published Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Slive highlights success of SEC

Conference commissioner praises member schools, but warns of increased penalties for recruiting violations.


by Wes Rucker
Audio clip

Mike Slive

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    Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive speaks to the media in this file photo (AP Photo/ Butch Dill)

HOOVER, Ala. -- Mike Slive's annual preseason "State of the Southeastern Conference" address Wednesday afternoon was, as usual, mostly a chest-thumping endeavor.

The SEC tends to provide its commissioner with plenty of positive things to discuss. Slive loves mentioning academics, though most point first at the league's staggering piles of money and national championships.

Including the league's multibillion-dollar, 15-year deal with ESPN, Slive's self-described "brag bag" is far from empty.

"I'm sure you guys get tired of hearing me brag about it, but we've got a lot of great things going on right now," he said moments after his speech.

"We have become a national brand," Slive said. "Many conferences, the intensity of their following is more regional. And with that has come some benefits to us."

Slive also publicly disclosed a warning previously kept in-house with the SEC's coaches and administrators. Malicious violations of secondary NCAA rules -- particularly in recruiting -- will no longer go unpunished by the SEC, he said several times.

"In most circumstances, our member institutions act appropriately to apply penalties and change policies following a secondary violation," Slive said. "However, when either a penalty or a policy (of the NCAA) is deemed insufficient, the conference has the authority and the will to apply stiffer penalties and to require additional corrective actions."

Slive said penalties have been doled out by the SEC office. He offered four punishments but declined multiple times to name a specific program or coach to suffer those consequences.

"An entire coaching staff has lost the ability to make recruiting telephone calls for an extended period of time," Slive said. "Coaches have been prevented from participating in all off-campus recruiting activities. Institutions have been prevented from having any recruiting contact with prospects for an extended period of time. And teams have lost practice opportunities."

The NCAA deems a violation "secondary" if it's "isolated or inadvertent in nature, provides or is intended to provide only a minimal recruiting, competitive or other advantage, and does not include any significant recruiting inducement or extra benefit."

First-year Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin and his staff have been criticized in certain circles for their secondary violations. The Volunteers have been docked at least six times since Kiffin's arrival. That number is small compared to many major Division I programs -- South Carolina announced 14 earlier this month, and other shave racked up dozens -- but some have perceived Kiffin's infractions as more intentional or malicious.

Kiffin has denied malice or intent in any of his staff's violations, and no one has publicly proven otherwise, leaving the NCAA few disciplinary choices.

"We understand the perception that we've read about that a coach may make a risk/reward analysis with regard to secondary violations, especially in recruiting," Slive said. "In doing this, a coach would decide to take the risk of committing a violation because of the perceived reward of increased leverage with a prospect makes the risk seem worthwhile.

"As we told our coaches earlier this week in our SEC new-coaches orientation program, any time they commit a secondary violation, they place themselves, their program and the institution and the prospect at risk."

Kiffin was in the Birmingham area earlier this week for that first-year coaches meeting. The coach described his first real conversation with the commissioner as a positive experience.

"I really had not had much of a chance to get to know him," Kiffin said Tuesday. "We've just been so busy, and obviously he has a busy schedule. ...It was good to sit down with him and talk about a few things."

Kiffin rubbed many colleagues the wrong way shortly after taking the UT job in December. South Carolina's Steve Spurrier, Alabama's Nick Saban, Florida's Urban Meyer and others have taken Kiffin taunts, but things have quieted since the league's spring meetings in Florida, which included a group session involving Slive and the league's 12 football coaches.

"I was concerned until we left Destin, but I'm comfortable that they understand now," Slive said. "(Controversy) is not a selling point, but people are interested in what our coaches and what everybody does. The issue for me is that we don't wound ourselves.

"The only conference in my view that can stop the SEC from being successful in the Southeastern Conference. We've got to continue to take care of business and do the right thing, and we'll be fine."

about Wes Rucker...

Twitter - @wesrucker Facebook - /tfpvolsbeat

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