BY AARON BRENNER | firstname.lastname@example.org
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Athletic director Jay Jacobs and former head coach Gene Chizik were clearly indignant, debunking reports of Auburn committing NCAA violations and otherwise wrongdoings by ESPN and Roopstigo.com.
While fans both for and against Auburn weighed in, active coaches (like Gus Malzahn) and players weren’t touching the subject.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive, predictably, was in the latter camp when asked about it Monday at an Associated Press Sports Editors conference.
“I never comment on that kind of thing. I mean, I just don’t comment on those things,” Slive said.
Asked if he thought Jacobs acted in the appropriate manner, Slive still didn’t bite.
“I read Jay’s defense,” Slive said. “It’s just something I don’t deal with publicly.”
Oops, hoops: Nobody’s questioning the SEC’s prowess on a football field, yet the nation mocks that same conference come men’s basketball season.
The SEC earned just three NCAA Tournament bids this spring, and it could have been two if not for Ole Miss’ stunning run to the league tournament championship. The Rebels joined regular season champ Florida and league newcomer Missouri, while defending NCAA champion Kentucky lost in the first round of the NIT.
“Yes, it is a concern, and yes, it is something that the league office is thinking about and should be thinking about,” Slive said. “No school’s an island when it comes to scheduling basketball, and we’re going to take a very hard look at the importance of who our people play in non-conference.”
Slive proudly reminded the crowd of the SEC’s three recent national championships – Florida went back-to-back in 2006-07.
“The answer is we’ve had a lot of success, and last year was not indicative of who we are in basketball,” Slive said. “We’re a lot more than that.”
Cracking down: It was a bizarre, can-that-actually-happen moment, when Auburn sophomore defensive back Jonathon Mincy was thrown out of the spring game for targeting a defenseless receiver above the head.
Yes, the spring game. The one that doesn’t count.
But that’s what the NCAA wants to enforce early and often, as player safety concerns are heightened with the horrors of additional research.
The new rule, passed in March, permits referees to authorize immediate ejections, rather than deferring to league review of questionable hits over the weekend – which in the past were punishable by one-game suspensions for the following game.
“One of the premises was how do you impact behavior immediately, rather than waiting and getting into a lot of dialogue about the nuance of the (action),” Slive said. “The idea here is if a player knows that he’s going to be ejected from the game – and he is gone – that is, I think in the final analysis, the most effective way to modify behavior. Waiting until Sunday or Monday does not (do that.)”
Kickoffs could be an endangered staple of football. Time will tell.
“What’s important here is we continue to use the rules for the benefit of the health and safety of our student-athletes,” Slive said. “We’ll keep looking at the data and keep talking about it. This was a giant step forward, making it clear that if you target somebody, you’re going to be ejected right then and there. Hopefully that will change behavior.”
Worldwide leader: No, Slive doesn’t think ESPN has become too powerful in the college sports landscape.
“I can’t control what other people think,” Slive said. “Through ESPN, we have a lot of distribution. We’re very excited about the future, and we’re going to be in a position where we can even enhance the exposure to not just the so-called football and basketball sports, but other sports of ours.
“I can’t speak for others, but I can tell you we have enjoy the relationship we have with ESPN, and with CBS.”
Although its purpose has not formally been announced, Thursday’s press conference in Atlanta – rescheduled from April 16 due to the Boston Marathon bombings – is expected to declare the creation of an SEC Network in partnership with ESPN.