BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — SEC Commissioner Mike Slive held an hour-long question and answer session during Monday's Southeast Region meeting of the Associated Press Sports Editors at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.
Slive, 73, spoke about the issues facing the SEC and the four other power conferences, who he said have collectively proposed a new structure whereby they would have "autonomy" to operate and govern themselves within the NCAA.
The commissioner, who spoke at the University of Massachusetts last week as the executive-in-residence for the Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management, outlined the seven goals the five power conferences (SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12, Big XII) wish to address should the NCAA Board of Directors, who meet Thursday, approve their proposal. Slive referred to the objectives as the "vision for the 21st century as it relates to our relationship with student-athletes.".
The controversial 10-second defensive substitution rule proposal, which sparked a heated national debate, particularly amongst SEC football coaches, as well as the possibility of the SEC moving to a nine-game conference schedule beginning in 2016, was also addressed.
NCAA RULE: Unlimited meals for student-athletes
Q: Does the cost of attendance argument, does that solve the problem if it goes from scholarship to cost of attendance?
Clearly the issue of the day, as it should be, is the upcoming meeting of the NCAA Board of Directors this coming Thursday. And the board will entertain a proposal or recommendation from the governing steering committee about the governing structure of the NCAA going forward. The backdrop to that in part is the fact that the five conferences have put forth a proposal for, as part of the restructuring process, to create autonomy in certain areas for the five conferences. The nexus for the autonomy is what we've called the vision for the 21st century as it relates to our relationship with student-athletes.
One of several areas in the autonomy is full cost of attendance. If autonomy is granted to the five conferences, then full cost of attendance will be one of the priorities for us to discuss once we have the autonomy that we seek. At that point in time, there has to be a process amongst the 65 institutions that comprise the five conferences for developing legislation that we are … implement the full cost of attendance.
We believe as we move forward in this environment in which we live, that it's very important that we, at least the five conferences that have the ability and who face issues that others may not face, have the ability to put the student athlete first.
Q: There are student-athletes who think being in a union and treated as employees is in their best interest, do you not believe this?
In the context of unionism, I don't believe student-athlete should be employees. Put that aside for a minute, if you put the union issue aside and look at the substance of what's being asked for you will see that in part, and maybe in great part, what's being asked for are the same kinds of things that the five (conferences) put forth in the vision as early as last fall. So I prefer to think about what's the substance of the issue rather than the nature of it.
I believe that we're trying to accomplish through this process and through the autonomy is to some degree not inconsistent with what some of the issues that are being raised in the unionization process.
Q: What are some of the other issues you look to address?
The world of college sports has evolved and continues to evolve with key areas of critical change in which the five conferences agree:
•Insuring our student athletes are covered for the full cost of college attendance.
•Fulfilling the full health, safety and nutrition needs of our student athletes.
•Creating more opportunity for student athletes to complete their undergraduate degrees if their education is interrupted — cost free.
•Updating rules governing agents and advisers to better assist student-athletes during their transition from the collegiate setting to professional sports, including those outside of athletics.
•Readdressing the time commitment of student-athletes to ensure a balanced collegiate experience Providing comprehensive support to foster the educational success of academically average student-athletes.
•Giving the student-athletes a voice and vote in NCAA decision affect college athletics
Q: Has there been any discussion among the power conference commissioners about lowering the mandatory number of varsity sports required to be a Division I program?
Not to my knowledge. I haven't been in any such conversations.
Q: There is a view that the road is leading to where the revenue generating sports will be all that eventually survive:
I don't agree with that at all.
Q: Do you have any concerns of people thinking that the governance structure and the changes that come with that are too little and/or too late to satisfy folks?
I don't think it's too little. There is an element of frustration here when I say to you that we started this last summer. It's not unfair to say that to turn the NCAA is not unlike turning an aircraft carrier from North to South. It's taken time and I think that time has sort of indicated that but in reality, this is something that we've believed in wanted to get on the table much earlier than we have been able to.
Q: Does compliance fall under the autonomy you're seeking?
In the original vision that we put forth there were four items to it and one was the enforcement issues. I think many of us in the five conferences obviously have some concerns about the enforcement process and would like to see some change. I'm not prepared to go into what details might be. We certainly want to have significant input into the future of the NCAA enforcement process.
Q: Is there concern about backlash from the non-power conferences if the five conferences get this autonomy?
We're still going to be in Division I. Our goal was to stay in Division I. Our goal was to participate and not change the basketball tournament, not to change championships. Our goal — we call it the big tent. We'd like to stay in there, but we'd like to have the autonomy to make rules that relate to the benefit of student-athletes. I don't know what a backlash would be. Some people may be not as happy as they otherwise would be, but you'd have to ask them. That's something that would be better asked of them than of me.
Q: Do you have an opinion on the 10-second defensive substitution rule proposal which was debated among football coaches this spring?
If I have an opinion on that I'm going to be squeezed to pieces. I do have a thought though, we need a completion committee. That issue would have been appropriately placed, in the first instance, in a football competition committee who would not necessarily look at rules but look at the game, and we've done that in men's basketball. We have a competition committee that meets every year to look at the game, how is the game being played? What is the relationship to offense and defense? How does officiating impact the game?
This would have been a perfect subject for someone to look at the game itself, who cared about the game, and then come up with an interpretation of whatever, and then, only then, would it go to the rules people if that committee recommended some change in the game because they believed in the long-term best interest of the game, this is a good idea or not a good idea. I think this debate exposed a glaring error in the process and hopefully we can fill that, we'll probably fill that gap.
Q: How much discussion are you expecting in the next month or so about possibly moving to a nine-game conference schedule for football?
We've had lots of discussions at different levels. ….We will make a decision before we go to Destin (for the SEC Spring Meetings from May 27-30). We're looking at eight games, with or without permanents, nine games, with or without permanents, and maybe one offshoot of that. We'll decide which format to use prior to Destin.
Q: Have you shown schools what each format will look like, as the conference planned to after last year's SEC Spring Meetings?
We have shown them. When you really look at it, and some of this really gets into the nitty gritty, we've showed them that of all the formats. Every one has a series of advantages and disadvantages. There's no one that lines up with all advantages and there's no one that lines up with all disadvantages so people are going to have to make a decision knowing, that whatever decision they make, they're going to some advantages and some disadvantages.
Q: When do you meet?
James Crepea writes for The Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser.
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