Slive talks SEC success, network

HOOVER, Ala. -- In years past, Mike Slive took the podium at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham and spoke in length about hopes for a playoff and what a conference network could look like in the future. On Monday, there wasn’t any need for that. The commissioner opened SEC Media Days with an optimistic look to the debut of the SEC Network and the college football playoff set to begin this season.

Call it the golden age of the Southeastern Conference.

Some conferences send their commissioner to the podium at media days without a set message. Slive doesn’t have time for that. Instead, his opening press conference on Monday, as usual, turned into a session of bragging. But as he noted, quoting Muhammad Ali, “it’s not bragging if you can back it up.”

Beaming ear-to-ear on his 46th wedding anniversary, the SEC commissioner rolled through his list of league accomplishments.

The league won seven national titles, spanning men’s golf, gymnastics, equestrian, men’s swimming, women’s swimming and diving, women’s outdoor track and field, softball and baseball. The SEC also added six national runner-up finishes. The league had at least one team finish in the top five in 13 of the 21 sports the league sponsors.

Auburn represented in the national title game, making it the eighth straight year an SEC school played for the title. As Slive noted, “the game was just a minute too long.”

After noting that the league continues to be in touch with fans through advisory committees while attempting to better the fan experience, Slive pointed to the 7.5 million fans who attendance SEC football games, the 16th consecutive year that the SEC led the country in attendance.

One month from the day Slive took to the podium, the SEC Network is set for launch. It will only make the league more visible across the country, sending the league’s sports and premier matchups to the forefront of the sports television viewer’s mind. Between Saturday triple-headers in the fall and SEC Nation, a two-hour, on-site pregame show this fall, the league is set to showcase college football in ways it never has been before.

ROGERS, YOUNG GET ATTENTION OF SLIVE: Near the end of his Monday presentation, Slive went into talking about the student-athlete experience and what it can provide. He found no better example than former Florida center Patric Young, who Slive said “has made the most of his collegiate academic and athletic experience.”

Slive went through the accomplishments of Young the conference regular season and tournament title last year, the Final Four, the SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year and the SEC male winner of the Brad Davis Community Service Award. He also went on a mission trip to Africa to work with children to focus on exercise and a healthy lifestyle.

That came with a 3.4 GPA, Slive noted.

“Student-athletes like Patric, as well as many other student-athletes like him, inspire us to protect intercollegiate athletics, to keep it healthy, vibrant and an integral part of higher education,” Slive said. “We do this for the young men and women who seek an education, compete in sports, and ultimately make a difference in people's lives.”

He used Young as an example to push into talks about autonomy, noting that it gives those in charge the ability to “provide academic and athletic opportunities for the generations of Patrics yet to come.”

He wasn’t the only Florida athlete mentioned by Slive. The SEC Commissioner pointed out Florida’s first softball national championship, congratulating pitcher Hannah Rogers for being Women’s College World Series’ most outstanding player.

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