SEC's Slive talks playoff and more at Media Days

HOOVER, Ala.—SEC commissioner Mike Slive quoted Shakespeare and Churchill — as well as Muhammad Ali — in his annual state-of-the-conference address that kicked off the league's annual football Media Days event here Tuesday.

Beginning his 10th year in the job, the scholarly Slive looked both backward and forward in his speech to a standing-room-only audience in a hotel ballroom. Looking back, he counted 62 national championships won by SEC teams in 16 sports over the past decade and, simultaneously, a tripling of revenue distributed to member schools. Looking ahead, he discussed the national college-football playoff, which will begin in the 2014 season, and the ongoing renegotiation of the SEC's television contracts.

Slive said the four-team playoff will be "unequivocally" good for the SEC and for college football. He traced SEC support for the idea to 2004, when undefeated Auburn was left out of the BCS title game.

Although university presidents and chancellors approved the playoff earlier this summer, Slive said important details will be worked out over the next few months.

"Lots of work left to be done," he said. "That includes the plan for revenue distribution, determining which bowls will be involved [as semifinal hosts], site selection for the national championship game and the composition of a selection committee."

Slive reiterated that the selection committee will be guided by "such criteria as won-loss record, strength of schedule, conference championships and head-to-head competition." Those guidelines, he said, "will require conferences and institutions to examine their current non-conference scheduling philosophies, balanced against the strength of [their] conference schedule."

Also this summer and perhaps into the fall, Slive said, negotiations will continue on amending the SEC's TV contracts with CBS and ESPN to reflect the additions of Texas A&M and Missouri to the league. In an interview after Tuesday's speech, Slive made it clear he feels the conference's expanded footprint significantly increases the value of its TV rights.

On the table as part of the renegotiation is a proposed SEC cable network, similar to the successful Big Ten Network (BTN).

SEC officials dubbed the proposed network "Project X" when unsuccessfully trying to keep the idea under wraps earlier this year.

"There has been a whole lot of speculation about Project X," Slive said. "Is it still a secret? I don't think so, but we now call it Project SEC.

"Our objective long-term is to work with our television partners to provide fans with greater access to their favorite teams, more opportunities to watch rivals and more insight into who we are: a conference of 14 great universities."

Slive declined to elaborate on the network but promised to do so "before I get too much older." He turns 72 next week.

Several presidents of SEC schools, including Georgia's Michael Adams, expressed enthusiasm for a network in interviews at the conference's spring meetings in Destin, Fla.

On other matters, Slive renewed his calls for athletic scholarships to be increased to cover the full cost of attendance and for the NCAA rule book to be significantly streamlined.