Is Mike Slive a failure?
For years everyone loved SEC Commissioner Mike Slive. He was a powerbroker in the NCAA. He was an expert at management, and knew how to lead the conference. He landed a massive television deal. He was king of college football—maybe king of all college athletics.
But something is wrong in the SEC. Slive’s control has slipped.
He can’t control coaches. He looked impotent in handling Tennessee’s Lane Kiffin. He tried to butch up in his handling of Bruce Pearl, but even that looks weak as we learn more about the compliance problems at Tennessee.
Certainly, the SEC has endured some of its most serious problems under Slive’s watch. The officiating problems became a regular theme of Monday talk radio in 2009. The 2010 season was dominated by allegations of pay-for-play involving Mississippi State and Auburn’s recruitment of Cam Newton. Whatever ultimately comes from that investigation, the entire Cam Newton affair damaged the entire conference.
The SEC brand was stained.
And Mike Slive did nothing to stop it.
When conference expansion started during the offseason, the SEC seemed to stand on the sidelines as the Big Ten and Pac-10 were setting the agenda. The Pac-10’s plans involved seizing part of the Big XII illustrated bold strategic vision that appears lacking in the SEC. The Big Ten hired an investment bank to guide its expansion plans. But the SEC seemed aloof. The conference stood aside like a pacifist in the midst of grand struggle.
Of course, Slive had a plan. He wisely offered Texas A&M admission to the SEC. When A&M considered a bold move into the SEC, it scuttled the Pac-10’s and Texas’ plan.
It was divide and conquer. Brilliant.
But it preserved the status quo; it maintained the balance of power. Sometimes that is a good thing, but not always.
When other conferences have visionary leadership, the balance of power can quickly shift. One area of particular concern should be television.
The Big Ten is in a dying region. Have you seen the demographics for the Big Ten states? Mismanagement is just one way to put it, but the region is not growing and in some cases looks to be shrinking. The Big Ten must expand and it needs to expand into states with a better demographic.
The Pac-10, now Pac-12, is in a region with much better demographics. And the conference has a visionary leader. The commissioner has figured out that expansion can be accomplished via television contracts. And expansion can be anywhere—even Asia. According to this report from the San Jose Mercury News, “The third phase of his plan to remake the conference … first phase: expansion; second: domestic TV deal … is to make a big push into Asia (and perhaps Europe, as well). It makes a ton of sense (and cents) given how many Pac-12 students, athletes, fans and alums are of Asian ethnicity … and given the size of that market … and the popularity of some Olympic and women’s sports throughout the Pacific Rim.”
Even if this plan isn’t a winner, it shows other conferences are thinking outside the box—beyond our borders. The Pac-12 has progressive leadership and a vision.
What can the SEC do to remain a leader? Is Mike Slive up to the job?
He sure didn’t seem up to the job of policing the conference in 2010. Unfortunately, Slive’s legacy in the SEC will be mostly remembered for the Cam Newton situation and not his other bold initiatives like the television deal or saving the Big XII to maintain the status quo in college football.