If you paid close attention to the movements inside the Southeastern Conference, it should not have come as a surprise what Commissioner Mike Slive had to say in his opening remarks to kick off the SEC Football Media Days Monday.
Dating back to when former SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer moved to add two teams to the then-10 team league. Kramer brought Arkansas and South Carolina into the football-oriented family. A giddy Kramer even wore one of those plastic Hog heads as he made the announcement.
Kramer made the addition to bring the league to 12 teams. It was no coincidence 12 was the minimum teams required to have a conference championship game. It has brought millions into the SEC’s bank account.
Jump ahead to Slive. He crossed state lines to add Missouri and Texas A&M, expanding the SEC’s footprint.
With 14 teams on the roster, the conference will launch its new SEC Network next month, quenching even the most rabid fan’s thirst for all-SEC, all the time.
It and other conference’s movement to add teams created chatter that it evolved into a handful of super conferences. They are prepared to jump off the NCAA ship if necessary.
Slive is pushing for autonomy for the Fab Five of college football. The Fab Five consists of the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and the ACC.
They will explore implementing financial stipends for players in revenue producing sports, which means football and perhaps basketball. They will make their own rules, an enormous task that will require some deep thinking from the Fab Five’s leadership.
It begs for hypothetical questions. If you give 85 football players thousands of dollars more than the scholarship cost that pays tuition, room and board and books, what do you have to give women basketball players? Title IX is a federal law that I don’t see going anywhere.
Slive is willing to tackle the monster.
He quoted the late President Dwight David Eisenhower.
“Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him.’’
Slive also dropped a Winston Churchill warning of yesteryear that fits where the SEC is treading.
“Continuous effort is the key to unlocking our potential.’’
So forward they go, with or without the NCAA’s blessing. The haves grew weary of having the have-nots out-vote them on issues the haves considered essential to their future.
Slive first called for reform at the 2011 Media Days. He will not wave a flag of surrender.
“It includes the NCAA’s enactment of a governing system that will provide greater autonomy for the SEC and four other conferences for the benefit of student-athletes,’’ Slive said.
“To enhance the opportunity to support a quality undergraduate education for our student-athletes for both their playing years and beyond if needed, to better assist student-athletes seeking to transition from college athletics into the world of professional sport, and to expand the existing health and wellness support provided to student-athletes. This is a small, partial list of what we hope and dream to accomplish.’’
In my humble opinion, the Fab Five will provide a NFL minor or developmental league. College football has loosely served as a minor league for the NFL, but has disguised it behind the student-athlete nomenclature in where the student part often takes a back-row seat. It’s why a college basketball player can leave after playing one semester and be drafted by the NBA. The NFL requires a prospect be three years removed from high school or have three years of college before becoming eligible for its draft.
Slive is adamant the Fab Five will get what they want, or break away from the NCAA to make their own rules.
He concluded his speech by quoting Nelson Mandela, a man who fought years for racial equality while imprisoned.
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does,’’ Mandala said.
The original Fab Five moved the music world in the ’60s. Today’s collegiate Fab Five is determined to change college athletics.