SEC media days notebook: Slive takes on league’s blemishes

HOOVER, Ala. — Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive of course, trumpeted seven straight years of BCS national titles on Tuesday as part of his “brag bag,” to kickoff SEC media days, but off-field issues weren’t swept under the ballroom rug of the Wynfrey Hotel.

Vasha Hunt/AP
Florida coach Will Muschamp moves from room to room through a throng of media during Day One of SEC media days on Tuesday in Hoover, Ala.

And that list included more than just Texas A&M quarterback’s Johnny Manziel’s early departure from the Manning Camp last weekend.

Slive brought up the subject himself in his opening remarks when he said missteps couldn’t be ignored.

Vanderbilt booted four players involved with an incident that police are investigating as a possible sex crime. LSU running back Jeremy Hill, already on probation, pleaded guilty to simple battery for punching a man in the head outside a bar.

And former Florida tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was playing for the New England Patriots, was charged with first-degree murder.

Slive said despite mechanisms in place to address such issues, he called it a “crushing disappointment when … a young person throws away the opportunity for a promising future.”

Current Florida coach Will Muschamp, who did not coach Hernandez, was asked how much a head coach is responsible for his players’ behavior.

“Well, you’re 100 percent responsible,” Muschamp said. “When you sign a student-athlete to come to the University of Florida, I look at his parents, guardians, whoever is important to him in his life, tell them it’s my job to be an extension of what’s already happened at home. But you’re 100 percent responsible for the young man. … I can’t possibly know everything that happens every single night with our football team. You also can’t stick your head in the sand and pretend everything is OK, either. You need to be very aware of the kind of guys you your guys are hanging out with.”

Gators defensive lineman Dominique Easley said coaches can only do so much.

“They should be responsible, but in all reality, we’re grown men,” Easley said. “We go out there and we make every step that we decided to take. So if we make the decisions, we have to take the responsibility of our own self. We can’t put it on anybody else.”

Slive poses questions of NCAA structure

Slive said there are “important questions that need to be answered,” with the NCAA’s governing body’s structure.

He wants to see changes made to “provide significant roles for the stakeholders: the presidents, chancellors, athletic directors, institutional administrators, conference administrators and coaches.”

He wondered aloud about the “proper” role, function, composition and size of the board of directors of the NCAA.

“Do we need all the services provided by the NCAA’s national office, as many committees and task forces or are some of these services better provided elsewhere?” Slive said. “And how we do streamline the NCAA committee and legislative processes to involve leaders and visionaries who will ensure the NCAA’s future. In the words of James Baldwin, not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

He made other references to historical figures, citing Albert Einstein and President Theodore Roosevelt at times.

“In order to deal with these and other national issues in an effective way, intercollegiate athletics requires remarkable and innovative leadership to slash through our Gordian Knot,” he said. “Our challenges are complex, they always have been and they always will be. With that said, we have supported and continue to support the NCAA as the appropriate governing organization for intercollegiate athletics, but at the same time, however we will continue to changes we believe are in the best interest of our student-athletes.

Slive continues to push for a full cost-of-attendance opportunity to cover tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies and miscellaneous living expenses.

“Progress has been made in providing the option of multi-year scholarships and easing the ability of our former student-athletes to come back to school and get financial aid and to support their work towards an undergraduate degree,” Slive said. “The NCAA has not been successful in meeting the full cost of attendance of our student-athletes, whether through the so-called miscellaneous expenses allowance or some other model that provides broad access to additional funds. Conferences and their member institutions must be allowed to meet the needs of their student-athletes and recent conversations with my commissioner colleagues, there appears to be a willingness to support a meaningful solution to this important change.

Driskel says he’ll pass up playing baseball

Jeff Driskel’s hog-hunting trip with his girlfriend was interrupted last month with word that he was drafted.

By the Boston Red Sox.

Surprise!

“That was out of nowhere,” said Driskel, who was taken in the 29th round as an outfielder “I haven’t played baseball for three years.

Driskel was in suburban Birmingham on Tuesday as Florida’s starting quarterback on the first day of SEC media days, not getting ready for some minor league game against the Birmingham Barons.

“Hopefully football will work out and I won’t have to play baseball again,” Driskel said.

In other words, it’s a fallback plan for a player who reportedly batted .330 his last season at Hagerty High School in Oviedo, Fla.

Driskel ran for a Florida quarterback-record 177 yards against Vanderbilt last season but ranked 11th among SEC quarterbacks in passing efficiency.

“Jeff’s a hard worker,” Muschamp said. “Jeff’s earned the respect of his teammates by how he handles himself.”

He mentioned how Driskel is growing as a quarterback.

“Jeff Driskel,” Muschamp said, “it’s his football team.”

This and that

Georgia’s Southeastern Conference football opener against South Carolina is set for a late afternoon kickoff. The Bulldogs’ showdown with South Carolina on in Sanford Stadium will kick at 4:30 p.m and be shown nationally on ESPN. …Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze was asked about his highly-regarded recruiting class.

“The momentum created around our place for winning the Egg Bowl and then the bowl game was huge,” Freeze said referring to the win over rival Mississippi State and Pittsburgh. He mentioned it helped with Robert Nkemediche, whose brother plays on the team. There were accusations of NCAA violations after the Rebels had success. “Yeah, you get tired of hearing those things, but it looks like it’s going to stay with us for a while,” he said. … A reporter asked Florida’s Dominque Easley about his thoughts on the Trayvon Martin verdict. He said he doesn’t watch the news. “SpongeBob, Fairly Oddparents, Jimmy Neutron,” he said of his viewing habits. …Freeze said Bo Wallace “feels very good about where he is in his progress” coming off shoulder surgery. He began throwing “full-go” last week.

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