In Mike Slive’s ‘state of the SEC’ address, autonomy remains a focus

A change in the way the NCAA governs schools from the big five conferences, like the Southeastern Conference, appears likely, but SEC Commissioner Mike Slive isn’t ready to step away from the campaign podium just yet.

Slive on Monday used his annual “state of the SEC” address to kick off SEC football media days to again call for greater autonomy for schools from college athletics’ five power conferences. If not, he suggested those conferences could demand even greater changes in the NCAA’s structure.

“Over the last year, we along with our colleagues at the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 developed the new vision for intercollegiate athletics in the 21st century,” Slive said at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham — The Wynfrey Hotel. “It includes the NCAA’s enactment of a governing system that will provide greater autonomy for the SEC and other four conferences for the benefit of our student-athletes.”

The NCAA Board of Directors is scheduled to vote Aug. 7 on changing governance procedures for the 65 schools from the big five conferences. A preliminary report on the issue is expected to be released by the NCAA this week.

The schools are seeking the ability to provide student-athletes with more funding to help cover the “full cost” of college education and on other issues, such as the freedom to add additional coaching staff as they see fit.

Such funding issues are generally considered beyond the reach of schools outside the top five conferences, which often struggle to balance budgets and often rely on student fees and state funding.

If the NCAA Board of Directors, an 18-member group of presidents and chancellors that includes South Carolina President Harris Pastides, approves the changes, the full NCAA Division I membership would still have a 60-day period in which to override the board’s vote.

If the board of directors doesn’t vote for autonomy or an override happens, Slive again floated the idea of creating a new division within the NCAA.

“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 said.

Such a “venue” would be the creation of a Division IV within the NCAA structure. Slive didn’t use that term Monday but did when speaking about governance issues in May during the SEC Spring Meeting in Destin, Florida.

Widely regarded as one of the most powerful opinion-makers in college athletics, Slive said he understands the opposition within the NCAA to autonomy for the big five conferences.

“We are not deaf to the din of discontent across collegiate athletics that has dominated the news,” he said. “While acknowledging the angst among some conferences and institutions in Division I, I remain optimistic that working together we can create a framework that places the academic and athletic success of the student-athlete front and center.”

Slive also touched on several other topics, including the SEC’s on-field successes in the past year, new bowl agreements and the soon-to-be launched SEC Network.

SEC teams won seven NCAA championships and had six national runner-up finishes, including Auburn in the final BCS championship game and Kentucky in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

With the advent of the College Football Playoff this season, Slive said there will be a “paradigm shift in how a conference will relate to its bowls.”

After any SEC teams are selected for the College Football Playoff semifinals — one semifinal will be Jan. 1 in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans — and are picked for any of the other four CFP bowls, the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Florida, will have the next selection.

Following that, the SEC will assign teams to a pool of six bowls: the Liberty, Music City, Gator, Texas, Belk and Outback, where LSU played last season.

The SEC also has agreements with the Independence Bowl in Shreveport and the Birmingham Bowl.

“The conference will assign teams to each of these games rather than doing it the old-fashioned way where the bowl selected the teams,” Slive said.

Slive also mentioned last week’s agreement between ESPN and Cox, the primary cable provider in south Louisiana, to carry the SEC Network, which launches Aug. 14.

“Rest assured,” Slive said, “there are ongoing conversations with other major providers.”

Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.