Slive: SEC taking the lead on reshaping college sports in 21st century

Under commissioner Mike Slive's direction, the SEC has produced at least one national champion in men's hoops, baseball and football since 2012. In the BCS football era, the conference has also won seven of the last eight national titles.

HOOVER, Ala. — Mike Slive has always been a patient man, whether running one of the most powerful and lucrative entities in sports … or simply waiting for the darkness to pass before holding court at a large media gathering.  

On Monday, the commissioner opened the SEC Media Days without a lot of pomp and circumstance — minus the wait for the lights to return at the Hyatt-Wynfrey hotel. Instead, he focused on a number of long-term objectives and strategies that have been a vital part of his 12-year association with the conference.

The expression "building a bridge" was used throughout Slive’s brief, but detailed media address, touting the SEC’s amazing recent success in all sports, the impending launch of the SEC Network (available in every region of the country), increasing diversity with coaching hires, expanding the league’s geographical footprint (Missouri and Texas A&M) and locking down the SEC’s schedule rotation for the next 12 years.

Here are some of the highlights from Slive’s address:

**Within the scheduling developments, Slive reiterated the importance of keeping the SEC schedule at eight games, while encouraging each school to bolster its slate of non-conference opponents. (In fact, each SEC program will soon be obligated to play at least one Big Ten, ACC, Pac-12 or Big 12 foe every year.)

"The strength and depth of the (SEC’s 12-game schedules were) certainly a determining factor" in capping the in-conference slate at eight games, said Slive.

Two months ago, league officials announced the long-term rotation of non-division opponents amongst the 14 schools (East vs. West), a 12-year commitment that covers the 2014-25 football seasons.

With the SEC sticking with an eight-game in-conference slate for the foreseeable future, the seven West schools (Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Texas A&M) will play each other every season — totaling six round-robin games.

The seven East schools (Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt) will follow the same plan. That allows for two crossover outings each season — one permanent and one that changes annually.

This has the potential to be an enduring controversy, since Florida and LSU are slated to face one another for the next 12 seasons. On the flip side, Ole Miss and Mississippi State will annually draw Vanderbilt and Kentucky from the East, respectively.

**The Sugar Bowl will have a permanent spot in prime time on Jan. 1 — with the Rose Bowl always serving as the TV lead-in. Subsequently, this move allows for the Capital One Bowl to have its choice of an SEC representative — only relenting to the four-team College Football Playoff (when applicable) and Sugar Bowl.

In rare cases, the Orange Bowl might take precedent over the Capital One Bowl, as well.

**The SEC Network, which officially launches on Aug. 14, will prioritize the airing of live sports events throughout the day and evening — particularly with football and men’s basketball.

With football, for example, the SEC Network will be on hand for the Texas A&M-South Carolina season opener on Aug. 28, along with a Saturday tripleheader on Aug. 30 that includes Arkansas at Auburn. There’s even a Sunday night game during the opening weekend, pitting Utah State and Tennessee.

Brent Musburger and former Florida quarterback Jesse Palmer will serve as the No. 1 team for the SEC Network’s Saturday telecasts.

**Slive concluded his speech with vague, but firm allusions to the Power 5 conferences (SEC, Big Ten, ACC, Big 12, Pac-12) exploring the creation of a new system that brings "more autonomy" to the high-profile leagues. 

That is, "if we do not achieve a positive outcome" from the NCAA’s current model of serving student-athletes.

One possible change: Instead of providing standard allowances for room and board, the power conferences might upgrade the value of the enticement packages. The recommendations for such change, according to Slive, will become public in early August.