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July 16, 2013
KEVIN TRAINOR: Welcome to 2013 Southeastern Conference Media Days. Well will begin with the commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, Mr. Mike Slive.
COMMISSIONER SLIVE: Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of our 14 football coaches, as good a group as there is in the country, along with 42 outstanding young football players who join us this week, welcome to the unofficial kickoff of the 2013 football season.
As it is every year, it is my privilege to kick off Media Days by reflecting on another extraordinary year with my annual brag bag by touching upon some of the national issues in intercollegiate athletics and by sharing more about the SEC Network.
I continue to be amazed by the extraordinary accomplishments of our student‑athletes year after year, and this past year was no exception. So here comes the brag bag.
In the sport of football, the SEC won its seventh straight BCS national championship, finished the regular season with six teams ranked in the top 10, the first conference to accomplish such a feat in the history of college football, set a record with 63 NFL Draft picks, more than double that of any other conference, and an SEC football player was awarded the Heisman Trophy for the fourth time in the last six years.
In addition to winning the national championship in football, we captured titles in men's indoor track and field, gymnastics, women's swimming and diving, equestrian, men's golf, men's outdoor track and field, bringing the total number of national championships won by the SEC to 86 since the year 2000.
At the same time many of our football student‑athletes excelled academically. Alabama Barrett Jones was awarded the national football foundations William V. Campbell Trophy, better known to you as the Academic Heisman.
Three of the last four academic All‑Americans of the last year came from the SEC, namely Barrett Jones in 2012, Alabama's Greg McElroy in 2010, and Florida's Tim Tebow in 2009.
And, the SEC had 10 first‑team academic All‑American recipients, five national football foundation scholar athletes, and nine representatives on the American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team.
At the same time we talk about our successes on the field and in the classroom, we cannot ignore the recent off‑the‑field incidents involving both current and former student‑athletes.
Not all student‑athletes fulfill the high expectations we have for them. While the negative actions of a few garner headlines, the fact is that the vast majority of these young people conduct themselves appropriately.
Notwithstanding the fact that our institutions have mechanisms in place to recognize problems, support systems to address personal issues, policies to provide implementation of discipline, and the willingness to enforce these policies, it is a crushing disappointment when, despite all of these efforts, a young person throws away the opportunity for a promising future.
We are not naïve enough to think we can put an end to all unacceptable behavior. But that doesn't mean we won't continue to try, try and try.
For those of you who were with us in Destin this past spring, you'll recall we spent a lot of time talking about football scheduling. The end result was a decision to commit the conference to a review of our scheduling format in anticipation of the 2016 season. This review will include whether or not to play an eight‑ or nine‑game conference schedule and whether or not to retain permanent non‑divisional opponents.
In the meantime, until that review is complete, we will continue to schedule based on the current 6‑1‑1 format pending the results of that review.
As I said this spring, the simple goal of this review, although it is not simple to do, is to select the format that is in the long‑term best interest of the conference as a whole.
Speaking of scheduling, I want to take a moment to comment on SEC men's basketball. The fact that the SEC has won three of the last eight NCAA men's basketball championships, has two schools represented among the top 10 that have won multiple men's basketball championships, and is third in the number of championships won by a conference, does not offset the fact that last year men's basketball season did not meet our high expectations.
So to focus more directly on men's basketball from a conference perspective, last week we announced the appointment of Associate Commissioner Mark Whitworth to the newly created full‑time position of director of men's basketball.
In this role, Mark will serve as liaison with our coaches, oversee the tournament, prepare the conference schedule, work closely with our media partners in matters pertaining to men's basketball, and coordinate non‑conference scheduling.
At the same time we have asked Greg Shaheen, former NCAA vice president for men's basketball, to consult with the conference and our member institutions about non‑conference basketball scheduling. As I said in Destin, no one of our institutions is an island. Whatever one of our institutions does with scheduling affects all of us.
As I mentioned earlier, I want to comment on some national issues, particularly as they relate to the NCAA and then on the NCAA itself.
As many of you will recall, during the 2011 Media Days, we suggested solutions and strategies to foster policies designed to enhance the experience of student‑athletes, advance historical efforts to properly balance academics and athletics, and to help shape intercollegiate athletics for the future.
We did that by introducing an Agenda for Change in an effort to support and guide discussion of national initiatives in advance of the NCAA's presidential retreat held in August of that year.
The Agenda for Change included three areas of primary importance. One, redefining the benefits available to our student‑athletes. Two, strengthening academic eligibility requirements for incoming freshmen and two‑year transfers. And, three, modernizing recruiting rules.
With regard to student‑athlete benefits, progress has been made in providing the option of multi‑year scholarships, and in easing the ability of our former student‑athletes to come back to school, to get financial aid, and to support their work towards an undergraduate degree. These are important changes and they are, in fact, helpful.
But the NCAA has not been successful in meeting the full cost of attendance of our student‑athletes, whether through the so‑called miscellaneous expense allowance or some other model that provides broad access to additional funds.
Conferences and their member institutions must be allowed to meet the needs of their student‑athletes. In recent conversations with my commissioner colleagues, there appears to be a willingness to support a meaningful solution to this important change.
With regard to key academic components for action at the national level, we propose an increase in the minimum grade point average for the 16 core courses required for freshmen eligibility. The NCAA board of directors does adopt an increased GPA effective August 1st, 2016.
We propose the implementation of a satisfactory progress rule for high schools, similar to the one in place at the collegiate level. The NCAA board finalized a policy requiring prospects to pass 10 core courses prior to the start of their senior year in high school. While not the progress rule we proposed, the 10 core course requirement is a positive step in helping prospects better understand that they need to prepare academically throughout their high school careers and not wait till the last minute.
And we proposed that prospects who meet current academic standards for initial eligibility, but who fail to meet the new proposed standards, be permitted to enroll, receive athletics financial aid, and practice during their freshman year but not be committed to compete until they fulfill an academically successful year in residence.
To that end, the NCAA board adopted the so‑called academic redshirt year, effective in 2016. This will provide these academic redshirts with access to an education opportunity, financial aid, and the ability to practice, but without the pressure of competition while he or she adjusts to the rigors of college academic life.
The third proposal in our Agenda for Change was a proposal to push the reset button on the regulatory approach to recruiting. While progress has been made, the efforts at sweeping reform fell short of our desired goal for resetting the approach.
The Rules Working Group formed after the presidential retreat was successful in introducing some change and some better strategies for evaluating proposed rules, but in some areas we remain bound by what has been the way we've always done it rather than being motivated to seek a better way to achieve a new result.
Facebook, Twitter, text messaging, early recruiting, club sports, cell phones, Internet access, distance learning, 3‑D printers will continue to become more and more commonplace.
The current regulatory approach would be more at home in the era of Johann Gutenberg's printing press than in our current fast‑paced technology‑driven society and will no longer serve to functionally govern recruiting behaviors moving forward.
As Albert Einstein once said, We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.
Following this year's spring meetings in Destin, I wrote President Mark Emmert on behalf of SEC presidents and chancellors to communicate our view that it was important and necessary in the area of concussions for the NCAA to lead, organize and spearhead a four‑part national effort.
One, to conduct further scientific research on cushions.
Two, determine and refine best practices and standards of care for the prevention and treatment of concussions.
Three, disseminate information to NCAA member institutions and others with an interest in the health and safety of athletes.
And, four, continue to review and revise playing rules in football and other sports as new research and new information on concussions becomes available as we revise and refine best practices.
The point here is that the issue of concussions is not limited to one conference or one region. We all share the concern about the overall health of college football and its participants across the entire country and within each NCAA division.
With this in mind, it is incumbent that the NCAA provide the leadership as outlined in the letter while each of us in our conferences contribute to the research and the development of best practices.
In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt provided the incentive for the creation of the NCAA. His leadership and his commitment to his philosophy of the strenuous life, as he called it, demonstrated the belief still present today that the uniquely American combination of athletic competition and higher education does, indeed, have a place on our university campuses.
It's made abundantly clear by all of you being here today, college athletics has grown to become an integral part not only of education, but of the American life and the American culture.
In order to deal with these and other national issues in an effective way, intercollegiate athletics requires remarkable and innovative leadership to slash through our Gordian knot. Our challenges are complex, they always have been, and they always will be.
With that said, we have supported and continue to support the NCAA as the appropriate governing organization for intercollegiate athletics. But at the same time, however, we will continue to push for changes we believe are in the best interest of our student‑athletes.
As we push for change, we are encouraged by the NCAA's ongoing review of its governing structure. Moving forward, there are important questions that need to be answered.
For example, what changes need to be made to the NCAA structure to provide significant roles for the stakeholders, the presidents, chancellors, athletic directors, institutional administrators, conference administrators, and coaches.
What is the proper role, function and composition and size of the NCAA board of directors.
Do we need all of the services provided by the NCAA's national office, its many committees and task forces, or are some of these services better provided elsewhere.
And how do we streamline the NCAA committee and legislative processes to provide leaders and visionaries who will ensure the NCAA's future.
In the words of James Baldwin, not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.
Now, back to the SEC, where I live.
I am pleased to report that the SEC Network continues to take shape. This week ESPN will finish its initial technical site surveys on each of our campuses. This process will maximize the number of events available to our fans across all SEC sports.
We anticipate that we will eclipse our initial target of 550 digital events in the early years of the network. That's, of course, in addition to our 450 events on television.
We have already mentioned that on each Saturday in the fall, the SEC Network will televise three football games, our triple‑header. In addition, the Network will feature a signature two‑hour on‑site pregame show. The show will broadcast live every Saturday from a different SEC campus over the course of the season, including our championship game.
In addition to in‑depth game analysis and commentary about all of our games, we will focus on traditions, rituals and spirit that distinguishes the SEC and each of its member institutions.
We are committed to bring the full color and passion of SEC football and SEC sport to the entire nation.
We're also working with ESPN to build our legacy of storytelling. Student‑athletes and coaches, we tell their stories through SEC Storied, our documentary series. Recent stories covered Sylvester Croom, Sam Bowie, and Abby Head. We're going to provide original programming when we launch next year. In the meantime I'm pleased to announce the next film in the SEC Storied series is entitled, The Book of Manning. It will tell the story of Archie, Olivia, Cooper, Eli and Peyton. We will premier it this fall.
Director Hart is here, if you're interested in learning more about the Manning film, he can talk to you about it.
Needless to say, distribution for the network continues to be a focus. Beyond the AT&T U‑verse agreement, discussion with all major cable and satellite and Telco distributors are ongoing. Our emphasis is building the most attractive content in programming lineup we can for fans and distributors of the network.
Justin Connolly, ESPN senior vice president for programming and general manager of the network is here and available to talk with you as you would like. He will also take this podium Thursday morning at 8:10 to share further news about the SEC Network.
In closing, I am reminded of what Benjamin Franklin wisely once said. Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement and success have no meaning.
So we have taken every opportunity we can to grow and strengthen the conference over the last decade. We share a proud history and we are excited about a very bright future.
We appreciate and thank all of you for being here today, and there are a lot of you. We're delighted about that. If you need any help, don't hesitate to ask anybody from our staff.
In addition, it's a pleasure for me to add that Herb Vincent will be coming on our staff as our associate commissioner for communications in September. Herb is here and available to assist in any way possible.
My 20 minutes are up (smiling). Some of you are happy, some may not be. Wishing you a productive and interesting week. As always, may the muse be with you. Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports