HOOVER, Ala. — Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive raised the possibility of an NCAA “Division IV” earlier this summer if the 65 power conference schools aren’t granted legislative autonomy.
As expected, Slive didn’t stray from his stance at SEC Media Days on Monday.
Slive, one of the most powerful men in college athletics, continued to press the issue when he led off the four-day event with his state-of-the-SEC address. Slive said it is “critical for the NCAA to change” by granting autonomy for the SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Atlantic Coast Conference to “benefit of student-athletes.”
“We are not deaf to the din of discontent across collegiate athletics that has dominated the news,” Slive said. “In the words of former president Dwight D. Eisenhower, I quote: Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him.”
Slive’s aim is nothing new. He reminded the media in attendance the conference first called for change in 2011. But his latest comments come on the heels of next month’s NCAA board of directors meeting, where a vote on autonomy is expected.
The power conferences are seeking freedom to provide athletes with more benefits like scholarships that will cover the full cost of attendance, academic support after their playing careers and expanded health care. Slive said Monday it a “very small, partial list of what we hope and dream to accomplish,” but also reissued a warning if change doesn’t take place within the current structure of the NCAA.
“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,” Slive said.
Slive is optimistic the situation won’t reach a crisis point. He said that by working together with the NCAA and power conferences can “create a framework that places the academic and athletic success of the student-athletes front and center.”
“The challenges that lay ahead in my view are not obstacles, but really opportunities to forge a bridge and to make the road to the future stronger for everyone involved in intercollegiate athletics,” Slive said.
Auburn loses DE
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn hasn’t determined whether Nick Marshall will play in the season opener against Arkansas after the quarterback was cited for possession of marijuana in Georgia last Friday. But Malzahn and the Tigers know they’ll be missing another key player when they face the Razorbacks on Aug. 30.
Malzahn confirmed defensive end Carl Lawson will be sidelined after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee. Lawson injured his knee the last week of spring practice and underwent surgery in early May.
Lawson had 20 tackles, 7 ½ tackles for losses and 4 sacks in a reserve role last season. He was preparing to step into a larger role as a sophomore.
“Carl is working extremely hard and he’s determined to come back towards the end of this year,” Malzahn said.
Media guide mimic
Arkansas is paying tribute to the 1964 title team with its 2014 media guide.
The Razorbacks, who are celebrating the 50-year anniversary of the national championship, recreated the cover of the 1964 media guide. The top half is a photo of the 1964 senior class. The 2014 senior class was photographed in the same spot.
The cover also includes the slogan: “Respect the past. Represent the future.”
An Arkansas news release also said the school is the first in the nation to feature the Reveal by EBSCO Media app on a media guide cover. The app can be downloaded and scanned for enhanced content throughout the season.
Watch list update
Defensive end Trey Flowers and linebacker Braylon Mitchell were named to preseason watch lists Monday.
Flowers is among 123 players on the watch list for the Lombardi Award, while linebacker Braylon Mitchell is on the 51-man list for the Butkus Award.
The Lombardi Award watch list is the third for Flowers, who also is in consideration for the Bednarik Award and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy. The senior — who will be among Arkansas’ representatives at SEC Media Days later this week — recorded 44 tackles, 13 1/2 tackles for losses and 5 sacks last season.
Mitchell is on the Butkus Award watch list after finishing tied for second on the team with 77 tackles last season. The senior also had two tackles for losses, one sack and one fumble recovery. He had a career-high 12 tackles against Auburn.
The two are among six Razorbacks who have been named to watch lists this month. They join running backs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins (Maxwell Award), tight end Hunter Henry (Mackey Award) and punter Sam Irwin-Hill (Ray Guy Award).
Arkansas unveiled its 2014 media guide Monday and it shed light on the roster.
As expected, wide receiver D’Arthur Cowan and defensive back Chris Murphy were not included. Cowan was removed from the team because of academic reasons, while Murphy decided to transfer after just one semester on campus.
Sophomore Cordale Boyd also has moved from the offensive line to defense, according to the media guide. Boyd spent the spring working on the offensive front, but has been moved to try to bolster Arkansas’ depth on the interior.
Boyd is the second Razorback to move to defense since the end of the 2013 season. Mitchell Loewen, who missed the spring after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, has moved from tight end to the defensive line.
Hot seat acknowledged
Florida coach Will Muschamp didn’t shy away from “hot seat” talk after the Gators trudged through a 4-8 season, which included a season-ending, seven-game skid.
Muschamp said it’s simply “part of it” Monday.
“I think you combat the hot seat talk with having a good team and winning games,” Muschamp said. “Control the controllable is always what I’ve said.”
Florida’s 30-10 win against Arkansas on Oct. 5 was its last victory in 2013. The Gators dropped their final seven games, including a 26-20 loss to Georgia Southern.
Muschamp is 22-16 overall, 13-11 in the SEC in his three seasons at Florida, but believes the Gators will be much improved. It starts with quarterback Jeff Driskel, who was sidelined for the final nine games with a broken leg.
“That’s not on the players’ minds. We’ve never talked about that,” Driskel said of Muschamp’s situation entering the season. “Nobody is thinking about that. Obviously we’re going to play hard for Coach Muschamp, but at the end of the day we’re not playing for his job. We’re playing for the University of Florida.”
DISH Network, AT&T U-Verse, Cox Communications and Google Fiber have reached an agreement to carry the SEC Network, which will make its debut Aug. 14.
But Slive said there are “ongoing conversations with other major providers.”
DirecTV remains the largest provider that has not reached an agreement to carry the SEC Network. Comcast is reportedly in negotiations as well.
Arkansas will play its first two games against Auburn (Aug. 30) and Nicholls State (Sept. 6) on the SEC Network. The network will televise 45 SEC games this season.