On the day that featured the unveiling of the new Collegiate Football Playoff trophy, the nation’s eyes were once again on the Wynfrey hotel in Hoover, AL, as the 30th annual SEC Media Days began.
The four day event began with SEC Commissioner Mike Slive, now in his 12th year in the position, kicking off the festivities with his opening address. The Commissioner began by speaking on the history of the date (July 14, 2014), highlighting this as the day that Hank Aaron hit his 500th home run, and the day he married his wife Liz in 1968.
“So with all due respect to Hammerin’ Hank, he only hit a three-run homer on this day 46 years ago,” Slive began, “but I hit a Grand Slam…Happy Anniversary, honey. It’s been an incredible journey for near half a century”.
The Commissioner went on to address the success of SEC schools in college athletics, including half the schools having played in national championship games in football, men’s basketball, and baseball in just the last three years. The conference also boasts seven National Titles in the last year, along with six national runner-up finishes.
Individual awards were also at a premium this past calendar year, most notably being Alabama Gymnast Kim Jacob’s Honda cup (awarded to the highest ranking female student athlete in the classroom and community activism) and Kentucky’s A.J. Reed winning the Dickey Howser National Player of the Year award.
Slive went on to comment on the recent changes in the SEC regular and postseason formats, beginning with the decision to keep the current eight game conference schedule and require every team to play at least one opponent from the Big Ten, ACC, Big 12, or PAC-12 each season. “The strength and and depth of the SEC was certainly a determining factor in this decision since the strength of schedule is based on the entire 12-game schedule.” Slive stated.
Along with regular season changes, bowl schedules and slotting have been altered to complement the new College Playoff system.
The SEC and Big 12 have partnered to make the annual Sugar Bowl a prime time event on New Year’s Day. “I mentioned the Sugar Bowl here because it represents a paradigm shift in how our conference can relate to it’s bowls.” the Commissioner stated. The Sugar Bowl will join the National Playoff, Capital One Bowl, and in some years the Orange Bowl, as having the first pick of the crop of SEC teams, while games like the Liberty Bowl, Music City Bowl, and Texas Bowl having the next available teams.
After laying out the plan for his staff to confer with fans via social media to help meet their expectations on game day, and what he admitted was a verbal “commercial” plugging the upcoming SEC network (available on AT&T Uverse, Dish Network, and Cox Communications), Commissioner Slive delved into the initiative posed by he and the commissioners of the Big 10, Big 12, PAC-12, and ACC to the NCAA to “change in accordance with the vision proposed for the 21st century…”.
The NCAA has faced ever mounting calls for widespread reform in its relations with student athletes. Be it the conditions of a scholarship or the dreaded “pay for play” conversation, President Mark Emmert has faced criticism and complaint in near endless amount on the need for change throughout the FBS. Commissioner Slive stated that he and his contemporaries have proposed a new plan for that change, quoting former president Eisenhower, “Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him.”
The proposed vision calls for a new governing system to “provide greater autonomy for the SEC and other four conferences for the benefit of student-athletes”. One of the main points in the plan is for conferences and schools to provide more for student athletes by way of scholarships that cover more than just room, board, and assorted fees, while also ensuring the expansion of health wellness support.
“As I’ve said before,” Slive began, “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.”
According to the commissioner, the NCAA has “invested significant time and effort” in to student athlete relations reform, and that the board will meet to vote on the proposed changes on August 7th of this year. “…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.”