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SEC’s Slive Makes $1.5 Million in 2011-12, But There’s Still Work To Do

cigar-bourbonSoutheastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive shouldn’t have any trouble keeping his humidor filled with fine smokes and his liquor cabinet stocked with Blanton’s bourbon.  According to the SEC’s federal tax return for 2011-12, Slive raked in more than $1.5 million during the league’s last fiscal year.

Slive made $940,000 in base salary and received on top of that a $550,000 bonus.  He also made $22,128 in “other reported compensation” and $36,750 in retirement funds.  Toss in $14,934 in nontaxable benefits and you reach the full figure of $1,563,812.

Not a bad gig if you can get it.

Under Slive, the SEC has become the preeminent football conference in college athletics as well as one of the richest.  His work in 2008 on the league’s dual television contracts with CBS and ESPN ushered in a new era of mega-money for the Southeastern Conference (and for all the other big football conferences who’ve cut deals since).  Slive has orchestrated the league’s first expansion in two decades.  He and Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby have changed the bowl-conference relationship forever by taking control of their own postseason affair and simply hiring the Sugar Bowl folks to run it (meaning more cash for the leagues).  On top of that, Slive’s dream of a four-team college football playoff is soon to be realized.  The NCAA rule book is being reworked in such a way that the biggest schools will benefit most, just as he’s pushed for.  And we at have no doubt that his desire for student-athletes to receive full-cost-of-tuition scholarships will soon be sated as well, once again giving big conferences like the SEC an advantage over smaller leagues and smaller schools.

According to a USA Today study of each major conference’s most recent tax returns, Slive’s pay is still middle of the pack money for BCS-level commissioners.  Considering the success the league has had under its current commissioner’s watch, that represents a pretty good bargain for the SEC.

But there’s still work we believe Slive needs to do.

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Ex-SEC Commish Kramer Says Everything’s Cyclical; If Only The SEC’s Current Custodians Understood That

Seldom does a schedule-related story appear on our site that we don’t point out how cyclical things are.  Schools rise and fall and rise and fall again (as we wrote just yesterday).  For that reason, we have steadfastly stated that SEC scheduling — in football and in basketball — should be based on tradition more than any other variable.

The fact that arguably the SEC’s best basketball rivalry — Kentucky and Tennessee — is unlikely to remain a twice-a-year event so Kentucky and Florida — the hot teams now — can be paired up provides a perfect example of how the SEC is about to shoot itself in the foot by thinking short-term, not long-term.

But don’t take our word for it.  Listen to the man who set the SEC’s money ball a’ rollin’ 20 years ago with a first-wave of expansion and an SEC Championship Game in football.  According to ex-SEC commissioner Roy Kramer, who is good today might not be who is good tomorrow:


“Years ago, everybody wanted to play Florida (in football).  That’s the problem.  Everybody looks at it as the teams stand right this minute.  Times change.  Those things go up and down and even out.  Early on, everybody said we’d structured the divisions in such a way that the East was far stronger than the West.  Now, it’s the opposite.”


Still, many fans look at the latest standings sheet when trying to figure out their own dream scheduling scenarios.  Ditto SEC coaches and athletic directors.

Which is why Mike Slive — at least as of this writing — appears to have made a critical error in allowing those very coaches and ADs to decide the league’s future football and basketball schedules.  He’s basically allowed the kids to pick what’s for dinner.

“Hey, great, Hot Pockets and ice cream again!”

There’s what’s best for the schools — give us the weakest, creampuffiest schedule possible — and there’s what’s best for the league — protect as many traditional rivalries as possible.  Unfortunately, guys like John Calipari and Cuonzo Martin have zero clue when it comes to the heated rivalry that is Kentucky-Tennessee in basketball.  Folks like LSU AD Joe Alleva don’t get what’s so important about Auburn-Georgia in football.  And Slive’s given these guys the keys to his billion-dollar sports car.

So here’s hoping the SEC’s presidents will step to the plate today and break from their coaches just as they did last year on the oversigning issue.  But I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

"I've Got A Bad Feeling About This!"

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SEC Headlines 5/27/2012

1. SEC Commissioner Mike Slive talks four-team playoff. Not a fan of a plus-one system.

2. Berry Tramel: Plus-one would not be good news for playoff zealots.

3. Mississippi State’s cowbells will be discussed at this week’s spring meetings.

4. New Ole Miss A.D. Ross Bjork won’t be a complete stranger at this weeks’ meetings. He worked for Mizzou A.D. Mike Alden and has developed relationships with a few others.

5. For Missouri this week: ”We’re now getting down to those thousands of little details.”

6. University of Georgia president Michael Adams: “I’m not sure we’ve had a Destin meeting in a long time with as much of a substantive agenda as I expect next week.”

7. Schedules, playoffs, expansion and TV deals are just some of the issues that will be discussed this week.

8. Count on Steve Spurrier to add flavor to this week’s meetings.

9. Outgoing LSU Chancellor Mike Martin: “I will try to make the case” for abandoning permanent opponents.

10. “The first NCAA playoff game in history was born in the Hilton Theater in June of 1991 when then-SEC commissioner Roy Kramer — now known as the father of the BCS — dropped a well concealed bomb.”

11. Georgia wants more students to attend its football games.

12. So why haven’t more Nick Saban’s assistants gone on to glory and success?

13. How will quarterback commitments fit in at Alabama and Auburn?

14. Looking forward to Kentucky football this fall?  Here are 10 reasons why you should.

15. John Adams: “The University of Tennessee has become Turnover U.”

16. The search for Jessica Dorrell’s replacement at Arkansas begins.

17. South Carolina’s Damontre Harris will finish his college basketball career at Florida.

18. NBA director of scouting Ryan Blake on Kentucky players in this year’s draft.

19. New LSU basketball coach Johnny Jones is still on the hunt for players: “We’d still like to add a post guy and another combo guard possibly.”


20. “Legalizing sports betting wouldn’t turn it into a billion dollar business because it already is that – and much more.”

21. How Chuck Neinas revived the Big 12.


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ACC Adopts The Scheduling Format The SEC Is Scared Of

The Atlantic Coast Conference announced today that once Pittsburgh and Syracuse join its ranks, the league will indeed go to a nine-game conference football schedule.  According to an ACC presser:

“The format will consist of each team playing all six in its division each year, plus its primary crossover partner each year and two rotating opponents from the opposite division.  This six-year cycle allows each team to play each divisional opponent and its primary crossover partner six times (three home and three away) while also playing each rotating crossover opponent two times (one home and one away).

If you read with any regularity, you know that’s the exact format that we’ve pushed as the SEC’s best method of protecting traditional rivalries and moving forward into a new age.

We still believe that the league will go to such a plan at some point in the future so long as the bowl-eligibility standard isn’t raised to seven wins.

But the SEC’s coaches and athletic directors — for now — are scared to death of a nine-game plan.  They don’t want to give up the cash brought in by an extra home game every year (even though the new TV contracts more than make up for the loss of a home every other season).  They cry that a nine-game schedule would kill the league’s national title hopes (even though just the opposite happened when the league expanded to eight games and added a conference title game).

Barring a nine-game format, we recently pushed this divisionless format… assuming the SEC could convince the NCAA to drop its schedule requirements for a conference championship game.  But even if the SEC moved to an eight-game, non-divisional plan — the best fallback option out there — its coaches and ADs would still have to live with this disappointing fact:

They’re scared of doing what the ACC is planning to do.

Where’s the fearless leadership of Roy Kramer when you need it?  (And don’t think there weren’t shrieks of terror when he added a title game and shifted the league from six to seven to eight contests per year.)

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Let The Complaints About Officiating Begin

The first in-conference contest of the SEC season was played Saturday down on The Plains.  Auburn narrowly escaped with a 41-34 victory over Mississippi State.  In a game that close, there were bound to be some close calls.  And is the case with our society these days, those close calls — that would have been forgotten 30 years ago — are now being dissected on the internet.

Get ready for a whole year of complaints about SEC officiating.  Hooray.

In Mississippi, Brandon Marcello of The Jackson Clarion-Ledger is already having to grab the college football rulebook for clarification of a goalline call in MSU’s loss on Saturday.

The first email in my inbox this morning came from a loyal Bulldog reader who included the photo at left of what appears to show Auburn coming up short on a fourth-down try… that it was credited as having made.

In the reader’s view, this photo is “a great angle of straight down the line.”  I’m guessing most MSU fans see it that way.  And I’ll bet most Auburn fans believe the shot is taken from a slight left angle.  It appears as if the camera were moved a hair to the right, we’d see that the nose of the ball did hit the marker.

But the problem is — we’re now trying to interpret still photos and super slow-mo replays rather than watching the games as officials do.  Live.

Camera angles aren’t always perfect.  And they certainly don’t always match up with the angle an official sees.

Back before every game was on television, everyone had TiVo to freeze plays at home, and the internet allowed conspiracy theories to grow, calls were deemed good or bad — depending on whether or not your team benefited or suffered — and then everyone went on to the next play.

Now, we spend days searchimg for proof that our team was cheated.

Officials will make mistakes.  Perhaps they made one on that fourth-down measurement shown above.  Still, MSU had a dozens of other plays with which to win that game.  They didn’t.  Blaming refs after the fact is wasting energy.

And, yes, I’m prepared to write that again and again and again and again this fall.

To paraphrase ex-SEC commissioner Roy Kramer, it’s amazing how good officiating is when you don’t care who wins or loses.

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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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SEC Doubles Revenue Through ESPN/CBS Deals

Mike Slive is a good commissioner.

Oh, many of you out there don’t like him because he’s probably not done enough for your favorite school.  He also oversees the SEC’s officials, for which he’s taken plenty of flak.  And some folks might even take issue with all of the NCAA rumors and allegations that exist across the league — under his watch — these days.  But the man is still a good commissioner. 

Why?  Because he brings in a lot of cash.  And that’s Job One.

Kyle Veazey of The Jackson Clarion-Ledger grabbed the SEC’s most recent IRS information and did some math.  He found that the two new mega-deals that Slive recently brokered with CBS and ESPN has more than doubled the league’s income from media rights, as expected:

TV/Satellite Radio Revenue
Postseason Event Revenue
Media + Postseason Revenue
Avg. Cut per School
Sept ’08 – Aug ’09
$60.1 million
$78.8 million
$138.9 million
$13.03 million
Sept ’09 – Aug ’10
$153.3 million
$80.9 million
$234.2 million
$18.28 million

Bringing in $5 million more per year per school is the kind of work that impresses Slive’s bosses — the league’s presidents and chancellors.

Slive will be less than a week past his 72nd birthday when his contract expires on July 31st of next year.  If he chooses not to continue past 72 — his predecessor Roy Kramer retired at that age — then the SEC will have some very big shoes to fill.

Whether the man currently in those shoes is popular or not, Slive has overseen an unmatched era of SEC dominance on the football field.  And he’s also made everyone involved a lot more money.

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