Former Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive, who led the league to a dominant stretch of success previously unseen in college athletics, died Wednesday at the age of 77.
Before retiring from his SEC post in 2015, Slive announced that he was beginning treatment following the recurrence of prostate cancer. He had originally been diagnosed in the 1990s.
“Mike was an extrarordinary man, a tremendous partner and an even better friend,” said CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus. “He was an innovator and a great leader. Mike’s impact on the SEC and college athletics are immeasurable and will be felt for decades to come. Above all, Mike’s greatest passion was always Liz, Anna, Judd and Abigail. Our deepest condolences go out to the entire Slive family.”
Slive served as SEC commissioner from 2002-15, overseeing the league’s unprecedented run of accomplishment during his tenure. Over his 14 seasons at the helm, the SEC won 10 national titles in football and three more in men’s college basketball. In total, the conference captured 81 national titles in 19 different sports during his time as leader.
Off the field, Slive oversaw the creation of the SEC Network and the expansion of the conference from 12 teams to 14. It was during this time that the SEC saw its revenues from television deals make it the wealthiest conference in the country.
Slive also helped repair the reputation of the conference. When he first became commissioner of the SEC, the league had nine schools either on NCAA probation or under NCAA investigation. Slive promised that every member of the school would be off probation within five years of his appointment, and he worked with school officials to implement reforms and hold themselves to higher standards.
“Mike Slive literally changed the world through his life. He was a friend before we worked together. He was a friend when we were colleagues. He remained a friend in his retirement as I succeeded him as commissioner. Today, we all lost a friend. We will miss him for his work and especially for his compassion. Our prayers are with Liz, Anna, Judd and Abigail,” said SEC commissioner Greg Sankey.
Slive also spent three years as the coordinator of the Bowl Championship Series (2006-08) and two as the chair of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee (2008-09). Slive was also a driving force behind what eventually became the College Football Playoff. Following 12-0 Auburn’s exclusion from the BCS Championship in 2004, Slive began campaigning for a four-team playoff in college football. It was a campaign he carried on for years, and one that finally came to fruition with the creation of the College Football Playoff in 2014.
Before taking over as commissioner of the SEC, he was the first commissioner of Conference USA from 1995-2002 and the first commissioner of the Great Midwest Conference when it was founded in 1991.
A memorial service for Slive will be held at Temple Emanu-El in Birmingham, Alabama, on Friday, May 16.