If you didn’t get a chance to see SEC Commissioner Mike Slive’s opening remarks at SEC Media Days, you missed what is probably the most important news that will come out of the Hoover meetings this year. Commissioner Slive said 2014 was going to be “a historic year” for the conference.
He wasn’t talking about more success on the courts or on the gridiron. For sure he spent some time going over the usual litany of success stories the conference has enjoyed in recent years. But it was Slive’s harden stance on autonomy for the so called Power Five Conferences that was the significant news.
The Commissioner reiterated the position he took in the league’s June meetings that if the NCAA fails to grant the Big Five their wishes, he and his fellow commissioners are prepared to secede and start a new collegiate governing body.
In an apparent reference to the Ed O’Bannin case and the Northwestern NLRB decision, Slive said, “We are not deaf to the din of discontent across collegiate athletics that has dominated the news.” He said the NCAA “must be willing to make appropriate changes.” Translation – give the Power Five conferences autonomy to make their own rules (The Power Five includes the SEC, Big 10, Pac 12, Big 12, and the ACC).
What is significant is Slive’s apparent confidence that the NCAA’s steering committee will pass the recommendation when it votes on the demands-request in August. The Commissioner said:
“If we do not achieve a positive outcome under the existing big tent of Division I, we will need to consider the establishment of a venue with similar conferences and institutions where we can enact the desired changes in the best interests of our student‑athletes.” He added, “I think when push comes to shove, it will pass.”
Mike Slive is widely recognized as the most influential commissioner in college athletics and when he talks (just like the old EF Hutton commercials) people listen. So it’s almost a certainty that there will be a new separate division for the Power Five. And that’s why 2014 will be a historic year in collegiate athletics.
Once that takes place it will open the door for everything those conferences may wish to pass – full cost of attendance scholarships (which is a synonym for paying athletes) transfer rules, increasing the number of scholarships and a host of other things. In reality there will not be anything the five can’t consider when it comes to reforming the rules they presently operate under. It will be historic alright.
Maybe this is what it will take to get the kind of reform so long needed with the bureaucracy of the NCAA. Yet there are those that have complained in recent years about the disparity between the have’s and the have not’s of college football. Such a move, in the short run, may well widen that gap. However, The restructuring could also be the first step in reforming all of the NCAA from top to bottom.
And if that happens, it could in the long run, be the best thing for college athletics since Walter Camp revised the rules of the game in the early 1880s.