Live coverage from Birmingham, where SB Nation is taking in the spectacle of SEC Media Days.
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive's annual address to kick off his conference's three-ring Media Days circus was billed as a must-see by official sources, leading to rampant speculation among the assembled media members that he was planning on stepping down. Slive puts those rumors to rest straightaway with a quick Mark Twain quote and gets to the meat of his agenda: A four-part master plan to enact sweeping-ish change in the conference and around the sport. Slive says "intercollegiate athletics has lost the benefit of the doubt," and here's what he wants to do about it:
• Redefine available benefits. It's clear Slive wants a national conversation on cost of attendance (COA) scholarships. He acknowledges in about five words that this would cause financial hardships at other schools, and dismisses the notion of caring about that just as quickly by hedging that the SEC has to do what's best for its own student athletes. Other items of import Slive would like to see on the table: Multi-year scholarships, a process by which players beyond the current six-year window could return to school and earn their degrees, and (here's the big one) a "refocusing of efforts to develop a regulatory approach" on student-athlete contact with agents.
• Strengthen academic requirements. Slive would like to see an increase in required GPA for freshmen athletes from 2.0 to 2.5 in core curriculum work, along with an annual satisfactory progress bar prospective SAs must clear at the high school level.
• Modernize recruiting rules. Slive says it's time to "push the reset button" on the regulatory approach to college football recruiting. In his opinion, the idea of a completely level playing field in recruiting is unrealistic, thanks to existing and unavoidable disparities in physical resources at different programs. Rules on phone calls and texting don't make any tangible headway as far as making up that ground, to hear him tell it.
• Support NCAA efforts to continue improving the enforcement process. Slive (and other conference commissioners headed to the upcoming NCAA President's retreat) would like to see a streamlined NCAA manual focusing on core issues. Having had to page through that thing more than once, I can certainly sympathize.