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SEC commissioner Mike Slive hopes to have new television deals by the end of the year. (Associated Press)

SEC commissioner Mike Slive hopes to have new television deals by the end of the year. (Associated Press)

Slive pushes for Big Five autonomy

Last Modified: Saturday, May 31, 2014 6:26 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

After years of beating around the bush, Mike Slive brought out the weed wacker.

The SEC Commissioner basically told the NCAA to back off or else.

Friday Slive sent a clear message to the entire world of college athletes: the big boys want to run the show.

He said if the NCAA doesn’t allow the Big Five conferences special rules, or at least the ability to make their own rules, then they are going to leave and form a new super division.

“It’s not something we want to do,” Slive told The Associated Press. “We want to the ability to have autonomy in areas that has a nexus to the well-being of student athletes. I am somewhat optimistic it will pass, but if it doesn’t, our league would certainly want to move to a Division IV.

“My colleagues, I can’t speak for anybody else, but I’d be surprised if they didn’t feel the same way.”

The Big Five, SEC, ACC, Pac-12, Big Ten and Big 12, claim they want to play nice with everybody, but seem willing to do it while holding a gun to the head of the little guys.

And to them the little guys are everybody outside their big circle.

Granted, this is mostly about football, but it could reach other sports as well.

“They have the money to do something and they want to use that power,” said McNeese State Athletic Director Bruce Hemphill.

Slive’s comments came on the same day the SEC divided up $292.8 million in what is being called a redistribution of revenue from last year’s sports seasons. That’s almost $21 million per school.

When you have that much cash coming in, you have power. It seems the SEC and other big leagues are ready to use that power.

So if Slive and his cartel don’t get their way, they promise to take their television deals and millions of dollars and go home.

Nothing new here. It’s no longer the victors getting the spoils but rather the college football elite.

Slive then tried to tell the world that this would not disrupt the way NCAA championships are decided.

In other words, he and his bunch don’t want to ruin the money maker that is the men’s basketball tournament.

But football, it looks like the big boys are willing to blow that up and keep all the ruins for themselves.

“We hope everyone realizes we are moving into a new era and this is the way to retain your collegiate model,” Slive said. “It would be a disappointment, and in my view a mistake, not to adapt the model. This is a historic moment. If we don’t seize the moment, we’ll make a mistake.”

Don’t kid yourself here, this has been in the works for some time.

Rumors and talk of such a move have circulated almost yearly.

“We have been watching what is happening,” Hemphill said. “Things are changing and McNeese has to be ready for those changes and put ourselves in a position to do what is best for us.”

We have heard the big conferences talk about not playing, and thus not paying, smaller schools for games.

That was in an effort to keep the money in the pockets of the rich.

Just another case of the rich getting richer.

In a way Slive has a point. Division II and Division III each have their own set of rules. So it does make some sense that the biggest of the programs should have its own set.

They should have the power because they have the money.

This could leave the NCAA hanging.

Officially the NCAA is run by the school presidents, who can stick together and vote the Big Five out on almost any of their ideas.

That gives the balance of power to the poor, or relatively poor if you prefer.

This could spell real trouble for smaller schools like McNeese.

If the LSU’s and Ohio State’s of the world decide to pull away, those cash games that help keep the Cowboys going could be gone as well.

This fall McNeese plays Nebraska and next year opens with LSU.

Those checks are almost in the mail.

But if the Big Five pull away, all schools might be fending for themselves.

“Those games are important to our program,” Hemphill said.

It does give McNeese exposure and money, but for how much longer is now a question.

“We’re in a squeeze here,” Florida President Bernie Machen said. “There are now six lawsuits that name our conference in them that specifically have to do with the whole cost of attendance and stuff like that. We would like to make changes, but we can’t because the NCAA doesn’t allow us to. We’re really caught between a rock and a hard place.”

Machen has no idea what being caught between a rock and a hard place is really like.

Those big schools are caught more like between a cash machine and a bank.

If Machen wants to see what it is really like to be in a tough financial spot he should check out the books of athletic programs like McNeese or other small schools trying to limp along.

All this and players wanting to become part of a union makes you wonder just what the future of college athletics will look like.

It’s clear the Big Five want to pay their players and not pay other schools.

Machen should know it’s that power play that is the real squeeze here.

Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com

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