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By LEE ANN HERRING-OLVEDO
The “circus” as it is often referred to could be an understatement in the spectacle that is SEC Media days. Each year the vets, the newbies, fans, coaches, and players gather to get a glimpse of the unofficial start to the football season. Whether you have experienced it in person or on tv one thing is certain the gauntlet of the SEC Media Days is truly the “big show” of all media events.
Not too often in a football address can one person manage to bring in Winston Churchill, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and Muhammad Ali and make it fit. However, it was no surprise to me that SEC Commissioner Slive used his Dartmouth rhetoric to showcase where we have been, where we are and most importantly where the SEC is going in the future.
“I don’t usually spend a whole lot of time looking back in my rear view mirror there is plenty of time to do that in the future when I get a little bit older. Nonetheless, a wise man once we must look to the past for inspiration for the future.”
If you can take away anything for Commissioner Slive address today is that we must hold on to our roots but not be afraid to evolve into something new and something greater. Through the course of his address it was resounding that the SEC must continue to be creative, innovative, and think outside the box as we move on to new parallels.
Some of the key points he mapped out where the successes from the last 10 years, accomplishments of our student athletes, current issues facing our conference, and the future of the league. So let’s break them down and see if it Slive has been a hit or a miss for the SEC!
A Decade of Reflection in the SEC:
When you look back on anything in life you set to do it’s interesting to see how much you have changed or grown from the initial time you embarked on a particular journey. Slive reflected on the initial challenges he saw 10 years ago as being: Improving the academic performance of our student athletes leading to graduation, maintain preeminent competitive success, fulfilling our responsibilities to ensure diversity and opportunity, ensure our future financial security of our athletic departments, and putting infractions and rules violations behind us.
How far we have come he stated and how much faster we were able to achieve these goals than most thought we would. But the beauty of it is that we were able to do it while educating student athletes and winning championships.
“10 years ago the story was that no minority served as the head football coach in the SEC and today we have 3.” He continued on to show that this is not just evident in our football program but in other men’s and women’s SEC athletic programs.” It is no longer a story but a part of who we are.”
Now of course you can’t talk athletics without addressing the rule book especially in the SEC. “ In the area of compliance we have made significant progress & tackled infractions head on. At the same time we have enjoyed the most sustained competitive success in the history of the conference, and that is not coincidence.”
In the SEC the when it comes to revenue we can walk the walk and talk the talk from 2002-2012 we have nearly tripled the amount of annual revenue that we distribute to our member institutions. Though we have found success in attaining and meeting the challenges Slive urges that we must continue to be the trendsetters of the league “ Creative, Innovative, and think outside the box. As the late great Winston Churchill said, “to improve is to change, to be perfect is to change often.” Our focus on the future will echo that sentiment.”
Advocates of Change
“We will continue to advocate for benefit for change for all student athletes.” Slives experience does not take away from his bold progressive innovations to lead the conference and athletics into the next generation. Some of the initiatives stressed were: increasing the amount of full scholarships so athletes can meet the full cost of attending college, eliminate rules that are hurdles for former student athletes who have used full eligibility who want to come back and get there degree, stressing the importance of academics in the 9th grade so student athletes will be eligible.
Dylan sung times they are a changing. Slive is right there with him advocating that we need to “hit the reset button on recruiting” and reform our recruiting practices by allowing text messaging and other items that our the language of our student athletes. We need to focus on things that our important, removing hard and fast recruiting to a recruiting person day model, and regulating only what counts instead of media pages and letterheads.
Slive indirect reference to the turmoil at Penn St. was a strong message to not just the SEC but for all conferences the importance of integrity is not to the program but to the University itself. “Last week’s headlines remind us that we must be ever vigilant on all issues of integrity and that our primary mission is to educate and protect young people. “We must maintain an honest and open dialogue across all levels of university administration. There must be an effective system of checks and balances within the administrative structure to protect all who come in contact with it, especially those who cannot protect themselves.”, “No one program, no one person, no matter how popular, not matter how successful, can be allowed to derail the soul of an institution.”
To change the channel Slive goes on to boast on the various accolades received by SEC Student athletes that are often over looked. Slive was clear that the academic success of our student athletes in the SEC is as strong in the classroom and community as it is on the sports field.
The New Face& New Era
Clearly in the 80 years of existence the SEC has not had to many members be able to be selected into the good ole ball conference. The story of course this year is that 2 Big 12 powerhouses in Mizzou & A&M were able to come in to the exclusive club that is the SEC. Slive emphasized the strong academic & athletics traditions of both these institutions are just the right fit and we welcome these passionate institutions gladly in to the conference. Though we all know in the back or our mind on the gridiron there will be no love loss on Saturday for these two newbies. Though he stressed the unique culture coming together to create two dynamic thome openers for the new teams on Sept. 8th as UGA vs. Mizzou & FLA vs. A&M.
Slive could have not transitioned into the future of the SEC in his remark “In the play the Tempest, Shakespeare wrote “What is past is prologue” and that’s a parable here we are venturing into a new era that which are filled with opportunities we can recognize and some we won’t”
Clearly the closing remarks on the future from talks on Project Xs (SEC quest for Network), Post Season 4 Playoffs, Champions bowl partnership in the Big 12/SEC. Are a sign of Slives’ determination to create an even better existing face and brand for the SEC conference to continue to build new foundations for athletics programs, fans, and the universities themselves
Slive’s powerful close speaks for itself, “Muhammad Ali once said, Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision, It is our desire, our dream and our vision for SEC student athletes to continue to push forward with a pioneering spirit to position them for success on and off the field in the future. We are not resting on our laurels no champion can.”
Well it hard to narrow down so many visions and recollections Slive spoke of in his annual State of the SEC address, but attention to all southern belles and gents break out those wayfarers because the future sure looks bright for the SEC for years to come that were going to be wearing shades for decades.