Former SEC Commissioner Mike Slive passes away

Jose Verdugo
May 17, 2018

When Kentucky coach John Calipari counted former Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive as one of his closest friends and said he was largely responsible for his hiring at Kentucky in 2009.

Slive previously was the commissioner of the Conference-USA, a position he held from 1995-2002 when he took over the SEC. Soon after the SEC became the most powerful conference in college football, winning seven straight national championships and landing television contracts worth billions.

With bold vision, keen intellect and a gentle manner, Mike Slive guided the Southeastern Conference to unprecedented success and prosperity in 13 years as commissioner. Mike has always been a supporter of everyone involved in college athletics and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to serve alongside him for a number of years. The conference didn't provide the cause of death.

Slive's legacy, though, ultimately will be his impact on the SEC. And that's because of the impact he made on individuals and on conferences and on people across this country.

He became named the SEC's seventh commissioner in July 2002 when the league was in turmoil. "He was an innovator and a great leader". "He was a wonderful friend to me and someone who I respected tremendously".

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During Slive's tenure at the SEC, he developed initiatives created to maintain and improve the SEC's preeminent position in intercollegiate athletics, both on and off the fields of play. Following 12-0 Auburn's exclusion from the BCS Championship in 2004, Slive began campaigning for a four-team playoff in college football. He first proposed the idea of a four-team playoff for college football in 2008, but it was shot down most of the other conference commissioners.

"I think there were many who were not all the way supportive, some wanted larger and some not at all", Bowlsby told AP.

The SEC expanded from 12 to 14 schools with the additions of Missouri and Texas A&M in 2012 under Slive and he was the driving force behind the launch of the SEC Network in 2014. He was a fearless negotiator who helped push the NCAA to grant Power 5 conferences, including the SEC, more autonomy and the authority to spend their funds as needed. His work has been featured in The New York Times, Athlon Sports, Rivals, FanRag Sports, and many more. He was the founding commissioner of both the Great Midwest Conference and C-USA.

"Mike Slive literally changed the world through his life", said SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, Slive's colleague and friend. He was a father-type figure, someone I could talk to about life issues and then we would work together on SEC office matters.

Before retiring from his SEC post in 2015, Slive announced that he was beginning treatment following the recurrence of prostate cancer.

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