest missteps to be relatively small in the grand scheme of things. First, he chose to sign two mega-deals with CBS and ESPN rather than start up a league-only network in the summer of 2008. That’s a small misstep because the deals Slive signed have provided greater national exposure for his league than the ATM-like Big Ten Network has for Jim Delany’s league. Also, if it was a mistake to bypass that revenue stream four years ago, it can now be corrected.
The other stumble was allowing the league’s coaches and ADs to have so much control on the scheduling front in football and basketball this past spring. In football, many of the league’s teams will see each other less frequently thanks to the league’s eight-game format. That will likely be corrected when the league is eventually forced to move to a nine-game league schedule. The basketball situation, however, is horrific. Only one permanent home-and-home rivalry will be protected for each school and that’s throwing away entirely too much tradition for no good reason. Hopefully, that schedule format will also be tweaked in the future. The possibility for correction lessens the blow.
Well, if those are the glaring errors then we’re pretty much talking about picking nits when it comes to Slive’s leadership. Compare his work to that of ACC commissioner John Swofford, former Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, even Delany, or whoever’s running the Big East today. You’ll find that the mistakes on their resumes are greater in number and a lot easier to spot. (Arkansas fans would quickly point out Delany’s decision to urge the NCAA to allow Ohio State to use a number of players who would wind up being declared ineligible after the fact in the 2011 Sugar Bowl.)
Among the current conference commissioners, only the Pac-12′s Larry Scott has proven to be a visionary in the line of Slive. Yet his track record is much shorter. It will take time to see if he can bring as many of his big dreams to fruition as Slive has. For example, you’ve never seen Slive make a grand play for six schools only to be turned down publicly.
From a four-team playoff to tougher academic requirements, the SEC’s boss has helped shape not just his own conference but the entire landscape of collegiate sports.
No wonder the SEC’s presidents want him to hang around for a couple more years.