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July 21, 2010
CHARLES BLOOM: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to another edition of Southeastern Conference Football Media Days. We're pleased to have you with us. We look forward to three days of interviews and all kinds of notes and quotes.
We are going to get started with Commissioner Slive.
COMMISSIONER SLIVE: Thank you, Charles.
Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon and welcome to the 2010 SEC Football Media Days. As we say every year, there's really none other like it. You are again part of one of the largest crowds we've ever had. There are over a thousand of you here, including print media, electronic media, bloggers, Bowl representatives, corporate sponsors, as well as nearly 30 radio stations broadcasting live from Radio Row downstairs.
As it is every year, it's my privilege to kick off these three days with my remarks about the past year, including my inevitable and annual 'Brag Bag,' then followed by some observations about several of the issues of the day.
Last year, I said that we were witnesses to a period of competitive success that might be called the SEC's Golden Age. Once again this year, the extraordinary accomplishments of our student-athletes have added to this success.
The 2009 football season culminated with the two top-ranked teams in the country - Alabama and Florida - playing each other for the SEC championship in Atlanta. It was the first plus-one in BCS history.
Alabama then beat Texas to win the 2010 BCS National Championship. It was the fourth straight BCS National Championship and the SEC has won all six of the 12 national championship games in which we have played.
Strikingly, and uniquely, Alabama was the fourth different SEC team to win a BCS National Championship, and the third different team to win it in the last four seasons.
South Carolina gave the SEC its second consecutive baseball national championship. And sandwiched between these two championships were two more: one by Florida in men's indoor track and Florida in women's swimming and diving. 40% of the sports sponsored by the SEC were either the national championship or the national champion runner-up.
In football, the conference had 13 first-team All-Americans led by Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, as well as six other players who were winners of the Butkus, Mackey, Ray Guy, Jim Thorpe, Remington, and Campbell awards.
Another measure of success used by some is how the conference and student-athletes fare in the NFL Draft. The SEC had 49 players selected in this year's draft, the most, as I understand it, ever taken from a single conference. Each of the 12 SEC institutions had at least one player selected with seven players taken in the first round.
As of last week, we had three head coaching changes in the SEC. Robbie Caldwell at Vanderbilt and Joker Phillips at Kentucky were named to succeed the retiring Bobby Johnson and Rich Brooks, respectively. Congratulations to both of them on their well-deserved promotions.
The other head coaching change took place at Tennessee when Derek Dooley's predecessor left to return to his western roots (smiling). I want to welcome Coach Dooley back to the SEC. And when I say 'welcome,' I mean welcome.
Regional pride and a sense of family are characteristics that set the SEC apart from other conferences. Our fans have made the SEC part of the fabric of their daily lives. In a difficult economic time, the fans continue to follow their teams in person as passionately and as intensely as ever.
For the 29th consecutive year, we have recorded the largest total attendance of any conference in the nation. 6.6, a million people came to our games, and we filled our stadiums to astonishing 98% of capacity for each home game.
While I, and we, continue to marvel at the extraordinary achievements of our student-athletes and the loyalty of our fans, there are several other matters I want to briefly touch on this afternoon.
Last summer, we began negotiations for the next four-year Bowl cycle that begins this fall. We had several goals, including having at least three Bowl games on January 1st, making provision for the runner-up of our championship game, providing nine Bowl opportunities for our Bowl-eligible teams, and keeping our Bowl games in or as close to the southeast region for the convenience of our fans.
We achieved each and every one of these objectives by entering into agreements, in addition to the BCS, with the Capital One Bowl, the Outback Bowl, the AT&T Cotton Bowl, the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, the Gator Bowl, Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, AutoZone Liberty Bowl, and the Papa Johns Bowl.
Bowl seasons have been going good to the SEC over the past few years. We have won at least six Bowl games during each of the last four seasons, and at least five each year since expansion in 1992.
In the BCS, we have the most wins and the highest winning percentage among the conferences who have participated with three or more appearances in the BCS.
Last year's national championship season concluded with the first year of our 15-year television agreements with ESPN and CBS. By any measure, it was a successful start.
Ratings for the 14 regular-season games televised on CBS were up over 20%. The SEC Championship Game achieved an 11.1 rating, up 18% from the prior year's game. It was the highest-rated non-Bowl game on any network since 2006, and the highest rated regular-season game on CBS in 21 years.
The combination of 19 SEC games televised on ESPN and ESPN 2 was the highest rated conference of any. ESPNU, in large part due to the SEC, tripled its distribution for the 16 SEC football games from 23 million homes to 73 million homes in one year.
The games played in our early window, 12:30 eastern and 11:30 central, were carried over the air on the SEC Network, reaching 74 million homes, making the SEC Network, ESPN's third most widely distributed network after ESPN and ESPN 2 on Saturday. Additional 14 games were carried on our regional cable networks, FSN and CSS, throughout our footprint.
Our goal was to make the SEC the nation's most widely distributed conference. We succeeded.
We talked about television and Bowls, and the revenue provided from television and Bowls provided the basis for the distribution of $209 million to our 12 institutions in this fiscal year. This distribution's the highest total distributed in SEC history and represents a 57.7% increase from the record amount distributed last year.
This distribution does not include over $14 million retained by our institutions that participated in Bowl games. That's in accordance with our revenue-sharing formula. Also not included in this amount are the revenues derived by institutions from their local multimedia packages.
As most of you know, one of the important reasons we chose not to do an SEC channel was to permit our conferences to retain local packages. The revenue distributed by the conference, coupled with revenue retained from Bowl participation, is supplemented by the value of local institutional multimedia packages which vary from institution to institution, but on average well exceeds $20 million per institution.
Up to now, our athletic departments have been fortunate to have experienced limited impact from the current economic difficulties faced by our institutions as a whole. A noteworthy part of our dynamic financial situation is the ongoing commitments of funding that flow from the SEC's athletic programs to the university's educational and scholarship budgets in the amount of approximately $30 million a year.
During the coming year, we will continue to monitor the national conversation regarding financial issues while continuing our efforts to maintain a strong financial base to support our broad base athletics programs.
One area of concern recently has been the off-the-field behavioral issues. We are confronted with the reality that not all student-athletes fulfill the expectations we have for them. As a whole, the problematic behavior of a few casts a dark cloud over many. While a few student-athletes garner headlines with their occasional thoughtless and highly visible, often nocturnal activities, the fact is that the vast majority of these young people, including the nearly 5,000 SEC student-athletes, conduct themselves appropriately.
While there are occasional high-profile situations where an institution and the conference are tarnished by a student-athlete's bad behavior, there are far more circumstances where our student-athletes exemplify the character we expect from them.
To name a few. Auburn swimmer Jordan Anderson, a Rhodes scholar. The six SEC student-athletes who have been awarded NCAA post-graduate scholarships, the over 2400 SEC student-athletes who earned academic honor roll recognition this year. And in the case of an individual last year, Tim Tebow, National Football Foundation's scholar athlete of the year. The sixth SEC football players to be honored by the National Football Foundation as the scholar athlete of the year in the last 14 years of the award.
These extraordinary accomplishments don't usually make headlines. They do, however, provide the necessary perspective when contrasted to the undesirable behavior of a few.
Behavioral issues are, first and foremost, campus matters to be resolved by institutions and their student-athletes. But the SEC is unique among conferences in that we have established an ongoing relationship with a program we call 'Branded A Leader' sponsored through the National Consortium of Academics and Sports.
The thousands of our male and female student-athletes who participate in this leadership program are challenged to take the responsibility for their own decisions and for the decisions of their teammates. No program is a panacea, but the feedback is good. And in cooperation with our campuses we will continue to explore programs that help to establish clear expectations and to make individuals accountable when behavior falls below legitimate expectations.
Over the past few days, we have been reading reports concerning allegations of improper contact between agents and student-athletes. The SEC's task force on compliance and enforcement report, adopted in 2004, sets forth the process by which these allegations are to be handled on each campus. This process requires that our institutions fully and completely investigate its allegations, either separately or in conjunction with the NCAA where appropriate, and then report the results of the investigation to the conference and to the NCAA for review.
At the conclusion of the process, when the facts are known, appropriate determinations will be made as to the amateurism status of the student-athlete and whether the institution was aware or should have been aware of the improper conduct based on existing NCAA rules.
Given the surreptitious nature of these matters, it is difficult, if not impossible, for institutions to know what might have taken place.
We're mindful of the complexities involved in a young person's transition from collegiate participation to the role of professional athlete. While it is true that most of our student-athletes will go pro in something other than sports, we need to be able to assist those who choose sports as their profession, just as students receive counseling guidance as they choose medicine, business, dance, law, music or any other path as their profession.
As a conference, we have spent considerable time discussing this issue and we have heard from experts in the field in an effort to determine how best to manage these transition issues.
These discussions include a review of current NCAA rules, which in my view may be as much a part of the problem as they are part of the solution, because the rules make it difficult for student-athletes to seek and obtain the kind of advice in the context in which they need it to properly evaluate potential opportunities for a career in professional sport.
Dealing with improper agent conduct has been a challenge for a long time, but not only for intercollegiate athletics, but also for the many good agents who try to follow the rules. It is time to reexamine the NCAA rules that relate to agents.
By saying that, I don't mean in a moment to excuse conduct that's inappropriate by student-athletes. This is a national problem that calls for a national agent strategy for college athletics. In calling for this strategy, our intent is not to eliminate NCAA oversight of agent issues, and not to excuse improper student-athlete behavior, but rather to change the NCAA's philosophical basis for these rules from enforcement to an assistance-based model.
An NCAA committee has been established to look at this issue. It's a good beginning. It's a good beginning so long as the committee is composed of individuals who deal with this problem on a regular basis, including coaches, conference personnel, compliance officers, athletics directors, faculty members and former student-athletes who have been through the process.
The review should include a fresh analysis of all issues impacting the transition of student-athletes from the collegiate level to the professional competition. We in the SEC look forward to being active participants in this review.
As the 2009/2010 academic year came to an end, we witnessed events that had the potential to redefine the landscape of intercollegiate athletics. The very public efforts to create 92 conference alignments and to reshape long-accepted geographical conference boundaries captured the nation's attention.
In April, amidst the speculation related to conference membership and expansion, I repeatedly stated that, and I quote, Given the success we've experienced over the decade, we are comfortable with the position in which we find ourselves. Having said that, if there is a significant shift in the conference paradigm, the SEC will be strategic and thoughtful to maintain its position as one of the nation's premiere conferences, end quote.
The Southeastern Conference was not and is not interested in initiating or provoking membership changes in light of our membership's commitment to the conference, the support of the conference and the satisfaction with the conference as it is currently constituted.
My statement made it clear that any membership discussions in which we participate would be consistent with our statement that we would be strategic and thoughtful to protect our interest in light of the actions of others to alter the conference landscape.
As it turned out, the paradigm shift never materialized, which afforded us the opportunity to remain comfortable in the position in which we find ourselves.
In the future, there may well be continued interest in conference expansion by some. If that happens, we should take the opportunity to assess the values shared by intercollegiate athletics and higher education. This assessment needs to go beyond television sets, contract revenues, and market share. It needs to include the potential impact on conference cultures, on the lives of student-athletes, on the impact to our respective communities, and on the collegiate model as we have come to know and appreciate.
We have accepted the stewardship of the sensitive and delicate marriage of higher education and intercollegiate athletics. It is our obligation to discharge it responsibly. The untimely passing of NCAA president Myles Brand was a significant loss to the higher education and intercollegiate athletics community. He passionately and articulately argued the case for the values of intercollegiate athletic competition within the mission of higher education. He will be missed.
We again look forward to working with new NCAA president Mark Emmert, who in the early years of my tenure served as the chair of the SEC strategic task force when he was LSU's chancellor. His background and experience, coupled with his belief in the positive values of intercollegiate athletics, make him an outstanding choice to succeed Dr. Brand and we wish him success.
Ladies and gentlemen, in closing, permit me a point of personal privilege. Today marks the beginning of my ninth year as commissioner of the Southeastern Conference and the ninth time I have stood up here to kick off media days. Each year I look forward to talking about the extraordinary accomplishments of our student-athletes while at the same time touching on the important issues of the day.
Many of these issues are difficult, issues related to officiating, credentials, behavior, expansion, agents, violations, but a few.
There are times when I hope you won't call to ask me questions about something I'd rather not discuss and I know there are times you wish I didn't speak in Stengel-ese, which I often do.
In either case, we, I, realize that much of the interest in the SEC comes from the extensive coverage you provide as you tell the stories of the SEC, of its coaches and its players.
We appreciate you and the work that you do. Thanks for being here. As always, may the muse be with you.
Q. How did you play?
COMMISSIONER SLIVE: Okay.
End of FastScripts