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Slive: SEC's clean-up results shine

SEC commissioner Mike Slive speaks to the media at the SEC football media days in Hoover, Ala. on Wednesday, July 23, 2008.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive speaks to the media at the SEC football media days in Hoover, Ala. on Wednesday, July 23, 2008. AP

HOOVER, Ala. —Mike Slive did not meet his goal, but the SEC commissioner believes he succeeded in changing the conference’s perception as a renegade league where if schools were not cheating, they were not trying.

Standing in the same room where five years ago he announced he wanted all 12 SEC schools off NCAA probation by 2008 — producing more than a few disbelieving looks and snickers — Slive expressed both disappointment and encouragement Wednesday at falling just short of his goal.

With several football and men’s basketball programs ending their probation periods this year, including USC’s football team, only the Arkansas track program remains on probation.

“We came close,” Slive said during his annual address at SEC media days. “We have tackled the infractions problems head-on. ... In six years, we have made extraordinary progress.”

The conference has had at least one school on probation for 25 consecutive years.

But Slive, who announced his five-year plan a year into his tenure as commissioner, believes the adoption of new compliance policies in 2004 that call for schools to police themselves has altered the SEC’s reputation.

“We put to rest the old chestnut that if you didn’t do it a certain way, you couldn’t win,” he said.

Under Slive, the SEC has enjoyed a recent run of athletic success.

Florida and LSU won the past two BCS championships in football, Florida captured back-to-back NCAA men’s basketball titles in 2006 and ‘07, Tennessee is the reigning women’s basketball champ and Georgia and LSU were in the College World Series last month, with the Bulldogs advancing to the championship round.

But Slive said his greatest satisfaction is seeing the SEC’s teams win without NCAA investigators sniffing around.

“We have good enough coaches. We have good enough student-athletes. We’ve got good institutions,” he said. “Those (probation-filled) days are in our rear-view mirror. That’s what makes me the happiest.”

So long, coach. Mississippi State senior linebacker Jamar Chaney said the Bulldogs were not surprised when defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson left Starkville during the offseason — first for Arkansas before winding up at USC.

“A good defensive coordinator like coach Johnson, we knew we weren’t going to have him for long with the things we were doing last season,” Chaney said. “Even though in the past we weren’t winning games, our defense was one of the best in the Southeastern Conference.

“We knew somebody was going to try to get him and offer him more money than probably we could offer him.”

Johnson, who also has the title of assistant head coach for the Gamecocks, received a three-year deal worth $350,000 a year, making the Winnsboro native the highest-paid assistant coach in school history.

Chaney called Johnson a well prepared, “hard-nosed coach that’s going to get after you, get in your face.”

In for the long haul. When he arrived at Vanderbilt from Furman in 2002, Bobby Johnson was asked at his introductory press conference how long he would make it before he was fired.

Six years later, Johnson is the longest-tenured Commodores coach in 20 years.

Johnson, 57, has a 20-50 record at Vandy, but has had the Commodores within a win of being bowl eligible two of the past three seasons. Though he has had opportunities to leave, the Columbia native said he wants to see things through at Vandy.

“I like the situation I’m in. I like the kind of school I coach football at. I like dealing with the kind of student-athletes that I have. So those kind of schools always intrigue me,” he said. “But we’ve invested a lot at Vanderbilt and I don’t think I’m going to coach anywhere else.”

TV guide. Slive plans to make a decision on the SEC’s new TV deal this fall. The conference is considering launching its own network when its existing package with partners CBS, ESPN, Raycom and FSN South expires next year.

Reach Person at (803) 771-8496.

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