Commissioner Mike Slive began his annual address at the SEC Football Media Days Tuesday afternoon by bragging about the conference’s long list of athletic exploits over the previous school year.
But it didn’t take him long to discuss the serious issues surrounding college football and how it fits into the larger framework in an evolving world of intercollegiate athletics as well as its place within the NCAA.
“Our challenges are complex, they always have been, and they always will be. With that said, we have supported and continue to support the NCAA as the appropriate governing organization for intercollegiate athletics,” Slive said. “But at the same time, however, we will continue to push for changes we believe are in the best interest of our student-athletes.”
Slive indicated that the SEC’s agenda of change needs to be addressed. That agenda focuses on three primary areas - redefining the benefits available to student-athletes, strengthening academic eligibility requirements for incoming freshmen and two-year transfers, and modernizing recruiting rules.
Making sure athletes have the full cost of attendance covered remains a real concern for him.
“The NCAA has not been successful in meeting the full cost of attendance of our student-athletes, whether through the so-called miscellaneous expense allowance or some other model that provides broad access to additional funds,” he said.
And he noted how the explosion of social media on the Internet and cell phones has completely altered the recruiting process, especially as it all relates to long-standing rules that never could have anticipated the advances in technology.
“The current regulatory approach would be more at home in the era of Johann Gutenberg's printing press than in our current fast-paced technology-driven society and will no longer serve to functionally govern recruiting behaviors moving forward,” he said.
He also wants to see the conference take the lead within the NCAA in the prevention and treatment of concussions in football, which would include a review of both the playing equipment and the rules. He’s adamant about ensuring the safety of the players.
“The point here is that the issue of concussions is not limited to one conference or one region,” Slive said. “We all share the concern about the overall health of college football and its participants across the entire country and within each NCAA division.”
When he came back around to the conference’s ongoing accomplishments on the playing field, he expressed the good days should only continue to get better. Slive is very excited about the formation of the SEC Network, which is beginning to take shape before its scheduled launch next summer before the 2014-15 school year.
He projects a minimum of 550 digital events at the start-up in addition to the 450 events already on television. Each Saturday in the fall, the network will televise a football triple-header as well as its own two-hour on-site pregame show, which will originate live from a different SEC campus over the course of the season all the way through the conference championship game.
“We are committed to bring the full color and passion of SEC football and SEC sport to the entire nation,” he said.