Slive addressed the subject of evolution permeating the college landscape. He said conference commissioners in the past five months confronted key areas requiring critical change. In order to accomplish this, the power conferences need restructuring of the NCAA.
Improving the substantive student-athlete concerns to preserve the collegiate model is the goal, not embracing the unionization option considered by Northwestern University football players. Slive expressed the shared initiatives five conferences intend to pursue. The five power conferences – SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and ACC – represent 65 institutions.
Slive delivered the Sports Innovators Keynote Address, "The Golden Age of the Southeastern Conference: The Intersection of Preparation and Opportunity," at the Maher Auditorium on the UMass Amherst Campus Wednesday. One of the most influential figures in intercollegiate athletics was spending three days in New England as the Executive-in-Residence designee named by the Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management at the Isenberg School of Management. Slive is the first college commissioner to be invited. The Executive-in-Residence program is designed for students and faculty members to interact with dynamic leaders, innovators and sport management professionals.
McCormack was a pioneer in the sports marketing industry. He created the colossal company currently known as IMG, a global sports, fashion, and media business.
(IMG is the company that purchased Collegiate Licensing Company from its founder, current Alabama Athletics Director Bill Battle.)
The 73-year-old Slive said, "The ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC have been engaged in a dialogue focused on creating a new vision for intercollegiate athletics in the 21st century. The focus is on what is in the best interest of our student-athletes. The vision is intended to meet the 21st century challenges of intercollegiate athletics while attending to the needs and expectations of the student-athletes in the modern era to provide them with the necessary support to excel in and out of the classroom."
They advocate student-athletes receiving the full cost of college attendance; fulfillment of health, safety and nutritional needs; creation of more opportunities to complete an undergraduate degree cost free if their education is interrupted; updating rules governing agents and advisors to better assist during their transition from the collegiate setting to professional sports including those outside of athletics; readdressing time commitment requirements to insure a balanced experience; providing comprehensive support to foster the educational success of academically at-risk individuals; and giving them a voice and a vote in NCAA decisions affecting college athletics.
Putting student athletes first is the Slive mantra. He emphasized the number one priority is restructuring of the NCAA governing body, thus allowing the five power conferences legislative flexibility to enact those progressive notions outlined in the lecture. "We seek the opportunity like Mark McCormack to innovate as we chart the course for the future of intercollegiate athletics," said Slive.
The proactive commissioner revealed his approach to influencing the direction of others. Slive said, "I've always believed that leadership is equal parts pulling and being pushed. Sometimes you want to try to bring your organization to something new and pull it along. On other occasions a force develops within the organization and pushes you along and forces you to lead the push."
An example, he said, was expansion of the SEC from 12 to 14 teams with the additions of Missouri and Texas A&M. That expansion added nine million more households to the SEC television market. Slive said, "During (SEC) expansion I found myself in both these situations. It is a strong example of when you are a leader of an organization or responsible for an organization to be very sensitive not only to what you want but sensitive to what your people may or may not want. If you do both of those things you are going to be very successful."
After the 50-minute speech and replying to Twitter questions from the live audience and viewers watching the live-streamed event, Mike Slive met with members of the media to further discuss a number of current topics.
John Garcia Jr. contributed to this story.