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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)

HOOVER, Ala. - Mike Slive's annual state of the conference address at SEC Football Media Days on Monday referenced great athletes (Muhammad Ali and Hank Aaron) and great minds (Winston Churchill, Dwight Eisenhower and Nelson Mandela).

Such flourishes have become staples in Slive's speeches.

But the main bullet point of the SEC commissioner's talk - yet another call for autonomy among college football's biggest and best - was delivered without verbal acrobatics.

Instead it was a stern warning to the NCAA.

"This is why it is critical for the NCAA to change, and to change in accordance with the vision proposed for the 21st century by the five conferences," Slive said in a crowded ballroom at the Wynfrey Hotel.

"We are not deaf to the din of discontent across collegiate athletics that has dominated the news."

RELATED: Slive Talks of Division IV Possibilities

The SEC, along with the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12, wants the NCAA's permission to make their own bylaws. If college football's 65 wealthiest schools don't get their wish, the so called Big Five conferences have floated the idea of breaking away.

Slive referred to the hypothetical group as "Division IV" at the SEC spring meetings in May. While there was no specific "Division IV" reference on Monday, the threat of secession remained.

"As I have said before, if we do not achieve a positive outcome under the existing big tent of Division I, we will need to consider the establishment of a venue with similar conferences and institutions where we can enact the desired changes in the best interest of our student athletes," Slive said.

Slive acknowledged the "angst" schools outside of the Big Five have expressed. Other adversaries of autonomy believe autonomy is another step down a slippery slope that ends at pay-for-play.

Gabe Wright, senior defensive lineman at Auburn, entertained the thought of turning a profit.

"I've seen the $40,000 it takes to keep us enrolled in school," he said. "I don't think you can ask more than that. The reason why I can't give you a definitive answer is I only have one more year. If I say we should get paid, I'm not going to be the one to do it, the one getting paid."

Slive hasn't called for players to make a monetary profit - at least not yet. Instead he is campaigning for permission to provide student athletes with full cost of attendance (tuition, room and board) and long-term medical coverage. Among other tweaks, he thinks schools should be able to fund parents' trips to official recruiting visits and bowl games.

"The focus is not on us having autonomy," Slive said. "The focus is on our ability to enact legislation that has student athlete well being and interest at its core."

The NCAA's board of directors will vote on the Big Five's autonomy request on Aug. 7.

"So we will know soon," Slive said.

RELATED: ACC's Swofford Optimistic About Big Five Autonomy

Slive On Network: The ESPN backed SEC Network has secured deals with Dish, AT&T U-verse and Cox, but major carriers DirecTV, Comcast and Time Warner Cable are not on board. Meanwhile the SEC network launches Aug. 14. Slive called for patience.

"For those of you who would prefer not to change providers - but of course you will by the time we launch - we are in serious conversations with most all providers, and I can assure you that there isn't anybody in this room who has a provider we are not in serious conversation with," he said.

Slive on Schedule: Slive stiff-armed the outside criticism the SEC received when it announced it would continue to play an eight-game conference schedule instead of shift to a nine-game conference slate.

"I don't consider nine games moving ahead," he said. "There is no inherent advantage that makes anybody better because they played nine games ... We think about schedule strength in terms of 12 games. Two thirds of your strength of schedule are your conference games. We believe with the depth and strength of our league that we have a unique strength of schedule for two thirds of our schedule."

July 15, 2014

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