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Slive: NCAA change is in the air

By John Zenor

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, July 19 2011 4:05 p.m. MDT

Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive is interviewwd at his office at the SEC headquarters in Birmingham, Ala., Monday, July 18, 2011.

Dave Martin, Associated Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive is well aware of the recent criticism of the NCAA — complaints about prolonged investigations and rulings that leave coaches and administrators scratching their heads.

He thinks change is coming.

"I have a sense that there are several of us that feel like change is important and addressing these issues from a national perspective is important," Slive told The Associated Press. "And I fully expect that we will do that, and I fully expect that the SEC will make every effort to contribute to that discussion and hopefully the appropriate action following those discussions."

The influential commissioner of a league that has won the past five national titles in football is more diplomat than maverick, but he also acknowledges there's a "growing perception that things aren't exactly as they ought to be in some ways."

Slive wants to see quicker turnarounds for NCAA investigations, something that has been an issue in his own league, and supports beefing up the annual value of scholarships. He stops short of supporting paying players.

Slive addressed those issues and everything from a television contract that is the second-largest among college conferences to lingering questions about expansion in an interview ahead of SEC media days Wednesday through Friday.

The issue of lengthy investigations bubbled up at SEC meetings in June, when Tennessee coach Derek Dooley and Auburn's Gene Chizik reportedly peppered NCAA vice president of enforcement Julie Roe Lach with questions about the conclusion of investigations at their respective schools. (Slive declined to address specific cases, including the Cam Newton pay-for-play saga involving Mississippi State and Auburn).

Tennessee is awaiting a ruling following a 22-month investigation into the football and men's basketball programs. The NCAA's investigation into Auburn's recruitment of the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Newton apparently continues, though the university hasn't received an official letter of inquiry.

Investigations also are ongoing at Ohio State, North Carolina and Oregon — Auburn's opponent in the BCS championship game in January.

Slive said he's optimistic that "positive changes" will be made in enforcement and other areas under NCAA President Mark Emmert. The NCAA already made changes in late June aimed at allowing enforcement staff to more easily put more people on an investigation when appropriate.

"I think what everyone wants — and this wouldn't necessarily be restricted to coaches — is that when issues arise, that they be handled in a timely way," Slive said. "And that's not always easy when you're dealing with a process that doesn't have subpoena power and power to compel answers to interrogatories. My sense is that what Julie and Dr. Emmert are trying to do is find a way without those resources to reconfigure their staff and how they do things to try to address the question of timeliness."

As for paying athletes, Slive doesn't support essentially putting them on a university payroll, but thinks they should get the full cost of an education. The Big Ten has floated that idea, and NCAA President Mark Emmert and commissioners of the other five BCS conferences have said it merits study.

"Each institution through its financial aid office has a number that is the full cost at their campus," Slive said. "I'm hoping and fully expect that that national discussion will take place and I for one hope that it will be adopted."

Other issues facing Slive and the SEC include.

— The SEC's groundbreaking 15-year, $2.25 billion TV deal with ESPN — not to mention a $55 million-a-year pact with CBS — signed in 2008 has been overtaken. The Pac-12's new 12-year deal with Fox and ESPN is worth about $3 billion, which might prompt a renegotiation for the SEC.

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