LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- In his 30-minute address to open Southeastern Conference football media days, league commissioner Mike Slive quoted Dwight Eisenhower and Winston Churchill, then threatened to storm the beaches of the NCAA.
All right, not quite.
But there was an ominous tone laid down in his insistence that if the "big five" conferences in college football don't get reforms that they are seeking, he's not backing away from the idea that they would push forward on their own.
"As I have said before, if we do not achieve a positive outcome under the existing big tent of Division I," he said, "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."
With that statement, Slive doubled down on the "Division 4" discussion he began in late May at the SEC's spring meetings.
So what are the desired changes? Slive is insistent that the SEC and the other powerful conferences be allowed to drive the bus on matters like full-cost-of-attendance scholarships and other benefits for athletes whose time has come.
"With a new structure in place," Slive said, "amongst other goals, we seek to support the educational needs of our student-athletes through the provisions of scholarships linked to cost of attendance, rather than traditional model of tuition, room, board, fees and books; to enhance the opportunity, to support a quality undergraduate education for our student-athletes, both during their playing years and beyond, if needed; to better assist student-athletes seeking to transition from college athletics into the world of professional sport; and to expand the existing health and wellness support provided to student-athletes. This is a very small, partial list of what we hope and dream to accomplish."
In essence, the drumbeat for this reform comes as a new round of increased television revenue is expected to enter power-conference coffers, as well as increased revenue from the new college football playoff.
Up to this point, increased athletic department revenue has been spent in basically two areas -- facilities and salaries, but for coaches and administrators.
But in the wake of Ed O'Bannon's lawsuit against the NCAA and former players rising up to question the current system, everyone, from NCAA president Mark Emmert on down, is moving toward an agreement with the proposition that players need to receive a bigger share of these increased revenues.
What form that increased share should take is a matter of much debate, and it's that debate that will determine whether college sports proceed on the traditionally collegiate model or move toward the establishment of a semi-pro situation.
Slive stopped short of proposing anything that would reject the current academic-athletic model.
"We must keep athletics and academics properly integrated and ensure that our university's educational missions are fulfilled," Slive said, and went on to talk about Florida basketball senior Patric Young's successes on the court, in the classroom and in various volunteer efforts.
"This is why it is critical for the NCAA to change," Slive said, "and to change in accordance with the vision proposed for the 21st century by the five conferences."
An NCAA steering committee will give its final recommendation to the NCAA board of directors, which will vote on Aug. 7. If it approves the measures, they will go to the general NCAA membership for a vote next January.
To reaffirm his resolve on these points, Slive quoted former President Dwight Eisenhower: "Neither a wise man or a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him."
The problem with his analogy, however, is that Slive is driving this particular train.
Another issue that hasn't been much discussed is how eager the other four conferences in the group would be to follow the SEC if things didn't go their way on the vote for autonomy. There are those with misgivings about how well the five could govern themselves, and the SEC's history of landing in the NCAA's dog house is what it is -- not that there haven't been major problems in the other leagues from time to time.
Slive's comments today only lend another level of intrigue into what such a move might look like.
But Slive says he hopes that is a day that doesn't come.
"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 said. "It's an exciting time, for me, for college sports and for the SEC. The challenges that lay ahead in my view are not obstacles but really opportunities to forge a bridge and to make the road to the future stronger for everyone involved in intercollegiate athletics."
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