Florida administrators reflect on Slive’s impact

Mike Slive, the former SEC commissioner who guided the league through a period of unprecedented success and prosperity, died Wednesday. He was 77. The Southeastern Conference said Slive died in Birmingham, Ala., where he lived with his wife of 49 years, Liz. The conference didn’t provide the cause of death. Slive retired in 2015 after 13 years as commissioner. He was battling prostate cancer at the time he stepped down. (AP Photo/Dave Martin, File)

Mike Slive touched many lives in his 13 years as Southeastern Conference commissioner.

Slive, who died Wednesday night at 77 after a lengthy illness, was a visionary who helped shape the SEC into the dominant conference it is today.

To Florida current Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin and Florida AD emeritus Jeremy Foley, Slive was more than a leader. He was a friend.

Stricklin worked closely with Slive during his tenures as AD at both Mississippi State (2010-16) and UF. Slive remained a consultant with the league after stepping down as commissioner in 2015 to undergo treatment for a recurrence of prostate cancer.

“I’m so saddened to learn that Mike Slive, who was both a personal friend and mentor, has passed,” Stricklin tweeted late Wednesday night. “He was a brilliant leader who cared deeply about the people he led and the universities they represented. College athletics in general and the Southeastern Conference in particular, will reap the benefit of Mike’s efforts and wisdom for years to come.”

Both Stricklin and Foley plan to attend Slive’s memorial service Friday in Birmingham, Ala.

Foley, who served as UF’s AD from 1992-2016, said he could often call Slive for advice and admired his leadership style.

“In my career, I didn’t have many mentors,” Foley said. “Mike was one of them. It’s a very sad day for many of us. He just meant so much to me and this league.”

During Slive’s tenure as SEC commissioner from 2002-15, the league won 81 national titles in 17 sports, including seven straight BCS football titles from 2006-12. Florida began that run of BCS titles in 2006 under Urban Meyer and won another in 2008.

The success on the field resulted in revenue gains off it. The year before Slive was hired, the SEC split $95.7 million in revenues among its 12 member schools. Slive expanded the conference in 2012, adding Missouri and Texas A&M, which brought in metropolitan TV markets in St. Louis, Kansas City and Houston. That served as the precursor of the partnership with ESPN to launch the SEC Network in 2014.

By 2015, when Slive stepped down, the league’s 14 schools shared $455.8 million in revenues.

“(Former SEC commissioner) Roy Kramer left him an incredible league and Mike took it to another level of excellence,” Foley said. “The SEC Network, the revenue sharing, he loved this league and he wanted it to be the best in every way possible.”