SEC is looking for unique traits in its next leader

What does the SEC need from its next commissioner? Check out our formula

Mike Slive is retiring as commissioner of the Southeastern Conference on July 31, 2015.

During the next nine months, officials from the SEC will have the arduous task of looking for his replacement. The job falls into the hands of University of Arkansas chancellor David Gearhart, who serves as chairman of the five-person search committee created to find the next commissioner.

According the Dr. Gearhart, the next commissioner will have big shoes to fill.

"We're looking for the gold standard, which is Mike Slive," Gearhart told the Sentinel. "Mike has done such an incredible job for not just the SEC, but college athletics nationwide.

"I would say that we are looking for someone who can continue in that vein of leadership that he has provided so well for the SEC institutions."

Gearhart isn't kidding.

In the 13 years since taking the job, Slive developed the SEC into the premiere conference in the country, leading the league to a golden age of unprecedented success on and off the athletic field.

So when the committee meets during the next few weeks, they will be charged with setting up guidelines for the search. A search Gearhart expects will garner interest from athletic directors, league commissioners and associated commissioners from across the country.

But while you're brushing up your résumé, there are a few qualities that Gearhart thinks the committee will be looking for in a suitable replacement.

First and foremost, the next commissioner needs to be a leader.

"I think we need someone that is both a leader — has a passion for college athletics, but is also a manager," Gearhart said. "This is a big business. It's a huge organization. It really needs to be someone who understands college athletic and someone who understands how leagues work."

But the next commissioner shouldn't lose sight of education — a priority according to Gearhart.

"I think it needs to be somebody who appreciates the importance side of athletics, which is degree fulfillment. We don't want to lose sight that we're there to educate the minds of young people. That's a very important part of it."

And then there is reverence.

Slive is a soft-spoken man who comes across more like a grandfatherly figure than one of the most important men in college athletics. His words tend to carry more weight than anyone's in the business. Remember, it was his voice that helped push the NCAA to grant Power 5 conferences, including the SEC, more autonomy and the authority to spend their funds as needed.

It's a trait that Gearhart admires in his long-time friend.

"He's very definitive when he speaks, and he's very accurate," he adds.

Gearhart believes the next commissioner will need to be someone who commands respect.

"We will want somebody that has the ability to command respect among his peers," he said. "I would say that we are looking for someone who can continue in that vein of leadership that he has provided so well for the SEC institutions."

The next commissioner should also be forward-thinking.

Slive helped push for the creation of the SEC Network, which brought the conference into the homes of millions of subscribers while providing the league with another avenue to generate revenue.

"Things are changing. We have to have somebody that is on the cutting edge." Gearhart said.

The bar has been set high, but Gearhart thinks the search group is up to the job.

"It's a big task and we certainly understand that, but we have a great committee and I'm confident that we'll find somebody who is a superstar," he said.

mmurschel@tribpub.com

SEC leads way in bowl-eligible teams

Mississippi's last-minute 10-7 loss to LSU Saturday night in Death Valley means there are now only three undefeated teams in college football (Mississippi State, Florida State and Marshall). The number of bowl-eligible teams, however, increased from 16 to 32. That means there are 44 remaining spots for the 38 possible bowl games this postseason.

The Southeastern Conference leads the way with seven bowl-eligible teams followed by ACC (5), Pac-12 (5), Big Ten (4), Big 12 (4) and MWC (2). Every other league has one bowl-eligible team. On the flip side, seven teams were eliminated from bowl consideration: SMU (AAC), UMass (MAC), Miami (MAC), Kent State (MAC), Georgia State (Sun Belt), Troy (Sun Belt) and NCAA-sanctioned Idaho (Sun Belt).

Playoff rankings debut Tuesday

Even as you read this, the 12 members of the new College Football Playoff selection committee are deliberating in Dallas. The group is compiling its first top 25 rankings of the 2014-15 season. The committee is expected to use statistical information like head-to-head competition and strength of schedule as it comes up with the poll that will eventually determine the four teams competing in the two semifinal games and the remaining teams for the four 'access' bowls. Committee chair Jeff Long will announce the rankings Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ESPN.

Hoke apologizes for slight

Michigan coach Brady Hoke apologized Sunday for an incident that occurred before the start of the Wolverines games against Michigan State Saturday. According to Spartans coach Mike Dantonio and several players, Michigan players were seen planting what looked like a spear into the ground at Spartans Stadium. Hoke attempted to clarify the incident saying, "During our regular Friday night team meeting, one of the topics presented to motivate our team was a history lesson addressing commitment and teamwork in a tough environment. A tent stake was presented to the team as a symbol of this concept. The stake was brought into our locker room as a visual reminder, and one of our team leaders chose to take it out on the field. . . . I want to publicly apologize to Coach Dantonio as well as the players and supporters of Michigan State for our act of poor sportsmanship displayed pre-game yesterday."

Michigan State beat Michigan 35-11 for the program's sixth win in the past seven games of the series.

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