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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.

"Obviously when we did our deal we set the pace, and in our contract we have a concept called look-ins," Slive said. "At periodic points during the life of the contract, we can sit down with ESPN and take a look-in and look at the status of television, technology, all aspects of television, and at that point make adjustments that the parties agree are appropriate to make sure that everything that we intended to achieve with the contracts would in fact be available to us."

—The talk of expansion has died down since last summer, when Oklahoma President David Boren said the SEC offered his school and Texas A&M spots in the league. Slive doesn't dismiss the possibility of future expansion but said nothing is in the works.

"As we speak right now, there isn't really anything going on," he said. Then he repeated, "As we speak."

He had previously said the SEC wouldn't make such a move unless there was a "significant shift in the conference paradigm"? Nebraska joined the former Big Ten, while Colorado and Utah moved to the Pac-12.

"I don't think (that) constituted a paradigm shift as I was defining them in my mind when I said it," Slive said. "Obviously I think both of those leagues have helped themselves by what they've done. We will be always thinking about what is it that the SEC can or should do to make itself stronger. Whether or not that involves expansion, we'll just have to wait and see."

—The SEC also submitted proposals in June, in a letter obtained by AP, to relax some of the rules governing contact between coaches and recruits. That includes allowing coaches to text recruits and eliminating the rule against incidental contact by combining the recruiting periods for having contact with prospects and evaluating them.

"Instances of incidental contact, commonly referred to as 'bumps,' are a source for media reports questioning the integrity of college coaches, create the expectation that high school coaches arrange incidental contact during an evaluation period and place college coaches intent on following the rules at a distinct disadvantaged compared to those who act with disregard," the letter states.

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