Cleaning up the SEC

On the field, Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive could scarcely ask for more. He's even happier, however, with the strides made off the field during his six years in charge.

First, consider the on-field accomplishments in football, the league's marquee sport:

- Thanks to Florida in 2006 and LSU in 2007, the SEC is the first conference ever to post back-to-back BCS national titles.

- The SEC has won three BCS titles during Slive's six-year rein. Going back to Tennessee in 1998, league teams have won four of the past 10 BCS championships.

- The SEC is the only conference to boast five coaches who have claimed national titles – Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer, Alabama's Nick Saban (at LSU), LSU's Les Miles, Florida's Urban Meyer and South Carolina's Steve Spurrier (at Florida).

- Five SEC teams ranked among the top 15 in the final Associated Press poll of 2007, with LSU and Georgia finishing 1-2.

- SEC teams stand 11-4 all-time in BCS bowl games after going 4-0 the past two years.

- SEC teams won 82 percent of their games against non-conference opponents last season and prevailed in seven bowl games, an NCAA record.

- Florida's Tim Tebow (Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award) and Arkansas's Darren McFadden (Walter Camp Trophy) gave the SEC two National Player of the Year award-winners in the same season for the first time ever.

- Six SEC players were tabbed in Round 1 of the 2008 NFL Draft.

- An all-time record 6.6 million people attended SEC football games in 2007.

The league's success isn't confined to the gridiron, however. Tennessee won back-to-back national titles in women's basketball in 2006-07 and 2007-08. Florida won back-to-back national titles in men's basketball in 2005-06 and 2006-07. Georgia won national championships in tennis and gymnastics last school year.

Moreover, approximately 150 current or former SEC athletes are scheduled to complete in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Slive is understandably proud of the league's on-field excellence, noting at the recent SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala., that the conference has "sustained competitive success at the highest levels of intercollegiate competition."

Though pleased that the league has been enhancing its image as the premier sports conference in America, Slive is even happier that the league has been shedding its image as a maverick conference whose teams routinely circumvent the rules to win.

When Slive assumed command six years ago, the SEC had several teams on NCAA probation. He promptly announced a goal of having no conference teams on probation within five years. He missed that standard but just barely.

"We came close," he said. "Only the Arkansas track program is on probation as we speak. While I take some solace in the fact we are far better off than we were six years ago, there is disappointment when we were so darned close."

Still, the SEC's reputation as a place where anything goes in pursuit of victory is slowly disappearing. That is a noteworthy achievement.

"The most satisfying accomplishment in my six years as commissioner is that we have tackled the infraction problems head on," Slive conceded. "At the same we arguably have enjoyed the most sustained competitive athletic success in the history of this conference."

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