DESTIN, Fla. — SEC commissioner Mike Slive has a look when he’s intense and/or unhappy.
His daughter Anna refers to it as her dad’s “googly eyes.”
Well, ’ol Googly Eyes brought the heat at the SEC spring business meetings on Wednesday at the Sandestin Beach Hilton during an impassioned speech behind closed doors in which he told league football coaches to stop sniping at each other publicly.
“It was awesome, he came with it today, he was really good,” Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt. “Mike Slive’s got real passion and he cares about our league. His bottom line was simple: We’re a team. I don’t think you’ll hear anything more from the coaches.”
Slive has simmered the last few months over coaches taking verbal public shots at each other, starting with new Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin calling Florida coach Urban Meyer “a cheater” on signing day in February, all the way through a testy exchange on Tuesday here in front of media between South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier and Kiffin.
Slive said his pointed words weren’t directed at Kiffin, who has taken shots at Florida, South Carolina and Alabama. He said he just wanted to remind everyone in the room filled with athletic directors and football coaches what the SEC should be about.
Kiffin wasn’t available for comment after the meeting. He bolted out the door and headed for the exit as soon as it ended. The meetings continue through Friday, but all meetings of the football, men’s and women’s basketball coaches ended Wednesday with their individual joint sessions with the athletic directors.
Slive stayed late into the afternoon and patiently explained his message to the media.
“I have tremendous passion for this league, I believe in this league,” said Slive, who delivered his message from his heart and without notes. “Since 2004, we’ve won 36 national championships, including four in football, and two each in men’s and women’s basketball.
“At the same time, we’ve made tremendous progress on keeping the news about the players and not about matters that take place off the field. In my own way, I reiterated that. I had all 5-9, 170 pounds of me into every word I said. Somebody mentioned I had the googly eyes. I had no trouble finding the words. There were very few hesitations.”
Slive said that he has the ability to reprimand and fine coaches who don’t adhere to his message, which stems from the 2004 set of principles adopted by league coaches and athletic directors. But he doesn’t believe he’ll ever have to fine a coach, because athletic directors and school presidents back him fully.
“He made it clear everybody’s expectations and the accountability he’s going to hold them to,” Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said of Slive’s missive. “It was as honest, direct and clear as I’ve ever heard him. He had everybody’s undivided attention. When he speaks from the heart like that, with passion and emotion, it comes through.”
Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said Slive’s speech was needed, because the league has many new coaches, athletic directors and presidents since Slive became commissioner in July 2002.
“Part of being boss is making clear your expectations to the people who work for you, and Commissioner Slive made it clear,” Foley said. “He needed to renew his message.”
Georgia coach Mark Richt said he agrees fully with Slive’s words.
“We’ve got the greatest league in the country and we don’t need to do anything to detract from that,” Richt said. “We want the attention to be on athletic and academic performance.”