When Mike Slive became Southeastern Conference commissioner in the summer of 2002, Mark Richt had coached Georgia's football team for one season and Nick Saban had coached two seasons at LSU. The league had 12 members and had just distributed $95.7 million to its institutions.
Slive addressed SEC media days this week for a 13th time and now heads a league that has 14 members and distributed $309.6 million. He was a guest on "Press Row" on Chattanooga's ESPN 105.1 The Zone.
Q: You had a chance to retire after an even dozen years, but there is a little too much out there right now, isn't there?
A: "You're exactly right. I can't believe that it's been 12, and I'll never forget walking into the room for my first media days with Roy Kramer. There were a lot of people, but nothing like what we experience now.
"We do have a lot on our plates. The SEC Network is right around the corner, and we're dealing with very serious issues on the national scene. There is certainly enough to keep me busy."
Q: Regarding NCAA governance, it seems like everybody at least to some degree is in favor of enhancing the cost of attendance for student-athletes. What would you like to see happen in that area?
A: "If the NCAA board of directors decides to go forward with this new structure on Aug. 7, the first piece of legislation would be the full cost of attendance. Each of the leagues has started to define full cost of attendance and its legal parameters and financial parameters, but I don't think anyone yet has come to a final conclusion. The important thing is we know this is something we will have to approach, and my view is that we still have to figure it out exactly.
"We had a stipend situation years ago, and that was defeated in an override, and that may be the genesis of everything for where we are today. We haven't determined everything exactly for us, but the great thing is that we know we have a window between August and January to figure it all out. The five conferences don't agree on everything. There is a perception that we do, but that's far from the truth."
Q: Would the cost of attendance apply to all athletes or just those in the money-making sports?
A: "I think all of that has to be discussed, but I think fundamentally it will apply to all of them. This takes us down another road of what we call head-to-head scholarships, where if you get just anything it's a full scholarship, and then we have the equivalencies whereby we have partial scholarships in many of our sports. It's a great question, and it's just part of the complexity that needs to be fully resolved.
"I think we are going to treat all athletes the same, and then the question becomes how do we deal with equivalencies and how do we deal with the Pell Grant and how do we determine the actual cost? How do we pull travel in there? What are the basic essentials you need beyond the hard tuition?"
Q: Is Title IX part of your thought process in that?
A: "I think Title IX is a part of everything that we do. I think Title IX has been a great benefit in our league. We win just as many, if not more, women's championships than men's championships, and it's a significant part of who we are. It's something we're very proud of."
Q: Schools like the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga will not be able to afford the full cost of attendance in their athletic budgets. What is your view from their side?
A: "A university like Chattanooga and a university in the SEC are who they are, and they are who they are, period. I mean that in a positive way, because each of our schools has a mission and each of our conferences has a mission, and by creating a legislative function, it doesn't necessarily change who we are. Remember, everything we do is permissive, and so I think those with more of a concentration on a particular sport or sports maybe can have some flexibility in deciding what they want to do and how they want to do it.
"There is a legitimate competitive issue that people want to talk about, and we don't need to create competitive barriers. Part of it is a fear of the unknown and a changing of the underlying philosophy, and if we don't do it, what we're saying is that an institution here and an institution there are the same no matter if they're not the same. Then you can't put student-athletes first, and it's really a question of moving into the 21st century and putting the student-athletes first."
Q: One of the big storylines entering media days was Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall getting cited for marijuana possession. How come the SEC hasn't adopted universal drug policies when they exist at the NCAA level for bowl games and championship events?
A: "There have been three times in my 12-year tenure that we've looked at a conference-wide drug-testing program. We've brought it to the table for our institutions to consider, and each time for reasons of their own, it has not been voted in. The way it works is that each institution has its own drug-testing policy, and once you have one, if you violate it, it's an NCAA violation, so there is a leverage there, but as a conference, we have not decided to have a conference-wide policy."
Q: What has been your biggest accomplishment in your time here?
A: "When we first came, we were mired in a lot of infractions cases. We could never be who we wanted to be unless that was taken care of, and I think we've done a nice job of changing that culture. Those were the first questions I was getting asked 12 years ago, and now people don't even think of asking me about it. It was a mess, but it's all done, and that's a huge change.
"The other area was that we had never had a minority head football coach, and it was a big story when Sylvester Croom was hired at Mississippi State. Now we've had five, and it's a non-issue. Once we took care of those two things, I think it's no coincidence that we've seen a meteoric rise in this league."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.