Mike Slive used the Southeastern Conference Media Days to propose an “agenda of change.”
Just hours later, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier used the same platform to question the league’s commissioner.
On Wednesday — the opening day of the three-day event at Hoover, Ala. — Slive addressed four issues that he hoped would “stimulate a national discussion” in the wake of recruiting scandals that have swept across the country, including the SEC.
Slive, the league’s commissioner since 2002, focused on four topics: redefining benefits available to student-athletes; strengthening academic eligibility requirements for incoming freshmen and junior college transfers; modernize recruiting rules; and continuing the support of the NCAA’s efforts to improve the enforcement process.
The proposal that likely turned the most heads was Slive's suggestion to increase the minimum GPA for incoming freshmen from 2.0 to 2.5 in the 16 required core courses. He also raised the idea of establishing an annual satisfactory progress rule at the high school level that would require student-athletes to pass a required number of core courses during high school.
Slive said if the new model were adopted, student-athletes who didn’t meet the proposed standards would be able to enroll in school, receive financial aid and practice on a limited basis. The commissioner said, however, they wouldn’t be allowed to compete in games until they met academic qualifications for a year.
When asked about the proposed GPA changes, Spurrier said he doesn’t think it is necessary.
“For some reason, we seem to want to try to make it more and more difficult on some of these young men,” he said. “They come from difficult backgrounds, difficult academic settings and so forth. But whatever [officials] say the requirements are, certainly we’ll abide by it. They make the rules. We give our opinions. ... That doesn’t mean they’re going to agree with them. But we still have a right to give what we think is best. I think the requirements are pretty good the way they are right now.”
Among the other highlights of the commissioner’s lengthy statement, Slive suggested offering multi-year scholarships.
Currently, scholarships must be renewed every year.
He also added that the funding for student-athletes be extended beyond the current six years.
“Regardless of the reasons student-athletes leave early, whether to go pro, because of academic struggles or for personal or other reasons,” Slive said, “we want to keep the door open for those who want to come back and get their degree.”
Again, Spurrier offered a different perspective.
"That's a terrible idea, commissioner," he said. "If you go bad, don't show up to work, your butt will be out on the street. Everybody has to earn your way in life. You earn your way in life. Go from there. That's the way I believe. Luckily, coaches have four- and five-year contracts. They get paid off if they get canned, I guess.
"No, I don't think that is a good idea. The commissioner and I agree on a lot of things but not that one there."
Slive also pushed the NCAA to allow coaches to communicate with recruits via phone calls, text messages, Facebook, Twitter and other social media networks. He said the current legislation is set up to “criminalize essentially harmless behavior."
“It’s time to push the reset button on the regulatory approach to recruiting in order to move away from the idea that recruiting rules are designed to create a level playing field,” Slive said. “There are significant differences between institutions and resources, climate, tradition, history, stadiums and fan interest, among many other things, that make the idea of a level playing field an illusion. Rules governing text messaging and phone calls won’t alter that fact.”