The SEC’s boss of the past decade is a natural diplomat and consensus maker who would rather let you congratulate him — a good thing always, but especially this week.
He was in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday with other conference commissioners, pitching the future of college football’s postseason to the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee. The presidents bought it, so the future will look a lot like what he and Atlantic Coast Conference commish John Swofford suggested four years ago.
The new, seeded four-team playoff will position the BCS for more TV revenue, and there’s the matter of splitting the revenue among conferences. With talk of splitting based on top 25 BCS finishes since 1998, let’s just say the SEC appears well positioned to be the biggest financial winner.
If Slive was the gloating sort, that might have been harder to stomach for many who have had a say in changing college football’s postseason. He certainly has a lot to gloat about this week, and it goes beyond Tuesday’s news that college football’s establishment bought into his idea.
All Slive does is win.
You see, the SEC has won not only the past six BCS championships. It’s also tied for the lead in overall championships for the 2011-12 school year.
The league could have had a major-sports sweep, but South Carolina lost to Arizona in the College World Series’ title series, which wrapped up Monday night. Had South Carolina won its third consecutive national title in baseball, the SEC would have won in football, men’s basketball and baseball in the same school year.
As it is, the league will have to settle for nine national championships in 2011-12, which ties the Pac-12 for the lead among Division I conferences.
Alabama, of course, accounted for four of those nine championships — football, women’s gymnastics, softball and women’s golf.
Kentucky won in men’s basketball.
Florida won in women’s tennis, men’s outdoor track and men’s indoor track.
LSU won in women’s outdoor track.
As for the Pac-12’s haul, folks in SEC country sure covet baseball. Tip your cap to Arizona and its coach, Andy Lopez, formerly Florida’s head coach.
Auburn fans got used to winning swimming and diving titles, but Cal swept the men’s and women’s championships for 2011-12.
Otherwise, most SEC fans will gladly concede men’s tennis (Southern Cal), men’s water polo (Southern Cal), women’s water polo (Stanford), women’s indoor track (Oregon), women’s volleyball (UCLA) and women’s soccer (Stanford).
And if Slive was more like, say, the Big Ten’s Jim Delany, then Slive would have just been intolerable amid all of this change he was selling.
He could’ve gone all mouth of the South about all of those championships.
He could’ve gone all mouth of the South about the TV sets coming into the league with Missouri and Texas A&M, which officially become SEC members effective Sunday.
But that’s not Mike Slive.
He’s the thinker-rather-than-talker who steered the SEC out of a heap of NCAA troubles that existed when he started in the job in 2002, and he’s the soft talker who brings others around to his view.
He does it without demanding one’s pride.
Yes, having the big stick helped. Two SEC teams playing in the most recent BCS final helped to bring more of college football’s influence sphere around to the four-team playoff.
It took an Alabama-LSU rematch this past season to get others to see that maybe Slive and Swofford had a point when they suggested a plus-one four years ago.
It took a show of power to finally convince others of the new postseason format — the one that will produce all of the new revenue that conferences will divvy at a time when the SEC is positioned to get the most.
But Slive’s style certainly didn’t hurt, and imagine the damage the wrong personality could’ve done in those smoke-filled rooms.
Imagine if Slive just couldn’t help rattling off his titles and TV markets as conference commissioners and presidents with conflicting agendas mulled major change they rejected just four years ago.
He could brag, after all, because he just keeps piling up the victories — on and off the field.
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.