That's eloquent attorney language for this former New Hampshire district court judge.
Now how about a blunt job description: Slive is the most powerful man in college sports from Arkansas to Key West.
Slive tops the Orlando Sentinel's list of the conference's 10 most powerful people after seven years of encouraging academics and NCAA compliance, overseeing more than 40 national championships and ensuring the conference's financial future thanks to blockbuster television deals.
"He's easily one of the most powerful people in college athletics," said Paul Finebaum, syndicated sports radio host based out of Birmingham, Ala. "The television deals put him over the top."
The SEC is laced with CEO types (Florida Athletics Director Jeremy Foley), top-shelf football coaches (Florida's Urban Meyer, Alabama's Nick Saban), cult-celebrity athletes (Tim Tebow) and powerful boosters (Alabama's Paul Bryant Jr.).
But in the high-stakes world of college athletics, Slive pulled off an unprecedented business move that will likely define his career. After two years of negotiations, the SEC agreed to a 15-year, $2.25-billion television agreement with ESPN starting in August.
CBS will reportedly pay the conference $55 million per year for the next 15 years of coverage, pushing the SEC's annual television revenue to more than $200 million to be distributed among 12 schools.
The SEC maximized its monetary value while obtaining digital rights and gaining exposure for sports such as baseball and women's basketball.
Slive said he's proud of other SEC initiatives during his tenure, including the Task Force on Compliance and Enforcement and an Academic Consortium. But the finalization of the television deals in August 2008 became a "watershed event," Slive said, because of the newfound stability moving forward.
"We had the criteria, and we wanted to be widely distributed," said Slive, 68, who took over the SEC in 2002. "We knew we wanted to be branded. We knew who we were. Last but not least, we wanted to be fairly compensated for whatever rights delivered. It was a culmination of two years of intense work."
Not everything has run smoothly for Slive. His football coaches bickered for months over questionable recruiting tactics and potential secondary NCAA violations. The public needling prompted Slive to tell his coaches to cool it during May's SEC Spring Meetings in Destin.
As the former Bowl Championship Series coordinator, Slive's proposal for a plus-one playoff format never gained traction nationally. The 2009 men's basketball committee chairman watched in bewilderment as three SEC teams barely made the NCAA Tournament.
The SEC had qualified at least six teams in eight of the last 10 NCAA Tournaments.
Slive said he knows his powers aren't limitless, but he'll embrace future challenges by staying true to his leadership beliefs.
"The strength isn't in a loud voice," Slive said. "The strength is in the fact that the commissioner reflects the will of the presidents and of the athletic director and institutions."
MEET Mike Slive
Age/Position: 68/Commissioner of the Southeastern Conference
Background: After graduating from Virginia Law School in 1965, Slive worked his way up the New Hampshire legal system to become a district court judge in the '70s. Slive broke into sports as senior partner of the Mike Slive-Mike Glazier Sports Group in 1990, a firm that helped programs looking to avoid probation or NCAA violations. Slive became the first-ever commissioner of the Great Midwest Conference in 1991 and of Conference USA in 1995, his post before taking over the SEC in 2002.
Why he is powerful: Before Slive arrived, the SEC was one of the best conferences in the country. Now the SEC is the unheralded leader of college sports with its combination of money and football dominance that Slive accentuated with his ability to negotiate television rights and publicly sell the conference. Slive had his hands all over the revolutionary $2.25-billion television deal with ESPN. His schools have won a combined 49 national titles under his watch, including a combined six in football and men's basketball.
THE SEC's 10 most powerful people
1. Mike Slive, SEC commissioner: Under Slive's tutelage, the conference has brokered a revolutionary $2.25-billion television deal with ESPN, won 25 women's and 24 men's national championships (including six in football and men's basketball), cleaned up most probationary issues and pushed the conference to the forefront of many national initiatives, including digital rights and athletic departments sharing resources to improve academics.
2. Nick Saban, Alabama football coach: His grip on the state of Alabama is only strengthening. He's redefined the cold and robotic coaching persona. He's become a recruiting innovator with the Webcam loophole. He's the first football coach to grace the cover of Forbes Magazine. Soon enough, the former LSU coach could become the conference's first to win a national football title at two schools.
3. Jeremy Foley, Florida athletic director: Over the last 17 years, Foley has redefined the athletic director position as that of a CEO rather than an ex-coach's pre-retirement job. He took over a mediocre Florida program in 1992 and turned it into a multimillion-dollar enterprise that flourishes in every sport. His hiring approach of getting the right person at the right time has become trendy among SEC athletics directors. He'll forever be defined by the hiring of Urban Meyer and Billy Donovan.
4. Urban Meyer, Florida football coach: Meyer displays the conference's best combination of coaching skill (imaginative use of spread offense) and deft recruiting (aggressive use of text messaging). He can get away with criticizing former players and recent legal woes from his own roster because of his on-field dominance. And he has the blueprint in place to keep winning at Florida.
5. Tim Tebow, Florida quarterback: Tebow has driven newspaper headlines for years, captivated an entire religion as an outspoken Christian, created the league's strongest combination of adoration and disdain from fans and has made a case as the greatest college football player of all time. He's easily the biggest cult-celebrity figure in the conference.
6. Jimmy Sexton, agent: Sexton has represented Saban, Steve Spurrier, Houston Nutt and the last two coaches at traditional SEC powers Tennessee (Phil Fulmer to Lane Kiffin) and Auburn (Tommy Tuberville to Gene Chizik). He gets his coaches top dollar (see Saban's eight-year, $32-million deal). He helped develop the coach-in-waiting trend with clients Jimbo Fisher of FSU and Will Muschamp at Texas.
7. John Calipari, Kentucky basketball coach: He's powerful because Kentucky was so desperate for a winner, they ignored the NCAA allegations that followed him at Memphis and UMass and still paid him an exorbitant eight-year, $35-million contract. That's leverage. He's the best recruiter in the SEC, in any sport, which will eventually bring in revenue and preserve the proud legacy of the blueblood faithful.
8. Paul Finebaum, newspaper columnist and talk show host: With a syndicated show heard in multiple SEC states that also commands a big audience on the Web, the Birmingham, Ala.-based Finebaum has proven in more than two decades of pot-stirring in print and on the air that his barbs can influence a coach's fate.
9. Michael Glazier, attorney: The superstar attorney of NCAA investigations and scandals, nicknamed "The Cleaner," is currently helping Mississippi State deal with the eligibility of five-star recruit Renardo Sidney. The next time an SEC school faces major violations, Glazier will probably get the call. And he might just save them long-term pain, just like he did with Iowa, Minnesota, Villanova and many others.
10. Paul W. Bryant Jr., Alabama booster: Arguably the most important booster in the SEC because of how it's believed he has his hands in every decision at Alabama despite his discreet approach. The son of legendary coach Paul "Bear" Bryant serves as a University of Alabama board of trustee and donates millions to his alma mater.
The second 10
11. Pat Summitt, Tennessee women's basketball coach
12. Chuck Gerber, SEC consultant on the ESPN television package.
13. S. Daniel Ponce, Florida booster, president of Orange Bowl Committee for 2008-09 festival term
14. Don Leeburn, Georgia booster
15. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina football coach
16. Bobby Lowder, Auburn booster
17. Billy Donovan, Florida men's basketball coach
18. Frank Broyles, former Arkansas football coach/athletics director
19. Rogers Redding, NCAA secretary-rules editor and SEC coordinator of football officials
20. Lane Kiffin, Tennessee football coach
(c) 2009, The Orlando Sentinel (Fla.).
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