The commissioner of the Southeastern Conference said Wednesday that it is not the role of any conference to tell its institutions how to run their academic programs.
Michael Slive was speaking about an investigation at Auburn that is looking into grades some athletes received after taking courses that are alleged to have required little or no work. Those courses were referred to as "directed reading" courses.
"They're offered in the Ivy League, too," Slive said after his SEC state-of-the-union address in Birmingham. "They're offered everywhere. One of the hallmarks of higher education is the independence of the academic authority on campus. And so I think it's not my role or the role of the conference office to tell an institution how to run its academic programs. And so, having said that, we expect that our academic programs are going to be quality programs. It looks like Auburn is looking at this, as it should. And it's my understanding that the investigation is being conducted by the academic side of the institituon. And we're anxiouisly awaiting the outcome, just like you are."
Slive said he is proud of the SEC's record since he took over in 2002 and believes that by the summer of 2008, he will achieve his goal of having no conference programs on probation. "The climate has changed," Slive said.
Speaking about the Auburn case, Slive said: "We set out on a course like crossing a lake in a sailboat. I'm going to get from this side of the lake to the other side of the lake. If it's a windy day, it's not going to be straight. We might get a little breeze that blows us around a little bit. But the final analysis is we will get there. I'm extremely comfortable with the league and what it's doing in terms of academics. It's not enough just to have an athletic experience. It appears to me that Auburn has to look at this. They're looking at it. And under our process, we will then evaluate the quality of the investigation. What happened. How it happened. And what corrections, if any are needed, and what they should be."
Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville is expected to address the investigation for the first time Friday, when he speaks at SEC media days.
In other news, Slive said the SEC will continue to explore starting its own network, that the BCS standings will be revealed in the late afternoons on Sunday this season and that the SEC has voted against a new rule allowing players to transfer and play immediately after they've completed an undergraduate program.
Slive said other conferences are also against the rule and that it would be overturned in future NCAA meetings. "It's bad legislation," Slive said.
Joe Schad is ESPN's college football reporter.