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Q&A with SEC commissioner Mike Slive: A sit down with a strong voice

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DESTIN, Fla. -- At the end of this week Mike Slive will put the finishing touches on his 10th year as the commissioner of the Southeastern Conference. By any measure it's been a helluva decade.

Championships? Got it. The SEC had two teams (LSU, Alabama) in the 2011 BCS championship game and so the conference posted its sixth consecutive national title in football. Kentucky won the NCAA men's basketball championship last April. South Carolina has won back-to-back national championships in baseball and Florida is the No. 1 seed in the upcoming tournament, where the SEC has more teams (8) in the field of 64 than any other conference.

Slive: 'We support the four-team playoff. How it's done and where it's done are issues we all have to discuss as a group.' (AP)  
Slive: 'We support the four-team playoff. How it's done and where it's done are issues we all have to discuss as a group.' (AP)  
Money? Got that, too. At the end of Slive's full first year as commissioner (2002-03) the SEC had shared revenues from TV, bowls, and other sources of $101 million. On Friday when the annual SEC spring meetings conclude, that figure will top $220 million, or about $20 million per school. Life is good in the SEC.

Slive, 71, shows no signs of resting on his laurels. He is preparing to be one of the strongest voices in the room when the future of postseason football is determined sometime in June. He is also looking into the possibility of the SEC creating its own television network, as the Big Ten has done so successfully.

As the SEC began its spring meetings here on Tuesday, Slive sat down with the media to discuss a variety of topics:

Q. You said a couple of years ago that this is the "Golden Age of the SEC." With six straight national champions in football, I guess the Golden Age continues.

Slive: It has been another special year for us. It has been really gratifying to watch the commitment to excellence of the members of our conference. And we get to add two great institutions (Texas A&M, Missouri) to our family. We have a lot to celebrate this week.

Q. The BCS commissioners will meet on June 13 and again on June 20. Any doubt in your mind that we will have a four-team playoff (that begins after the 2014 regular season) before the summer is over?

Slive: I'd say the right word to use is "hopeful." We are committed to the four-team playoff. We've been talking about it for four years and that is where we're comfortable. We support the four-team playoff. How it's done and where it's done are issues we all have to discuss as a group.

Q. You are on record wanting the best four teams to get into the playoff, regardless of conference. Other commissioners want to limit it to conference champs. Can there be a compromise?

Slive: There are a number of issues that the commissioners still have to work through. I'm hopeful that somehow we can find a place where we can all be comfortable. But our conference believes that if you're going to have a four-team playoff then the best four teams should be chosen for that playoff.

Q. Would you be willing to compromise for a plan that might include three top conference champs and a wild card?

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Slive: I support taking 1-2-3-4. I think that is the simplest solution and the one our fans will best understand and accept. I believe that we are all guardians of the game and we should do what is best for the game. Yes, we are responsible for our own conferences. But I think we have to be careful about gerrymandering who should be in the playoffs.

Q. Are you convinced at this point that the semifinals should be held within the bowl structure?

Slive: My sense from talking to our people is that we feel we would be better served in the bowls. The bowl system has been a part of college football for a long time. That is where our comfort level is.

Q. There has been some discussion of replacing the BCS formula with some kind of selection committee. Would you be in favor of that?

Slive: I think we need to look at what we're currently doing and see if there is a way to improve it. But if the objective is to pick the best four teams and a case can be made that a selection committee can better do that, then I am open to that discussion.

Q. Two of your coaches, Steve Spurrier and Les Miles, strongly support the idea that only games within a division should be counted to determine division championships. Does that idea have any legs?

Slive: The idea will be brought before our athletic directors but it hard for me to talk about conference games that don't count.

Q. There is talk that the SEC wants to form its own network like the one that has been so successful for the Big Ten. Is that on your drawing board? Slive: We are currently talking to our TV partners about our TV future.

Q. So does that mean it's going to happen sooner rather than later?

Slive: We are currently talking to our TV partners about our TV future.

Q. SEC teams currently play one team permanently in the other division such as Alabama vs. Tennessee, Georgia vs. Auburn and LSU vs. Florida. Some schools want to do away with these permanent "crossovers" for more schedule flexibility. Will that be discussed?

Slive: We discussed it today and I think the majority is in favor (of keeping the crossover games). But one thing's for sure: The First Amendment is alive and well in the SEC.

Q. Earlier this month the SEC and the Big 12 announced an agreement to play each other in a New Year's Day Bowl game. What has been the response? Will that game be a part of the four-team playoff as a semifinal host?

Slive: The response has been overwhelming. We don't have a site and we don't have a TV network but a lot of people have reached out to express interest in the game. Until the BCS shakes out we won't know where this game fits on the landscape.


Tony Barnhart is in his fifth season as a contributor to CBSSports.com. He is a college football analyst for CBS Sports and The CBS Sports Network. Prior to joining CBS he was the national college football writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 24 years. He has written five books on college football.
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