Commissioner Opens SEC Meetings

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive began SEC Media Days in Birmingham with his annual "state of the conference" type speech. The commissioner touched on a number of subjects including the competitive successes of SEC member schools and student-athletes.

He also touched on academic progress, rules violations and behavior and more. Here are some of the highlights of the Commissioner's talk. Heath Cline will have more on the new TV doings later.

On competitive success:

"I continue to be amazed by the accomplishments of our student athletes year after year. It began with another exhilarating football season, culminating in the conference's championship game in Atlanta between the top two teams in the country, followed by Florida beating Oklahoma for the national championship. The year ended with LSU defeating Texas for the national baseball championship.

Between these bookend championships, Auburn won the national championship in men's swimming and diving, Tennessee in women's indoor track and field, and Georgia in gymnastics, for a total of five national championships. The conference also boasted national championship runners up in men's golf, gymnastics, softball, women's swimming and diving, men's indoor and outdoor track. That means in 11 of the 20 sports that we sponsor, the Southeastern Conference had either the national champion or the national runner up.

This year the Southeastern Conference was represented by 150 teams in NCAA championships. That's 75 percent of the teams that we field, three quarters of our teams end up in post season.

In addition, 53 SEC student athletes won individual national championships, and from one of my very favorite statistics, in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, 159 current and former SEC student athletes won 51 medals. Ladies and gentlemen, if the SEC were a nation, we would have finished fourth in the world in medal count."

On success in the classroom:

"The SEC led the nation's conferences with 41 academic All Americans to complement 320 first team All Americans. We were also treated to extraordinary individual performances by such outstanding student athletes as Florida's quarterback Tim Tebow and softball player Stacey Nelson, who were named the academic All Americans of the year in football and softball respectively, and Georgia gymnast Courtney Kupets was named the Honda Broderick winner as the collegiate women's athlete of the year."

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Slive went on to praise and thank SEC fans for their remarkable passion, commitment and support before moving on to some issues of significant concern in recent months.

On the economic downturn and sports revenue:

"There is no safe harbor from the current economic recession. Every one of us is negatively impacted in some way. The same applies to our institutions and to our fans. We are fortunate that the conference entered into its new television agreements when we did, just ahead of the full impact of the recession. The additional revenue we will generate will help our institutions maintain their all important broad based programs for nearly 5,000 student athletes who compete in our league, many of whom are the recipients of grants and aid.

I am extremely proud of the fact that our athletic departments, through the cooperative efforts of our presidents and chancellors and athletic directors, are sharing this added revenue in support of the academic mission of the universities. We, as you, cannot predict the length and depth of this recession, nor its ultimate impact on intercollegiate athletics, but we hope, as you all do, as all Americans do, that it ends soon. In the meantime, we remain thankful for the support we continue to enjoy.

Concerns about new media and coverage:

"As with the recession, there is no safe harbor from the technological revolution. No one knows that better than you. Whether the space is called new media, digital, social networking, cyberspace, the Internet, or the web, it opens doors for some and closes doors for others. In either case, it's here, and it's a critical component of any organization's communications future. The Southeastern Conference is no exception. With that in mind, throughout our television negotiations, we worked hard to retain the conference's digital rights, a term we use to describe this new space. As a result, we secured these rights and we are about to launch the SEC Digital Network. We will be in a position to make a formal announcement within the next few weeks.

On following rules and regulations:

"The phrase 'renewal of vows' is familiar to those of you who covered us at our spring meetings in Destin. This term relates back to 2004, when the conference, including head football coaches, unanimously voted to adopt recommendations from the task force on compliance and enforcement, a manifesto, setting forth the conference's commitment to compliance, along with a roadmap for coaches to follow in applying these principles.

Today, five years after the report was adopted, we have many new coaches, and this spring it was time for a wake up call, a time to renew vows by reasserting our commitment to compliance. Each of our coaches and every person associated with our programs, including fans and boosters, must share this commitment to integrity, which is so essential to the continued success of the conference.

We cannot sustain our successes, which is now our ultimate goal, unless we avoid self inflicted wounds, unless we avoid calling attention to ourselves at the expense of others. (We must realize that we are inexorably tied to each other's athletic and academic successes, and we are tied to each other's athletic and academic failures.

Secondary infractions have been featured prominently in the media of late, but they're not new to the conference, they're not new to our institutions, and they're not new to the NCAA. In fact, secondary violations represent a reality associated with intercollegiate athletics as a highly regulated endeavor.

In the Southeastern Conference, secondary violations are reported to the conference office. We review every report to determine its thoroughness and its accuracy, along with evaluating the appropriate punitive and corrective actions taken by the institution. Following that review, every secondary report is subsequently forwarded to the NCAA for final review and action, if any. In most circumstances, our member institutions act appropriately to apply penalties and change policies following a secondary violation.

Beyond these relatively minor matters, there are other secondary violations which are more serious, especially in the area of recruiting. In 2004, at the same time the task force was issued, the conference adopted a set of standard penalties that are applied to certain violations of the contact, evaluation and dead period policies of the NCAA. We have standard penalties for phone call, text message, and correspondence violations. These standard penalties are generally more aggressive than would be applied by the NCAA, and were adopted by the conference to communicate that there are, in fact, meaningful penalties applied to secondary violations.

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Slive is obviously pleased with the business of the SEC in terms of new media revenue streams and coverage. And he is undeniably proud – and rightfully so – of the league continuing to be the top athletic conference in the NCAA. But it is equally clear the public sniping inspired by Lane Kiffin and the rash of second violations throughout the league has him on edge. Don't be shocked if the next "secondary" violation by a chronic offender is treated more seriously than ever before.


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