HOOVER, Ala. - During his prepared remarks to kick off SEC media days, commissioner Mike Slive brought up the issue of "negative" headlines generated by current and former players. He was speaking obliquely of former Florida tight end Aaron Hernandez, whose legal troubles have raised questions about, among other things, drug testing in the SEC.
When I pulled Slive aside later in the day, he reiterated that the SEC won't have a uniform drug policy - as Georgia would like - but said that the SEC would be monitoring how each school handled their policies. Still, the essential point is that most in the SEC believe each school is best equipped to judge each case, rather than setting a rigid uniform standard.
"You're really dealing with the student and the institution, and the faculties and the administration determine through their own judicial system how they manage behavior," Slive said. "And it isn't something that they would or should delegate to an umbrealla organization that in no way can know all the nuances of what took place. Because it's not just the event. It's one of the motivating factors: How can you deal with these issues, and how can you help the student? And that's not something that I think can be done from afar."
Georgia has shown no movement towards amending its drug policy, which is the strictest in the conference. And it appears it will remain that way.
Here is my Q&A with Slive:
Q: Why did you feel it was important to mention that? Slive: When I was thinking about the successes we had - the successes I outlined are extraordinary. But I felt that if we're gonna stand up and brag about the good, we need to stand up and be counted when things aren't so good. Although I don't have answers, I felt it was incumbent upon me to be candid about the fact that we recognize that everything we do doesn't turn out to be successful, and that we work at it, we try. At the same point I wanted to say that we don't have an answer. But we keep trying. I just felt the need to balance. If you're gonna stand up and say what's good, you need to stand up and say what's not so good."
Q: Is the responsibility on each individual school. Slive: Yeah, in terms of behavior you're really dealing with the student and the institution, and the faculties and the administration determine through their own judicial system how they manage behavior. And it isn't something that they would or should delegate to an umbrealla organization that in no way can know all the nuances of what took place. Because it's not just the event. It's one of the motivating factors: How can you deal with these issues, and how can you help the student? And that's not something that I think can be done from afar."
Q: Is one school having a certain drug policy and others having another, is that going to be the status quo? Slive: In terms of the drug testing, on several occasions over the last many years, that's come to the table. And at our meetings in Destin we again talked about whether we wanted a conference testing policy. Our folks felt that with the NCAA program and with their own programs, they didn't want to put a conference drug testing in the middle. But, they did say for the first time, they want the conference to monitor these various drug programs in our league, and therefore keep this issue on the agenda."
Q: Does that mean it's a mechanism to make sure each school is enforcing their own drug policies? Slive: "Don't forget, it's an NCAA violation if you don't follow your own drug-testing policy. It's your own policy, once it's in place it's an NCAA violation (not to obey it.) So there's no need to keep super-imposing one strata after another. I think our folks were at least satisfied to the point where even though there may be differing ways in which people punish behavior, they were okay with that. Part of it's medical, part of it's behavior, and each school was in the best position to know how to handle their own kids. So that's sort of the long and short of it."
Q: Did you like hearing Will Muschamp saying that each coach is 100 percent responsible for their players' behavior?
Slive: "I didn't hear him say it.
Q: That's what he said. Or would you rather not get into whether each coach should be responsible?
Slive: "I think we all feel a sense of responsibility, and a concern. I used the words 'crushing disappointment,' and I thought long and hard about how to say it. But in the final analysis that's how we all feel. And you do too: When you see a young man with great potential, or a young woman, and they throw it away by just doing something inappropriate, it is a disappointment. So I think feeling a sense of responsibility is somewhat different than being responsible. But we're in education. That's what gets lost, we are in education. And I keep telling people, when you slice away all the glitz, and all the glamour, and all the television and all of that, what are we? We're about education. We're about helping young people get from 'here,' wherever 'here' is, and often times it's not very good, to 'there.' And 'there' being defined by their dreams and aspirations and success. And so we all have a responsibility to help move them along. But sometimes you can't be responsible for something that somebody does after midnight."