Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp, redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel, junior defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr. and sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III will represent the team on Monday by participating in the 2014 Southeastern Conference Media Days at the Winfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama.
Before Muschamp could take the stand and the Florida contingent had the opportunity to be swarmed by reporters, SEC commissioner Mike Slive held an introductory press conference to address a number of topics including the league’s success, updates to bowl game arrangements and an outlook for the future. Below are some highlights of comments made by Slive on Monday afternoon.
PRAISING SOME GATORS
Two now-former Florida student-athletes, right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers and center Patric Young, were singled out by Slive during his opening speech.
While running down the SEC’s multiple successes during the 2013-14 athletic campaign, Slive pointed out that Rogers won numerous awards while leading Gators softball to the first NCAA title in program history.
“Florida’s softball student athlete, Hannah Rogers, led Florida to its first national championship in softball and she was named the College World Series most outstanding player,” he noted. “Both A.J. [Reed] and Hannah were named Roy Kramer Athletes of the Year this year as voted by our league’s athletic directors.”
In the latter portion of his press conference, Slive used Young as a paradigm for what the SEC wants out of its student-athletes. He is someone who certainly excelled on the court but also was in great academic standing and contributed to the community both stateside and abroad.
“Florida’s basketball player Patric Young is an example of a student athlete who has made the most of his collegiate academic and athletic experience. He led the Gators to the 2014 SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament title and the NCAA Final Four, was named the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year twice, was named the SEC male winner of the Brad Davis Community Service Award. Then he traveled to Africa where he encouraged children to focus on exercise and healthy lifestyle,” he explained.
“While doing all of that, Patric maintained a 3.4 grade point average. Student athletes like Patric, as well as many other student athletes like him, inspire us to protect intercollegiate athletics, to keep it healthy, vibrant and an integral part of higher education. We do this for the young men and women who seek an education, compete in sports, and ultimately make a difference in people’s lives.
“This is why it is critical for the NCAA to change, and to change in accordance with the vision proposed for the 21st century by the five conferences. This is one important way we will be able to provide academic and athletic opportunities for the generations of Patrics yet to come.”
SEC NETWORK ODDS AND ENDS
After fawning about the SEC Network being just one month away from a launch (August 14), Slive told fans that do not currently have the network on their provides to stay calm because “there are ongoing conversations with other major providers.” ESPN has already reached deals with AT&T U-Verse, DISH Network, Google Fiber and Cox Communications as well as a variety of other cable cooperatives throughout the country. Comcast, DirecTV, Time Warner and Verizon FIOS are the major providers that still need to get on board before launch.
Slive also announced what OnlyGators.com first reported on Twitter in June, that the SEC Network will kick off with four new SEC Storied documentaries including one on former Gators head coach Steve Spurrier, now the head ball coach at South Carolina. A source told OnlyGators.com that Tackle Box Films oversaw the project, which will debut within the first 30 days of the network’s existance.
The other three documentary series include films “about the legendary trio of Bo [Jackson], [Charles] Barkley and the Big Hurt [Frank Thomas]; Chucky Mullins and Brad Gaines.
NO MORE BOWL PICK ‘EM
An overlooked change this offseason has been the SEC’s new bowl arrangement, which Slive called a “paradigm shift in how our conference can relate to its bowls.” Instead of bowls picking teams in a descending order by priority, the league will assign teams to specific bowl games that have signed on to feature SEC opponents.
“Under the new SEC bowl arrangement, the Capital One Bowl will have the first selection of available SEC teams after the College Football Playoff, the Sugar Bowl, and in some years the Orange Bowl. Once these selections are made, six bowls – the Belk Bowl, the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, the Outback Bowl, the TaxSlayer Bowl and the AdvoCare Texas Bowl – will constitute a pool,” he explained.
“The conference will assign teams to each of these games rather than doing it the old fashioned way where the bowl selected the teams. Before making that final decision, the conference will consult with our institutions and with the bowls, but the decision will be ours. We also have agreements with the Birmingham Bowl and the Duck Commander Independence Bowl.”
AUTONOMY ON DECK
The SEC has been at the forefront of pushing for some autonomy for the five major conferences including the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and PAC-12. Slive has not shied away from discussing the topic and explaining why he feels it is necessary in this day and age of intercollegiate athletics.
“[The proposal] includes the NCAA’s enactment of a governing system that will provide greater autonomy for the SEC and other four conferences for the benefit of student athletes. The ongoing review of the NCAA governing structure is intended to provide for the introduction of new strategies and new ideas,” he said.
“With a new structure in place, amongst other goals, we seek to support the educational needs of our student athletes through the provisions of scholarships linked to cost of attendance rather than the historic model of tuition, room and board, fees and books.
“[This would exist] to enhance the opportunity to support a quality undergraduate education for our student athletes for both their playing years and beyond if needed, to better assist student athletes seeking to transition from college athletics into the world of professional sport, and to expand the existing health and wellness support provided to student athletes.
“This is a very small, partial list of what we hope and dream to accomplish. As I have said before, if we do not achieve a positive outcome under the existing big tent of Division I, we will need to consider the establishment of a venue with similar conferences and institutions where we can enact the desired changes in the best interests of our student athletes.”