HOOVER, Ala. — Autonomy will be the hot topic when Southeastern Conference officials, coaches and athletic directors gather for spring meetings.
Commissioner Mike Slive said Wednesday during an interview with The Associated Press the SEC wants to ensure that the five biggest football conferences can decide how their own legislative process works in many areas affecting their athletes. The NCAA board of directors is expected to vote on a restructuring in early August.
The current proposal would require a two-thirds vote by the 65 schools at those power leagues to pass legislation. Slive said that threshold and the interpretation of that legislation are concerns for the SEC, but didn’t discuss specific changes.
“Our presidents and chancellors have unanimously supported this effort to create autonomy in these areas that are related to student-athletes, so I anticipate that we will continue to support it,” he said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press. “And I do anticipate that we will also want to see that the proposed model is modified so that autonomy really means autonomy, that the five conferences can determine how their own legislative process will work.
“This isn’t about five commissioners, this is about 65 institutions and their presidents. I’m optimistic that these changes will occur and that we will be able to fully support the model going forward.”
The SEC’s spring meetings are next week in Destin, Fla., and convene without hot-button issues like expansion and football scheduling to worry about.
That leaves plenty of time for the bid for autonomy by the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC.
They’re seeking decision-making powers in funding the full cost of scholarships, handling health care and other areas involving their athletes.
Other changes under consideration include providing money for families to travel to NCAA tournaments, more resources for academic and career counseling and creating mandatory break times from sports and overhauling transfer rules.
Pac-12 university presidents sent a letter to the other 53 presidents at the five conferences last week formalizing their proposals for sweeping changes that appear to be in line with what their major-conference peers have been supporting.
Slive is adamant about the need to consider overhauling the transfer rules, though he declined to discuss specific changes.
“Clearly it’s time for us to have serious conversations about the transfer rule and how it applies,” Slive said. “I anticipate that there’ll be some spirited conversation about that once we get the autonomy to deal with that.
“We have been dealing with areas that we believe need to be addressed. We have not gotten into any more detail about that.”
SEC football coaches who tout their offseason conditioning programs and the voluntary summer workouts that typically draw pretty close to 100-percent participation might be especially interested in the prospect of more limitations on the sports-related demands on athletes in and out of season.
“Every conversation that we have at spring meetings is interesting and spirited,” Slive said. “Clearly, everyone has interest in what we’re thinking about but the focus is on the student-athlete for the 21st century, so we’ll start from there.”
The PAC-12 letter also suggested revisiting the idea of making freshmen ineligible in men’s basketball, where players can turn pro after one season.
Slive said that topic comes up occasionally “but it’s not on any agenda that I’m aware of.”
Other topics that Slive expects at spring meetings include:
—The SEC Network.
Slive said he’s optimistic that the network due to launch in August will line up other distributors beyond AT&T U-verse and Dish, but adds that “whether it comes before or after we launch is another question.” Slive is among those who doesn’t use either of those outlets for his TV programming. “I will have the distributor or distributors that carry the SEC Network, which for me will require a change,” he said.
The league began reviewing all SEC nonconference schedules in men’s basketball before last season in an effort to beef up NCAA tournament resumes. He said he expects the rotation of permanent opponents within the SEC’s 18-game schedules to be resolved at the spring meetings. “We’ve discussed at each of our last three or four AD meetings and we’ll discuss it again,” Slive said. “I think we’re beginning to see the fruits of our labor in this area.”
The league has already decided to stick with its eight-game format for football schedules.