Machen warns of SEC split from NCAA
Published: Friday, May 30, 2014 at 5:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 30, 2014 at 5:58 p.m.
DESTIN — The message from the SEC to the NCAA is now perfectly clear. It wants to remain under the NCAA umbrella, but if it does not gain the autonomy it is seeking, it will break away with the four other major conferences and form a separate division.
“We don't want to pull out,” Florida president Bernie Machen said Friday at the conclusion of the SEC Spring Meetings. “We would love to be part of the NCAA Division I, but we're in a squeeze here. There are now six lawsuits that name our conference in them specifically that have to do with the whole cost of attendance and stuff like that.
“We would like to make changes, but we can't because the NCAA doesn't allow us to. We're really caught between a rock and a hard place. We desperately would like some flexibility.”
An NCAA steering committee has proposed a model for a revision of governance that will be voted on in August.
Machen, SEC commissioner Mike Slive and other league presidents and chancellors say they're supportive of the steering committee's proposal, but are demanding that it be changed so it would be easier for the SEC (and ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12) to pass legislation that would help schools better provide for their athletes.
“We are supportive of the model, with the exception of the threshold,” Slive said. “We'll make recommendations with regards to the voting threshold.”
Machen said under the steering committee's current proposal, the requirements to pass legislation are so high that making changes in legislation would be next to impossible.
“The proposal that the NCAA steering committee put together is very good, with two exceptions. One, the thresholds they're proposing are way too high,” Machen said. “All the things that are being listed in the press now about cost of attendance, health care and graduation, none of them are going to be approved until we have a process where they can go through at least one at a time.
“The process has a threshold of approval that is so high. The NCAA's proposal is two-thirds of the 65 schools (in the five major conferences) and the 15 students and four conferences out of five. What we fear is that nothing will change because the threshold is so high.
“We're asking them to lower the threshold, which we propose be 60 percent and three conferences. With three conferences out of five and 60 percent of the 65 and 15, you can make those kind of changes. It's about the process. We're concerned we're not going to get that.”
Slive said he is “somewhat optimistic” that the NCAA will accept the SEC's proposed threshold in August, but that the conference is ready to bolt if it does not.
“I think if it doesn't pass, I think the next move would be to go to the Division IV,” Slive said. “It's not something we want to do.”
“But within that structure, we want the ability to have autonomy in areas that has a nexus to the well-being of student athletes. I am somewhat optimistic it will pass, but if it doesn't our league would certainly want to move to a Division IV. My colleagues, I can't speak for anybody else, but I'd be surprised if they didn't feel the same way.”
Machen does not sound as optimistic.
When asked if he is confident the NCAA would accept the SEC's proposal, Machen said, “No.”
“This is the NCAA we're dealing with, guys,” he said. “What's happening right now is you guys are saying we've won, you're all reporting we got autonomy and all this stuff. The public is pretty much in favor of it. We're working on welfare, yet we've got these lawsuits coming down the pike at us.
“If we don't get it, I think there will be a real — I don't want to use the 'C' word (crisis) — but there will be some real difficult times ahead for the NCAA and for the five conferences. The thing that's interesting about it is the NCAA needs this to work as much as we do because they're on the point as well.
“But I'm not convinced (it will happen). This has to be approved. First, the steering committee has to submit their final proposal, the board has to vote on it in August, then the membership has to vote on it in January. So we have quite a long ways to go before this gets approved."
NOTES: The league announced that a record $309.6 million will be divided among its 14 schools as part of its revenue sharing plan for the 2013-14 fiscal year which ends Aug. 31. The average amount, excluding bowl money retain by participants, is slightly more than $20.9 million per school. … The league passed a rule approving the use of sound systems and artificial noisemakers at any time in football except from the time the center is over the ball until the play is whistled dead. … Also, the league amended its graduate transfer rule, putting the waiver process in the hands of each institution.
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.
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