Mike Slive, the SEC Commissioner—who played a key but unheralded role in unraveling the 'super conference' expansion plans this past off-season—who has been heavily criticized for his 'inaction' in the Cam Newton scandal, may be poised to take matters into his own hands and save face for the conference.
Since Slive was named commissioner in 2002, the SEC has won five of the seven BCS National Championship Games—and were a fraction away (.019 in the final BCS Ranking) from playing for a sixth—and currently has two teams in the BCS top five.
To see that BCS dominance (and dollars) continue; Slive has been accused of looking the other way in regards to allegations from Mississippi State that the father of No. 2-ranked Auburn's Heisman front running QB Cam Newton solicited improper benefits for his son's signature on a national letter of intent.
“Par for the course,” many have said, coming from the league office in Birmingham that employs perhaps the most criticized officiating crews in college football.
For years, people have speculated that the chronically bad officiating in the SEC is not without a certain ‘Yellowhammer State’ bias.
Never more so than last year when Alabama—a leading candidate in the BCS—apparently couldn’t be flagged for a holding call and opponents needed to clearly demonstrate sideline receptions or interceptions by getting at least three feet in bounds.
The conspiracy theory has expanded at times to include other SEC front-runners such as Florida and LSU at certain points last year and Auburn this year.
Not a tin-foil hatter type myself, I tend to think they (SEC Officials as a whole) just stink and need to be upgraded, a move the SEC can certainly afford as much as it deserves.
Yet, given the current situation, one can certainly appreciate the criticism and one can only imagine how pervasive and poignant it will become if Auburn—despite the known facts of CamGate—is allowed to continue unabated to the SEC and BCS Championships with a possible Heisman Trophy awarded only to have to vacate those awards in the immediate future.
The SEC has earned the reputation as ‘the toughest football conference in America’ on the field but can ill afford to sully that reputation by turning a blind eye to programs paying for the players that earn that respect.
Mike Slive knows this—as his history as an NCAA Compliance Attorney would indicate—and it is quite possible that his recent action against Tennessee’s Head Basketball Coach was a preparatory precedence that points to imminent action against Newton and Auburn.
Florida, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Auburn are all known to have answered questions concerning Cam Newton’s recruitment.
Yet, if a fraction of the allegations against Auburn prove to be true, the entire SEC will have an enormous black eye.
One that could have an impact on the SEC’s ‘dominant’ perception in the eyes of the ‘human poll’ voters in future years.
Perhaps the only way to control that damage at this point is for the SEC to protect itself—as the presidents intended when they added "The Commissioner has the duty and power to investigate the validity of violations and impose penalties and sanctions against member institutions, their athletic staff members or student-athletes, for practices and conduct which violate the spirit, as well as the letter of NCAA and SEC rules and regulations." to the SEC By-Laws this past spring—and take pre-emptive action as opposed to waiting on the slow but heavy hand of the NCAA.
The bottom line is the SEC needs a hero, like Bonnie Tyler sang in the '80’s, "I'm holding out for a hero till the morning light."
Look for that morning light to come from Slive’s office in Birmingham sometime shortly after the Iron Bowl this Friday and leading up to the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 4.
(Note: Any action that includes vacating or forfeiting games by Auburn gives life to Alabama, Arkansas and LSU for the Western Division’s representation in the SEC Championship next Saturday in Atlanta depending on the outcome of the Iron Bowl and Battle for the Boot.)