What do Johnny Manziel, Johannes Gutenberg, Albert Einstein, the SEC Network and the NCAA all have in common? They were all touched upon by SEC commissioner Mike Slive during his opening address at the annual SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala.
In a matter of just 20 minutes, Slive managed to drop the names of nearly half a dozen historical figures, address the past and future of his own conference, and call for a host of bold changes to the college football landscape, including player stipends and recruiting reform.
As always, Slive began with his "brag bag" Tuesday.
Of course, he mentioned the seventh consecutive national championship for the conference, Manziel's Heisman Trophy and the record 63 players selected in the 2013 NFL draft.
After talking about the positives, Slive then put his pride aside and mentioned the negatives. The SEC boss alluded to off-the-field issues of both current and former SEC student-athletes (presumably with former Florida tight end Aaron Hernandez and Manziel in the forefront).
Slive references off field problems of "current and former" student-athletes. Uh-oh. #SECMD2013— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) July 16, 2013
Slive: "While the negative actions of few garner headlines, the vast majority conduct themselves appropriately."— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) July 16, 2013
After addressing the touchy subject, he made sure to affirm that the actions of the few don't reflect the true culture of the SEC as a whole.
Slive then talked about the ongoing scheduling talks regarding the newly expanded SEC. It is expected that the conference will eventually adopt a nine-game conference schedule. However, until the logistics of the new schedule are decided, the conference will stick with its eight-game slate.
Slive says the SEC is undergoing a "review" of its scheduling options. (Yes, still.) Sticking with 6-1-1 format until that's done, at least— Eye on College FBall (@EyeOnCFB) July 16, 2013
Slive: "This [scheduling] review will address the 8- or 9-game schedule and whether to keep permanent cross-division rivalries."— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) July 16, 2013
Slive finished his 20-minute address by mentioning a few features of the SEC Network, including the announcement of a two-hour preview show—similar to ESPN's College GameDay—from an SEC site each week, beginning in 2014.
#SEC commish Mike Slive said SEC Network will have a live 2 hour show from a different SEC venue each week beginning in 2014.— Jim Kleinpeter (@JimKleinpeter) July 16, 2013
In between all the conference talk was the true meat of Slive's address: his intrepid criticisms of the NCAA.
His first point of emphasis was a call for player stipends.
Right away, Slive dropped the hammer, saying that the conferences must be allowed to meet the needs of their student-athletes, but that the NCAA has not made sufficient inroads in the area.
Wow, Slive going after NCAA "not being successful" in meeting the full cost of attendance— FootballScoop Staff (@footballscoop) July 16, 2013
Slive again pushing for player stipends: "Conferences and their institutions must be allowed to meet the needs of their student-athletes."— Seth Emerson (@SethEmerson) July 16, 2013
The commissioner then went after the archaic recruiting regulations of the NCAA, likening them to the era of Gutenberg (of movable-type printing press fame roughly six centuries ago).
After calling for recruiting reform, he touched upon another hot topic, calling for the SEC and NCAA to take a more proactive approach on the concussions front.
Slive pushes the NCAA to take control of the concussion issue in college football and he wants the SEC to help spearhead the movement.— The Drive (@thedrivenc) July 16, 2013
Finally, Slive took his criticism of the NCAA a step further, aiming at the structure of the NCAA and, specifically, the size, role and configuration of its board of directors.
Holy cow. Slive's State of the SEC address has morphed into a detailed critique of the NCAA's current governance structure.— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) July 16, 2013
This is amazing. Slive now calling out NCAA governance structure. Getting right up to the edge of addressing breaking away.— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) July 16, 2013
At current pace, Slive will announce "routine nuclear missile tests" around Indianapolis before his remarks end.— Cecil Hurt (@CecilHurt) July 16, 2013
With his long-winded condemnation of the NCAA, Slive all but announced the SEC's desire to break away from the governing body of college athletics. In the end, he did affirm his support of the NCAA, but he also assured that he will do what is necessary to keep the interests of his student-athletes a top priority.
"We have supported and continue to support NCAA....However we will continue to push for changes that are in the best interests of (players).— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) July 16, 2013
After tearing down the walls of the NCAA structure, Slive ended with a quote of writer James Baldwin, saying, "Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced."
Slive knows that the NCAA will never be perfect and that his proclamations won't necessarily result in immediate change. However, he did what he could by laying his cards on the table. With Slive's hand revealed, it is now up to the NCAA to show what cards it is holding.