Commissioner Slive Promotes Change

HOOVER, Ala. – Soon after rumors of a big announcement from SEC commissioner Mike Slive swept through The Wynfrey Hotel, the rumors of his retirement grew stronger. After eliminating those early in his speech, Slive turned to the state of college football, detailing a four-part plan to improve perception and realities of the game.

The plan was detailed with plenty of positive parts that make sense for change and others that seem questionable or difficult to enforce. Regardless of the topic, Slive was more interested in starting a national conversation.

Four SEC presidents – Bernie Machen (Florida), Harris Pastides (South Carolina), Michael Adams (Georgia) and Mark Keenum (Mississippi State) – will represent the SEC at the Presidential Retreat in August. This is where Slive wants the conversation to begin with presidents from universities across the country.

"I hope that we can consider this retreat as a call to action," Slive said. "We anticipate the ideas outlined today will be combined with the thoughts of others to establish what might be called "The National Agenda for Change.""

The first step Slive mentioned was redefining the benefits available to the athletes. Providing athletes with the full cost of attendance instead of what a scholarship covers. Slive suggested a plan to provide athletes with additional benefits to athletes through a redefined grant-and-aid program that is linked to the full cost of attendance.

"We recognize that this proposal may be a financial hardship on some, yet at the same time economics cannot always be the reason to avoid doing what is in the best interests of our student-athletes."

Slive also spoke about turning scholarships from a one-year guarantee into "multi-year awards with full consideration of the implications associated with this model, including appropriate academic and behavioral conditions." Slive also suggested that former athletes be able to access the educational resources when their careers are finished.

The second part, and the one that drew the most attention from the media members in attendance, was focused on first-year eligibility for players. For freshmen, Slive called for raising the high school GPA necessary to play from 2.0 to 2.5 before the athlete is allowed to be eligible in his first season.

There are parts of this take that will be tough to mandate. It puts the emphasis on the high schools, something Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino doesn't want to do.

"I've never felt like (we should) put things back on the high schools," Petrino said. "Let's make sure we do it on the college level. It's hard to justify that you need a 2.0 or a 2.5 coming out of high school, but to be eligible after your first year of college it's a 1.8. That's where I struggle a little bit."

If the athlete has a 2.0 GPA but falls short of the 2.5, they will still be permitted to enroll, receive aid and participate in limited practice but won't be able to play in games during their first season.

Slive also encouraged a year-by-year analysis of each high school athlete, avoiding the last minute efforts of a player to focus on academics in their senior years of high school to be eligible to play in college.

The third step of Slive's plan focused on recruiting players. He called for the rules to be changed and become modernized. Recruits communicate with friends and family through texting messaging and social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, so the commissioner is pushing for these to be allowed in the recruiting process.

Slive also suggested eliminating the recruiting calendar.

"Let's simply establish days in which it's permissible for coaches to engage in off-campus recruiting," Slive said. "If a coach is permitted to travel off campus to recruit, he or she should be allowed to evaluate and have a conversation with the prospect on the same day."

Slive also encouraged tighter rules on recruiting handlers.

The fourth and final part to the plan is to help NCAA President Mark Emmert put together a manual that "governs only enforceable issues of core importance that goes to the heart of what we do."

The "risk-and-reward" approach to recruiting, as Slive called it, has allowed coaches to commit secondary violations without fear of penalty. Coaches can walk the tight rope while getting an advantage of a secondary violation, knowing there isn't punishment to follow.

"We have become increasingly aware that these two limited definitions may not adequately distinguish the actions associated with the violation," Slive said.

Clarifying the types of violations and putting clearly defined punishment for committing one would go a long way.

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