DESTIN, Fla. — Moments after announcing another record payday for the Southeastern Conference, commissioner Mike Slive fired a shot over the bow at the NCAA:
Approve legislative autonomy for the Power 5 conferences or else.
“I think if it doesn’t pass, I think the next move would be to go to the Division IV,” Slive said. “It’s not something we want to do.”
The NCAA board of directors will convene in August to decide whether to grant the SEC, Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12, Big Ten and Pacific-12 independence to determine their own rules within the structure of the NCAA.
If denied, the 65 schools would break away from the Football Bowl Subdivision — previously referred to as Division I — that now features 128 teams and form their own NCAA division.
“We want to be in the NCAA, and we all want to be in Division I,” Slive said Friday to conclude the SEC’s spring meetings. “This is not my hope how this works out.
“I’m optimistic we’re not going to Division IV.”
The SEC is the richest and most powerful of those five conferences. The league announced it generated a record $309.6 million in revenue in 2013-14, or $20.9 million per school.
The addition of the SEC Network is expected to generate another $15 million to $20 million per institution.
Given the SEC’s stature and revenue stream, Slive’s words carry weight like few people involved in college sports.
While the SEC hopes not to leverage its position, UF President Bernie Machen said some things are going to have to change to better serve athletes.
“It’s not just meal money,” Machen said. “We’re talking about medical coverage, we’re talking about a lifetime opportunity to get a degree, we’re talking about maybe incentives to help people come back and get their degree.
“There are all kinds of things that can be done to make the system better for the student-athletes if we can just get some flexibility.”
Issues related to sports agents dealings with athletes also were a hot topic in Destin.
Machen, however, questions whether the Power 5 ultimately will receive the green light to set their own rules.
“This is the NCAA we’re dealing with, guys,” he said.
But Machen said a “crisis” could emerge if the Power 5 is denied autonomy. This is highlighted by a number of unresolved lawsuits focused on cost of attendance stipends.
“We’re in a squeeze here,” he said. “There are now six lawsuits that name our conference and specifically have to do with the whole cost of attendance. Yet we would like to make changes and yet we can’t because the NCAA doesn’t allow us to.
“We desperately would like some flexibility.”
The NCAA currently is proposing the Power 5 conferences should get the approval of two-thirds of schools and four out of five conferences in order to enact legislation. Slive would like to see the threshold to pass legislation lowered to 60 percent — from 43 to 39 schools — and three of the five leagues.
“We think this is an important piece,” Slive said.
In August, the NCAA board of directors could agree and put the matter of autonomy up for a January vote by the full membership.
Slive does not expect things to reach a crisis point. But in case it does, he concluded a long week of meetings with one final salvo: “In August if the board rejects the steering committee’s recommendation, you should call me up.”