Mike Slive dipped into his “brag bag.”
Kicking off Southeastern Conference Media Days on Tuesday in Birmingham, Ala., the league’s 72-year-old commissioner began his opening statement by rattling off the conference’s recent accomplishments.
The list includes: seven straight BCS football championships; a record 63 players taken in the 2013 NFL Draft; four of the last six Heisman Trophy winners; 10 first-team academic All-Americans; a total of 86 national championships won by the SEC since 2000.
But Slive also addressed the bad.
Recently the SEC has made headlines for off-the-field incidents, which Slive called a “crushing disappointment.”
On Monday, Vanderbilt released the names of four football players who were dismissed from the team nearly three weeks ago amid a sex crimes investigation.
Earlier on Monday, Texas A&M quarterback and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge for not properly identifying himself to police following a 2012 incident.
“Not all student-athletes fulfill the high expectations we have for them,” Slive said. “While the negative actions of a few garner headlines, the fact is that the vast majority of these young people conduct themselves appropriately. Notwithstanding the fact that our institutions have mechanisms in place to recognize problems, support systems to address personal issues, policies to provide implementation of discipline and the willingness to enforce these policies, it is a crushing disappointment when, despite all of these efforts, a young person throws away the opportunity for a promising future.”
On Monday, Vanderbilt announced Brandon Banks, Cory Batey, Tip McKenzie and Brandon Vandenburg would not be on the team due to a violation of team rules, as announced on June 29. The Metro Nashville Police Department’s Sex Crimes Unit is investigating a sexual assault at a Vanderbilt dormitory on June 23.
Coach James Franklin also made public comments for the first time since the school initially suspended the players from the team on June 28. Franklin, entering his third year as head coach, said the school is cooperating with the police department and pledged not to say anything that could interfere with the investigation. No arrests have been made and the investigation, which now involves scientists from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation who specialize in DNA and the district attorney’s office, remains open.
“We are not naïve enough to think we can put an end to all unacceptable behavior but that doesn’t mean we won’t continue to try, try and try,” Slive said.
Vanderbilt isn’t alone in the league with off-the-field issues.
Manziel pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge connected to his arrest in June 2012 for failing to properly identify himself. Manziel, 19 at the time, gave police a fake license after a fight broke out in a bar district in Texas. Nick Saban kicked four players off of his team in February after a pair of robberies on campus. LSU running back Jeremy Hill pleaded guilty to a battery charge on Friday.
“[As a head coach] you’re 100 percent responsible for the young man,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said on Tuesday. “I can’t possibly know everything that happens every single night with our football team. But you also can’t stick your head in the sand and pretend everything is OK either. So you need to be very aware the kind of guys your [players] are hanging out with.”