Changing Of The Guard In SEC

Phillip Marshall discusses SEC sports and Auburn University football in his column on AU sports.

A new era is about to begin in the Southeastern Conference. Mike Slive is expected to be named to replace Roy Kramer as commissioner on Tuesday at an 11 a.m. press conference.

No commissioner in the history of college athletics has accomplished more than Kramer did. He, more than any other single person, made the SEC a multimillion-dollar enterprise that changed the face of college athletics nationwide. SEC schools received checks in the mail Monday. Auburn's share? $7.9 million. That's a pretty good return on a $50 membership fee. It also explains why the likes of Vanderbilt never consider going to a less-competitive league where they could be more of a force.

Roy Kramer

I always liked Kramer. He was a gracious man who worked at his job with diligence and pride. The unfortunate side of his tenure is what is happening among SEC schools as he leaves. He is so widely hated at Alabama that he was greeted with a chorus of boos when he presented the Tide baseball team the SEC baseball tournament championship trophy. Just how he is supposed to have sabotaged Alabama is something I have yet to figure out. The idea that he would want to sabotage Alabama, one of the marquee schools in the conference over which he presides, defies rational thinking.

Kramer told me during an interview in his office that staying out of trouble if simple. If it involves money, boosters or academic fraud, he said, don't do it. Other than those things, there are few violations that will cause serious trouble as long as schools police themselves. But when schools find themselves in trouble, they look for scapegoats. Alabama fans found one in Kramer.

The poison atmosphere among some SEC schools now threatens the well-being of the league far more than anything Kramer ever did or didn't do. No commissioner can do anything about that. I hope Slive is ready for the challenge that awaits him. Running Conference USA is about as much like running the SEC as running a copy shop is like running Xerox. He'll have some daunting challenges, but he'll also have more resources than any commissioner in the game.

Slive, 61, has been the commissioner of Conference USA since the league was formed in 1995. He was also the commissioner of the defunct Great Midwest Conference, the athletics director at Cornell University, a district court judge and a lawyer whose practice included sports law. Whether he can fill the considerable shoes left by Kramer remains to be seen.

IT WON'T BE LONG NOW

It's only a little over a month now before Auburn football players begin preseason practice. It will be one of the more interesting Augusts in recent memory.

With four games in 17 days beginning on Sept. 2, Tommy Tuberville and his staff will have to approach two-a-days differently than they have in the past. "When we get into those games, we've got to have a full tank of gas," Tuberville says. No doubt about it. That probably will mean just one tough practice a day, with the other devoted more to learning.

It will be easier to do it that way than at times in the past because there is experience at most key positions. The biggest question to be answered, of course, will be whether Daniel Cobb or Jason Campbell is the starting quarterback. It also must be determined who will start opposite Reggie Torbor at defensive end. That could be converted tight end Jay Ratliff or tough guy Bret Eddins. Either way, both will play a lot. The offensive line also must be settled, though the move of Danny Lindsey from center to guard has gone a long way toward doing that.

The guess here is that if Auburn can come out of those first four games with a 3-1 record, it will be on the way to a good or better than good season. A 2-2 start wouldn't be disastrous. Anything less than that could mean a long autumn of discontent.

POTPOURRI

Strength and conditioning coach Kevin Yoxall says the Tigers are working harder than ever and making outstanding progress in their summer program... Coaches are united in their disdain for a proposal that would make it illegal for strength and conditioning coaches to attend summer workouts...Few insiders, even at Alabama, expect the Crimson Tide to gain significant relief in its appeal of NCAA sanctions...Tennessee folks are confident they will come out clean in the Tee Martin saga, but my guess is their confidence might ultimately be shaken...Florida head coach Ron Zook will be under the gun more than any first-year head coach since Ray Perkins, who replaced Bear Bryant at Alabama, but he will have more weapons than Perkins did.


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