The NCAA board of directors is expected to consider Thursday a recommendation restructuring the NCAA to create autonomy in specific areas for the SEC, Big Ten, Pacific-12, Big 12 an Atlantic Coast Conference. A vote is anticipated at the board's meeting in August.
Northwestern players are set to vote Friday on whether to form a union.
The 65 members of the five conferences are seeking to be allowed to cover the full cost of attendance for athletes, among other initiatives.
"I don't believe student-athletes should be employees," Slive said Monday, addressing a Southeast regional meeting of the Associated Press sports editors. "If you put the union issue aside and look at the substance of what's being asked for, you will see that in part, and maybe in great part, that what's being asked for are the same kind of things that the 65 institutions put forth in the vision as early as last fall.
"I prefer to think about what's the substance of issue rather than the nature of it."
Slive has monitored the case of Northwestern football players seeking to be allowed to unionize.
The commissioner said the leagues want athletes to have "a voice and vote in NCAA" legislation.
Slive said he doesn't think the NCAA's changes would be too little or necessarily too late.
"There is an element of frustration when I say to you that we started this last summer," Slive said. "It's not unfair to say that to turn the NCAA is not unlike turning an aircraft carrier from north to south. It's taken time. These are something that we believed in and wanted to get on the table much earlier than we have been able to."
Slive addressed a variety of issues, including SEC football schedules and the one-and-done rule:
— He expects SEC presidents and chancellors to vote on whether to add a ninth league game before spring meetings May 27-30 in Destin, Fla. The possible scenarios include eight games or nine games, with or without permanent inter-division opponents like Alabama-Tennessee. "We've shown them that with all the formats every one of them has advantages and disadvantages," the commissioner said. He said they will meet soon but declined to elaborate.
— Slive isn't a fan of basketball players leaving school after one year, saying it's much less likely for an athlete who leaves after one year to finish his degree than one who stays longer. Kentucky made it to the national championship game in men's basketball with a freshman-heavy lineup of NBA prospects. James Young has already declared for the NBA draft and others could follow. "What you've got to think about it is it's not a good rule, in my opinion," Slive said. "It's a bad rule. You know why it's a bad rule, it's because it's academically a bad rule."
— He didn't express an opinion on the failed proposal for a rule that would penalize offenses for snapping before 10 seconds ticked off the play clock. He did say that was an example of why college football needs a competition committee similar to the one he serves on in basketball. "This debate exposed a glaring error in the process and hopefully we can fill that gap," Slive said.